By H. JEAN SHIELDS
Special to The Breeze
One of the best evergreen shrubs available for the home yard is a beautiful, easy care Arboricola hedge.
Have you ever heard of the large schefflera, or Queensland umbrella tree? Well the Arboricola hedge is a dwarf plant of the schefflera tree which is not a good tree to be growing in the yard. The plain schefflera, Actinophylla, is considered a class 2 invasive tree in Florida. It is not banned, however it is never recommended for planting. The roots can be damaging to home walls and any other wall it is near. If you do have one already, you can dig it up and put it out away from structures, however it will reproduce all around and be a nuisance.
You can also grow the tree in a pot which, of course, keeps it safely in check. When it gets too tall you can just cut off the top and it will heal over and then a healthy tree will become even bushier.
A large sunny entry way is an acceptable place for a tree like this. It is not particular about special soil or feed. It does like to be on the moist side.
You will sometimes see this tree in hotel lobby's which are bright with indirect sunlight. It mixes well with other tropical plantings.
The Arboricola dwarf can also be enjoyed in a pot, but is such an attractive hedge and so easy to care for that it is a great addition to the outside as a hedge. It is not invasive at all.
It is a bright medium green and has generous splashes of cream on the leaves. The leaves flare out like an umbrella, from a tiny single stem. They are not as large as the Schefflera tree leaves.
A very easy hedge to shape at about 3 or 4 feet in height. Just shear straight across the top. To make sure it is straight, just place a wooden stake at each end and run a line of twine from one piece to the other, in a straight line as a guide. It may sound like too much trouble to bother with the twine guide, but believe me, it saves time in the long run. It is like cutting bangs on your forehead. One wrong snip out of line and you have to adjust, pretty soon you don't have any bangs left to trim, or only a knee-high hedge.
The plant comes in several verities, with names like gold finger, dazzle, gold and trenette.
One of my daughters who lives in south Fort Myers has the trenette. We have always just called it variegated and never knew about the other verities.
She has hers along the south side of the garage which gets afternoon sun. It has also survived hurricanes and an occasional freeze. A few leaves may fly off or a couple of dry crisp leaves may need to be trimmed out on occasion, otherwise
It is a carefree and very attractive hedge. No special watering or soil, it gets fed along with the grass. She keeps it about 4 feet tall. It is almost 20 years old.
You may not be able to just walk into a nursery or big box store and see the many varieties I have listed. I mainly see just the variegated Trenette.
There are lots of choices in the market right now to liven up any space where some color is needed. Some beautiful pastel rose petunias paired with some bright blue delphiniums are a striking sight placed in a pot in the entryway. Geraniums are always a favorite of mine. They do get pretty soft and droopy when the summer humidity hits, but right now they are striking, nestled in a bed of white alyssum.
Move them out of direct sun later on and they will last even longer. Don't forget the sun will be moving around as summer approaches and you may need to shift other things around. I have trouble putting bromeliads in shady spots during the winter and then I have to move some as the sun creeps around. I seem to favor the shade ones even though there are sun loving ones. Just make sure which ones you have before you get them settled in.
Begonias are looking good also. I have several amaryllis doing well. Most of mine are in pots so I can move them around as they start blooming.
It is still very dry so check everything, especially things in pots because they will be drying out fast in the winds that are doing their March thing. Keep grounds clear of old leaves and twigs, still fire hazard time.
Gaillardia is a real perky flower that does well on its own. A little bit of a wild flower look but goes well with most plantings, especially if it sets in the back row.
was looking at some of those blue orchids the other day. It is just kind of weird to me to see those orchids blue!. When the plant re-blooms the flowers will be back to their natural white color, thank goodness.
It's a good time to fertilize everything, loosen up the soil and keep your eyes open for new things and bargains.
Happy gardening until we meet again.
H. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.