Rockledge Gardens Homegrown
Here at Rockledge Gardens, we grow most of our own shade and flowering trees, palms, bamboo, and roses, plus a few other selected items. Our production department is located on the east side of US Highway 1, directly across form the Rockledge Gardens retail location (the production area is not open to the public). Production manager Bernie Peterson is joined by Ben Mays and Ann Baggaley; among them, these three staff have more than 60 years experience growing plants in Brevard County!
Here, Bernie describes just a few reasons why we think our very own “Rockledge Gardens homegrown” plants are special, and are especially good for Brevard:
Bamboo—Bamboo has been a Rockledge Gardens specialty for nearly 20 years. Here in central Florida we grow clumping, or tropical bamboo, not the invasive running type. The dozen or so species or varieties that we offer range from small growing dwarfs like “golden goddess bamboo” to very large ones such as “timber bamboo” and “Hawaiian stripe.” In many cases bamboo is used in the landscape to provide a noise barrier or as a fast-growing hedge to screen out large unsightly objects. One of the best kinds of bamboo for screening is our own Bambusa textilis RG, which grows quickly to a height of about 20 feet with densely packed upright canes.
Our most popular bamboo, though, is Bambusa vulgaris wamin, or just plain “Wamin.” It is grown for the unusual shape of its stems and because it just looks great. Be sure to see the beautiful specimen near the orange kiosk when you visit Rockledge Gardens.
King Alexander Palm—We grow many species of palm at Rockledge Gardens, but one that you are not likely to find elsewhere is Archontophoenix alexandrae, or King Alexander palm. (The “King” in the name is odd, since the scientific name actually honors Alexandra, the Queen of England and wife of Edward VII.) Whatever the name, it has proved to be one of the best of the tropical, self-cleaning types of palms for Brevard County and warmer areas of central Florida. It’s a fast-growing medium-sized palm that tolerates moist soil and the kinds of light freezes or even prolonged periods of cool weather that can damage some of the other tropical palm species, such as Christmas palm, coconut, foxtail, and bottle palms.
Hybrid Tabebuias—Tabebuia (tab-a-BOO-ee-a) is a genus of flowering trees native to South America. In late winter and early spring they produce large quantities of brightly colored flowers for up to six weeks. Pink Tabebuia is an excellent tree in its own right and we always have them in stock.
At Rockledge Gardens we produce hybrid Tabebuias by crossing a cold-hardy pink species (T. impetiginosa) with two different cold-hardy yellow species (T. umbellata and T. chrysotricha). The resulting hybrids are typically fast-growing medium-sized trees with a flower color that ranges from white to purple, although most have flowers that are both pink and yellow. Tabebuias require full sun and should be planted in a well-drained location; they are very drought tolerant.
Above: one of Bernie’s favorite photos of hybrid tabebuia flowers. The two flowers on the left are the parent species: T. umbellata and T. impetiginosa; the three on the right are a typical hybrid flower and two extremes of variation, a purple and a white.
A healthy tree begins with a good root system—At Rockledge Gardens we use some of the latest techniques to ensure that the trees we grow have healthy root systems. Trees grown in traditional plastic pots are prone to becoming rootbound and may even develop girdling roots—either of which can lead, after some years, to the death or failure of the tree. To create healthier conditions, we grow our trees in fabric containers or in plastic pots with fabric liners. When a root comes in contact with the root-control fabric, its growth is halted and instead of circling around the inside of the container, which it would do in a plastic pot, it branches farther back and the tree eventually forms a root system that has many more healthy root tips and fewer large, woody roots formed into a circle. Trees with a healthy root system become established more quickly and have a better chance of surviving storms.
(If you must plant a tree that was grown in a plastic pot and has circling roots, be sure to cut down through the root ball three times spaced equally around the root ball. This will help the tree form a better root system.)