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Nursing your damaged plants back to health
Story created 1-13-11, Wink News Now
FORT MYERS, Fla.-- The cold weather may have taken a toll on your plants and palms, but that doesn't mean they are a total loss.
Mayor Berg from the Riverland Nursery on State Road 80 in Fort Myers says you need to treat your damaged vegetation as though it's under intensive care.
He says you should reduce any additional stress while nursing the plants back to health.
Maintain an appropriate watering and fertilization schedule for your plant. Damaged plants tend to be susceptible to fungus after a freeze, so experts recommend using a liquid copper fungicide to minimize issues.
Many varieties of palm trees are cold tolerant, but for those that are not, like christmas, triangle and royal palms, some of the fronds may turn brown.
You may be tempted to cut the browning growth, but Berg says that's a bad idea.
He says while you may think the brown fronds are dead, the plant is still feeding off the frond for nutrients. Cutting of the frond is essentially starving the palm to death.
He urges you to wait until March when the temperatures rebound to make any decisions about trimming plants.
If you do decide to trim back fronds, do not remove more than 20% of the growth.
Rescue My Landscape Contest
(Reprinted from News-Press, Sept. 30, 2011)
For a place that’s supposed to be paradise, Southwest Florida sure can seem like purgatory for would-be home landscapers.
Faced with the challenge of a blank or neglected lot, a well-meaning homeowner may dig in, full of good intentions.
But then, all their pretty new flowers, shrubs and trees do little more than struggle and wither. Or their plants thrive beyond all control, becoming monstrously overgrown specimens shading out the lawn and prying up the driveway with their hulking roots.
It doesn’t have to be this way, says Mayer Berg, who owns Riverland Nursery in Fort Myers.
“We try to share with our clients how to create beautiful, sustainable landscapes working with their property’s unique conditions,” he says. “Whether they want native plants, a butterfly garden or an edible landscape — or a little of everything — we do our best to help clients achieve their goals.”
Lisa St. John of LaBelle is one of those clients, and to that list, she would add that Berg specializes in surprises.
“I know a lot about plants,” she says, “but he always knows more and is always showing me some new, really cool thing.”
Case in point: edible jasmine. Most varieties of the familiar, fragrant vine are toxic, but Berg recently introduced St. John to a jasmine that’s not only easy-to-grow and intensely perfumed, but delicious in drinks and desserts.
“It’s what they make jasmine rice from,” St. John says. “Who knew?”
Well, Berg did, and he’s eager to share that knowledge with a wider audience.
So he’s joined with The News-Press Media Group to create a landscape makeover contest.
The goal is to take a landscape that isn’t working for whatever reason and turn it into a thriving haven.
It’s a transformation with which Berg is personally familiar. When he and his wife, Sharon, moved into their home in the recent Alva development, River Hall, it was what Berg calls “a builder’s special — some sod and a couple of palm trees.”
Now, just a year later, the stark space is filled with color, fragrance and texture.
There’s butterfly- and hummingbird-attracting salvia, silvery cascades of ornamental grass and fragrant clouds of old-fashioned roses.
It’s the kind of transformation he intends to help contest winners create. From reader-submitted photos, he’ll choose one every two weeks and offer detailed landscape suggestions complete with a proposed layout, a list of recommended plants and a gift certificate to Riverland Nursery to get the process started.
Eclectic garden: Sue Losey's magical landscape is a work in progress
Written by Amy Bennett Williams
Her medium may be unconventional, but there’s no doubt Sue Losey is an artist.
She’s a painter whose pigments have petals, a sculptor whose clay changes shape; a composer whose symphonies include breezes and birdsong.
Tucked away in the Buckingham Airpark, Losey cultivates her masterpiece: a landscape as sophisticated as it is whimsical. A marvel of seemingly disparate parts, it delights and surprises at every turn.
Green, blown-glass lanterns hang from live oaks. Dinner-plate mosaics are sprinkled among winding brick paths. Cobalt flowers spill from an antique enamel bathtub. A fizzy violet queen’s wreath vine scrambles over a weathered wood fence.
The combined effect is “magical,” says friend and Edison & Ford Winter Estates horticulturist Debbie Hughes. “When you see Sue’s garden, you just want to spend time in it. There’s so much to see and it changes every day.”
She gathers her garden’s plants and furniture from all over. A favorite source is Riverland Nursery in east Lee County, but she’s also been known to pluck intriguing bits of metal from trash piles.
One thing is constant: “If I don’t love it, I don't use it," says Losey, who runs a handcrafted jewelry business, Pink Eyed Sissies, with her sister, Sandi Pfeffer.
Losey has no formal training and doesn't even read gardening magazines, but by mixing Florida natives, butterfly attractors and old-fashioned Southern favorites with her recycled artwork, bright mosaics and antiques, Losey has created a landscape that'd be right at home on glossy pages.
Flexibility and experimentation are key, and as a result, her living creation always offers new vistas. "If something doesn't work where I put it, I'll just pull it up and stick it somewhere else."
Losey has used that trial-and-error formula since she began gardening here.
Losey moved to Florida with her builder/pilot husband in 1983 from Michigan –– and it was not an easy transition, she's quick to note.
"I cried in Olga and I cried harder in LaBelle."
"The frogs. Frogs, frogs, frogs. I mean, we had frogs in Michigan and I liked them but not the big greasy frogs we have here. I thought we were moving into the middle of a swamp."
Independent owners taking larger share of nursery business
By JL Watson • Special to news-press.com • November 27, 2010
Grasshopper green and cobalt blue pots line the parking lot of Riverland Nursery. Just beyond the low plants, taller bushes and trees reach toward the sky.
Owner Mayer Berg’s enthusiasm for his plants is eclipsed only by the height of some of the taller palms and native trees.
“We love edible plants,” he said, pointing to a few that are suitable for human consumption.
Berg assumed ownership of the nursery three years ago and since then has built a reputation on good plants, with an emphasis on natives and plants that tolerate Florida’s sometimes harsh climate.
“We want this to be a destination,” Berg said. “We want this to be an educational experience.”
Recent trends have shown consumers are returning to independent garden centers while nursery sales at retail chain stores such as Kmart or Target have sharply declined. Big box home centers account for 49 percent of total sales, with the independent sector getting 44 percent, according to an industry study by Nursery Retailer magazine.
Chain stores — which had 40 percent of the market in the mid-1990s — have plunged to 7 percent.
Target phased out its garden centers while adding more space for groceries. Target had 262 garden centers (out of 1,743 stores nationwide), mostly in California and Florida, national Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck has said from the company’s Minneapolis headquarters. Meanwhile, Home Depot, the nation’s No. 1 nursery retailer, is making more space for vegetable plants and fruit trees, plus succulents and colorful annuals.
On the other end of the scale, small mom-and-pop nurseries have seen business tick upward as they focus on personalized service and expert advice.
Berg offers what larger nurseries usually don’t — a small, well-trained staff with experience in everything from drought-tolerant succulents to fast-growing bamboo.
He and his crew have planted vignettes so that customers can decide what type of plants are suited for their growing situation. Berg offers plants that attract butterflies, others that will tolerate sudden drops in temperatures, and still others that require little or no watering.
“There are so many cool plants,” Berg said.
Berg doesn’t just sell the plants. He backs up the sale with complete instructions on how to care for the plants and makes sure each customer has realistic expectations for growing and blooming times, watering requirements and other information to keep the plant alive and thriving.
“This is a fun place to learn,” he said.
Customers Carol Lucier and Kim Lefebvre stopped in six months ago and now come back on a regular basis.
“They not only sell you the plant, they educate you on it,” Lucier said. “They have a great product at reasonable prices.”
The Riverland philosophy is part of what drives small family-owned nurseries.
John Sibley launched All-Native Garden Center, Nursery and Landscapes 10 years ago and honed in on the organic market. His one-acre nursery south of Page Field is home to plants, butterflies and honey bees. He offers native and noninvasive plants, and a butterfly starter kit that is guaranteed to lure the beautiful insects to the yard.
“To us this is lifestyle, not just a job,” Sibley said.
Sibley is trying to influence the way Southwest Florida residents think about what they plant.
“People are obsessed with these lush, green yards,” he said. “This is crazy. To keep a lawn going you have to apply all these chemicals.”
Sibley encourages his customers to introduce xeriscaping — the idea of going all natural — to their yards, even if they are unwilling to do it for their entire chunk of land.
“It’s perfect to have here,” he said. “Florida is the perfect place for it because we have so many native plants that are drought-tolerant, and can take the sun.”
Sibley’s knowledge keeps customers coming back and has earned him the presidency of the Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, but it’s his work with local customers that feeds his passion for the business.
“It’s really rewarding when I see a customer who really gets it,” Sibley said.
Sunman’s Nursery owner Jay Trapnell is the third-generation owner of his nursery that sits on a curve on south McGregor Boulevard. His grandfather launched the business in 1956.
Trapnell spends part of his day at the nursery, part on landscaping jobs for residential and commercial clients. By offering both a retail location and on-site work, he can reach a larger audience. It’s what keeps a loyal customer base.
“They are able to ask questions and we will research if we do not know the answer,” Trapnell said. “‘Service, Quality and Information’ is our motto.”
Trapnell credits his crew, many of whom have been with the company for more than a decade, with helping to keep the business afloat, even when the economy took a dip.
“Our quality is better; our knowledge is better, and our service is better,” Trapnell said. “We have a family atmosphere. Our customer base is all return customers. We load your cars, no lines, no waiting. We are very organized.”
Trapnell also answers e-mail requests and offers home delivery. The result? He’s looking to expand.
“I bought the property next door,” he said. “I’m just watching the economy to finish my expansion.”
Dirt-cheap dazzle: Homeowners who choose plants wisely don't have to spend much
How do you make the landscape around your property look beautiful without spending a fortune?
Riverland Nursery plans to answer that question with a free class next week.
Lots of people are intimidated about landscaping, said Mayer Berg, co-owner of the Fort Myers nursery.
"This is not rocket science," he said. "Learning about plants is fun and it does not have to be expensive."
The trick is to choose plants wisely, Berg said.
"I learned that if you don't have the right plants, and if they are cold or drought-sensitive and they die - that's really dumb," he said. "We want successful outcomes and happy endings."
Shelly Falter didn't know anything about landscaping when she started thinking about planting trees and plants around her home last year, she said.
The 56-year-old Bonita Springs artist only knew that she hated chemicals and wanted the plants to thrive without a lot of help.
"I wanted to learn about Florida-friendly plants," she said, "But you can only read so many books."
She asked Berg for advice and the results are flowers and trees around her property including dune sunflowers, a pink powder puff tree and milkweed that attracts butterflies.
"I also bought very small plants," she said. "They grow so fast."
Landscaping your property doesn't have to cost that much, Berg said.
"I'm always shocked people think it's going to cost a fortune," he said.
Many of the houses impacted by short sales and foreclosures have landscapes that need a makeover, Berg said. People can transform those houses with a small investment.
He's currently working with a client who has a $300 budget.
"We're going to get him an ornamental tree and some very pretty low-maintenance plants," Berg said.
Landscaping can save money, too. It adds curb appeal for those planning to sell their homes. It pays off in other ways as well.
"For instance, the back of my house faces the sun," Berg said. "We put in shade trees and it's reduced our energy bills.”
Professional spaces also need some love.
Susan Hogan, a Fort Myers dentist, had a row of generic green plants sitting outside her dental office.
“I took up all the shrubs and planted a butterfly garden,” she said. “I love the concept of gardening and I wanted low-maintenance plants that will make it and thrive.”
Her new and improved landscaping also makes her clients happy.
“We planted and the butterflies showed up,” Hogan said. “They report to me what butterflies they see.”
Nursery Owner Grows Despite Economic Flow
By: Roger Williams,
Mayer Berg is a passionate enthusiast whose legs, like his big friendly voice, try to outrun him when he’s excited, which is most of the time.
“Greetings, my friend,” he calls heartily. He strides out of the bamboo, passes his Florida Native Species Garden, cuts around the Butterfly Garden and races through the resplendent double ring of trees and flowering shrubs that encircle his classroom and front office at Riverland Nursery. “Isn’t it a be-eautiful day?” he inquires.
With his wife, Sharon, the mosaic artist and business manager, he opened the 3-acre nursery on Lee County’s State Road 80 east of I-75 just in time for the recession, in April 2007. “We never knew the good times,” he admits. “There was a (economic) tsunami coming toward us, we just didn’t know it.”
Still, people arrive from Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte and Naples/Marco Island every day — all places where he’s doing business — to see this nuanced nursery. The nuance can be summed up in one word: sustainable.
But easy to sustain for others is no easy task for the Bergs and their staff of six, who work seven days a week. “We used to visit this nursery and it was not very attractive, and we always said it could be so beautiful — and now it is,” Mrs. Berg proclaims. “No one can imagine how hard Mayer has worked.”
Or Mrs. Berg, either, who does the landscape design. “I can see what it’s going to look like, and I could see that for the whole nursery,” she says.
Riverland will design landscapes, install them, teach the owners how to care for them at minimal effort and cost, and offer free classes for any who wish to control their own plant destinies. Their plants require little or no irrigation or fertilizer, they resist pests without poison, and they’re beautiful to see, smell and sometimes taste or eat.
Savvy-seeming as all that may be —and it seems exceedingly so when a homeowners’ association suddenly finds itself responsible for thousands of exotic plants that require huge amounts of water, fertilizer and labor because they don’t grow naturally, here — a recession is a recession.
So adaptation and advance planning, is the way to survive. The Bergs learned that in their early years as a couple and as business owners in their native Minnesota.
“In a recession one becomes creative very quickly. Or rather, one becomes very consistent with the initial objective,” Mr. Berg explains.
“Our model is more of a mission — to focus on sustainability,” Mr. Berg adds. “To provide customers — whether golf courses, homeowners, homeowners associations, business owners, anybody with a serious interest in plants — an understanding of the requirements of their plants so they will have successful outcomes.”
Water or the lack of it lies at the heart of that vision.
“So much of this is common sense,” he says. “We know in Florida we’re going to be dealing with less water for the rest of our lives down here. I’m certain that we’ll be living with one-day-a-week watering starting in the near future —and that’s if we’re lucky. So plants that can do that are the absolute minimum threshold.”
When the Bergs moved into a Toll Brothers community in Estero, beginning in 2001, they realized what this meant.
“I had the misfortune — or the opportunity, depending on how you look at it— to start our Landscape and Grounds Committee for our development,” he explains.
“So I had a chance to see how a developer really looked at plant material and landscaping — and I learned that it was purely on the basis of marketing, without regard to what kind of payback you might face, or is it sustainable.
“Toll Brothers in this case made a marketing decision from Pennsylvania, where their corporate headquarters is. They decided that every house should have hibiscus. Most people from the North associate paradise with hibiscus. But in reality it’s one of the most maintenance-headache plants you could ever grow here. It requires thousands of dollars of powerful pesticides every year. It’s stupid.”
But so many other long-blooming, rugged plants suitable to the subtropics are not maintenance headaches, he concludes. And many developers, as well as homeowners or business owners looking to make their investments both lovely and enduring, are recognizing that.
“From day one in this business, I became intrigued (with) plants that would require low maintenance and low water,” he says. Or plants that might do well, but would require thought — like the coconut palm, for example. Better to think about it in advance, figures Mr. Berg — or wander into Riverland Nursery and look for some options.
Go Native with Smart Plants
(Reprinted with the permission of the SouthWest Florida Women's Digest)
Southwest Florida has a unique environment. We are surrounded by lush greenery most of the year, yet we have a very serious water shortage problem. Riverland Nursery is a unique business. Mayer Berg and his team of experts focus on teaching the public how and what to plant to sustain our precious environment. Their goal is to educate customers on using low-maintenance, environmentally friendly plants.“Irrigation in South Florida uses more than half of the water that we consume. We get our water from several aquafers that are being gradually depleted from overdevelopment,” Mayer says. “This can be replenished only to a point from rainfall. The use of drought-tolerant plants and turf, and the design of landscapes can greatly reduce the need and amount of watering. Also many of these plants are relatively bug free. This reduces the need for pesticides which can affect our groundwater.” The good news is we can have incredibly gorgeous, lush landscape that is sustainable in our environment. You can see this beauty in abundance when you visit Riverland Nursery. You’ll find a butterfly garden, ponds, lush greenery and tasteful garden art tucked amongst trees and shrubs. Pathways are edged with luxuriant, hardy turf developed especially for Florida. The demonstration gardens show how plants look in the ground rather than languishing in pots, and each plant is clearly identified. You’ll find an abundance of plants for every area in your landscape from seasonal color to shade lovers and everything in between. Riverland has a new spacious air conditioned classroom holding complimentary informational plant and landscape classes throughout the year. A “Meet the Experts” class will be held October 10 and 11 featuring local experts in bamboo, orchid, native, and other plants. Register for classes and find planting tips and much more at www.riverlandnursery.com. Stop and visit this unique and beautiful nursery. You’ll take home more than plants, and go back again and again.
To print a copy of this article, click here.
Tropicalia Meet the Natives: Seven Year Apple
Tropicalia Meet the Natives: Seven year apple
Seven year apple gets its name from its fruit which, like the seven years of bad luck that come from breaking a mirror, really just seems that way. We're not sure about the time span on mirror breakage, but seven year apple fruits last for a good year or so.
The fruit starts out green, as here, and gradually turns yellow, then black, then wrinkled as the dark brown pulp dries inside. The fruit is considered "suited for human consumption," according to the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
Riverland & Partners Helps Mediterra Experiment with Grass
MARK S. KRZOS •
AUGUST 7, 2008
Scott Whorrall, Mediterra’s director of golf operations, is experimenting with grass — Emprie Zoysia, to be exact. The turf is a hardy variety that requires less than half the water and a third of the fertilizer of the widely used St. Augustine grass."
We put this in as an experiment," Whorrall said of the 26,000 square feet of turf that surrounds the Sports Club. "We’re looking to see if this is an option to replace our existing St. Augustine grass. It’s too early to tell how much water we’ll save, but it is certainly nicer looking and more pleasant to walk on than St. Augustine grass."
Riverland Nursery Participates in SFWMD's "Xtreme Yard Makeover"
Naples home now uses less water thanks to
Xtreme Yard Makeover
Andrea Stetson • Special to news-press.com • August 2, 2008
You've probably heard of "Extreme Makeover Home Edition." Well, in Southwest Florida there was no Ty Pennington and no "move that bus," but there was a monster makeover.
Xtreme Yard Makeover brought together volunteers from more than 35 organizations who descended on the lawn of a Naples home to tear it up and put together a water-efficient, drought tolerant landscape. For six weeks, they worked to take a landscaped-challenged yard and turned it into a Florida friendly yard.