Questions From A Newbie

Discussion in 'THE CROTON SOCIETY' started by Jerry@TreeZoo, Oct 7, 2009.

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  1. Jerry@TreeZoo

    Jerry@TreeZoo Well-Known Member

    OK everybody here are my questions. This is related to the Arboretum's new garden and keeping in mind that we have plenty of room to do what we want.

    1. What plants would you recommend as companion plants? My instincts would say that most plants around crotons should be mostly green and not colorful or variegated. This would frame them without competing with them. Two examples would be liriope for groundcover and podocarpus for background. This would not encompass the canopy of trees and palms above the crotons though, which could be as colorful as you like. What do you think?

    2. For the best display, would you plant crotons as single specimens or in groups or beds?

    3. What spacing would you use? One variety touching another or separated?

    4. How would you organize the garden? Keeping related names close like King of Siam next to Queen of Siam? Keeping all colors together flowing into the next shade so that the start of the garden might be mainly yellows but then transitions to greens, then pinks then reds then darks? Group them by the source or origin of the variety?

    5. What question am I not asking that you think I should ask?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. fawnridge

    fawnridge Well-Known Member

    Western Boca Raton
    1. Ferns. They have similar needs in terms of water, light, and fertilizer, and they will grow to cover the legs of the Crotons. You'll see this here on the 17th.
    2. Groups of three so they look full and multiple groups of each one so that if a group is destroyed by a storm, the other ones will survive.
    3. If they touch, make sure you can tell them apart as separate varieties.
    4. Dissimilar varieties so that they each stand out.
    5. What's for lunch?
  3. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

    Big Island of Hawaii - Kona
    I may offer more later, but I would say when I hear words like Podocarpus, my first reaction is - why not plant something different or rare. Something that you don't see everyday. There's nothing I like better than visiting a garden and seeing plants I haven't seen before. And believe it or not, I still see plants every week that I haven't seen before when visiting some of the older gardens and nurseries around here. Some of them are really neat, and deserve to be more widely disseminated.

    In addition, while I don't know the exact climate you are dealing with, the other thing that turns me on about a garden is using fragrant plants. There are so many gardenias, etc. that really add to a garden. I don't think they are utilized near enough. Some are absolutely breathtaking. You get a whiff, and you have to track it down. Some also go crazy at night when you otherwise can't view the garden as well.

    A fast growing canopy tree or two (depending on space) like Enterolobium also add dimension, protection, and a sense of age to a garden. If space allows, you could also add a choice (rare) flowering and/or fragrant tree.
  4. Jeff Searle

    Jeff Searle Well-Known Member

    South Florida, USA

    This is an excellent topic because of this opportunity your going to have in starting a new collection of crotons. Your absolutely right in adding lots of greenery around the crotons. No variegated plants or other plants with color. I'm not big on liriope. It's very "out dated" and you see very little of it planted these days. I think Ricky's idea of using ferns is a good plant to use. Also, I like using Philodendron sp. Burle Marx. It makes a great, full ground cover, and always seems to stay green,it just needs to be kept in order.

    If your budget allows, or donations come through, then 2 or 3 of one variety would be better than starting with one.

    Keep each variety separated from one another. You'll want to enjoy them at their best, especially if you have plenty of room to work with.

    I don't think it's that critical to organize the garden according to colors or height, etc. I think mixing red varieties next to a green and yellow variety will allow both to stand out.

    And, we have talked about this before, the most important thing to do is, have secured name tags fastened to each plant, or some kind of permanant plant sign put into the ground.
  5. Jerry@TreeZoo

    Jerry@TreeZoo Well-Known Member

    Sheepishly I admit that Podos and Liriope are certainly not inspired choices. I need a good hedge type plant that at least has Podocapus' good attributes, mainly a screening plant that gets at least 6 feet tall and doesn't take up much room.

    The ferns and burle marx are excellent ideas, I would just have to use a fern that was shorter and a little less common. The gardenia might make a hedge and that is an idea and there is G. radicans which could be used for a low shrub/tall groundcover but it suffers from nematodes here and only lasts a year or two.

    The croton garden is in the Flowering Tree Area of the Arboretum and there are some fragrant trees close by but not in the immediate area. I think fragrance is often overlooked in creating gardens.

    Labeling is really the most important aspect of the collection and without accurate labels it is just another interesting group of plants. We are trying to be consistant with our plant labels as well as making them easily read and attractive. We are using engraved aluminum plates mounted on 4X6 PT lumber sunk 18" in the ground. I think that the aluminum tags you can write on with a pencil then wire to the plant is a worthwhile backup (suggested by Jeff).
  6. bessie

    bessie Member

    We just planted a croton collection at FL Botanical Gardens in Largo. Here is what we did.

    All our plants are little (under 3 ft) so we did not put in anything underneath. We also chose to put them in as single plants with a reserve in the shadehouse. We chose singles as the ones that were planted in 3s in our collection less than 9 years ago are just too massive limiting the plant numbers.

    One bed we bordered with Quailberries, a FL native holly like groundcover. Another has dwarf allamandas which also frame a small pond. The third bed continues our Ti wavy back wall.

    Because we feel strongly that our gardens should inspire homeowners to put what they see in their yards and we recognize that not anyone likes a color riot, our fourth bed is a sedate green: a back row of mature xanadus, then gold dust alternating with Fred Sanders which blend quite well. I would not do this for a huge area or group by same leaf color as the effect is very muted and one loses the individual variety.

    Then we literally put all our plants on the lawn in front of the new beds grouped by leaf shape and started at a convenient point which for us was our sunniest corner starting with who could take the most sun putting in a plainer plant between two contrasting colorful ones so they all pop. for example we have pinnochio, yellow petra and Charles Rutherford, yellow excurrens, Johanna Coppinger together. In some instances where we had a small number of a particular leaf shape we put them together like Victoria Goldbell and Mother Daughter on an end where there was only room for 2 plants. We also put a General Padget in with our oak leaves which were mostly dark against his bright yellow so your eye goes to the leaf size and then leaf shape. We also had to consider shade. We were very pleased when we took a dull Mrs. Iceton from the middle of a full sun hedge of pinnochios where she was literrally lost and put her in the shadiest corner and suddenly had a stunning plant.

    So in the end, we didn't use a set pattern but a mix of everything as there are just too many variables to consider: bed sizes (ours were not the same), light (ours went from sunny to shade), leaf shape, leaf color, current plant size.

    If you can, plant so that you can walk around the beds on at least 2 sides which allows you to get more variety. Our original collection was 2 rows deep with a slight rise for the second row. That was not enough to compensate for the fact that the front row got more sun and so grew so fast that they completely hid that back row.

    Another real key is planting time. Both Dr. Brown and Mr. Lee said they would do best with lots of rain (Brown said spring) Lee said (late June). Our driest months are May to Mid-June so we chose guaranteed summer rains and planted in July. We had a real mix of plants from rooted airlayered, 1 & 3 gallons and some we dug up and transplanted the same day, the rains and supplemental irrigation meant we only had a minor leaf drop.

    Backups are also important especially on the rare ones if you are worried about cold.
  7. Jerry@TreeZoo

    Jerry@TreeZoo Well-Known Member

    Thanks Bessie, that is very helpful. And welcome to the board.

    What about some crotons that people classify as a "tree type"? Should I plant these in triples? Should I let them get "treed up" and show trunk? Or should I keep all crotons tipped back and full?
  8. Moose

    Moose Esteemed Member

    Coral Gables, FL Zone 10b
    Jerry - in my opinion I feel that rather than group planting, you could disperse crotons through out the garden. Strategectically placing them between other plants around the garden would help define all your plants with the a colorful croton collection. :eek:

    Ron. :)

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