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The tree of March

March 2, 2018
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


"Green, green, green, I say, the color of March and St. Patricks' Day."

March is a time of many sayings. When I lived up north, March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. Tucked away in this southwest corner of Florida, we aren't too concerned about the weather, it is hot, hotter, and hotter than ___. We have no late-season snow storms.

Julius Caesar was warned about the Ides of March, Lewis Carroll's warning, around since the 16th century, told about the March Hare taking tea with Alice, and the expression, "hare-brained" means completely mad, irrational. All because of the behavior of all rabbits starting in March, when their breeding season starts. Whatever it takes to attract a mate.

Weather folklore is as colorful as our imagination. "A dry March and a wet May? Fill barns and bays with corn and hay." - "As it rains in March, so it rains in June."- "March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers." But the stars do give us reason to think this way. At this time of year, Leo is a rising sign in the sky. Then there is the biblical philosophy, Jesu was the sacrificial lamb who became the Lion of Judah.

March does bring about our tropical growing season. Really cool weather should be gone. We have had the hottest February in history for Southwest Florida. No worries about a false spring here. The tropical trees are busy blooming now.

Tabebuias are announcing springtime here about, and gloriously decorating our landscape. There are golden, pink and lavender. Their corky looking bark and unique shapes make them interesting attractions. Shedding their leaves just before blooming, their color fills the landscape.

In the Bignoniaceae family, Tabebuias have their own special qualities, differing in flower coloring, growth speed, bark, cold tolerance and their leaf coloring. Trumpet shaped blooms lead them to be referred to as Trumpet Trees, with the blooms lasting 6 weeks to 2 months. The blooms hang in clusters. There are other tree types called Trumpet Trees, so this sometimes leads to some confusion.

Native to the West Indies, South and Central America, they are hardy in 9b to 11 Zones, a hard freeze will kill them.

Tabebuia impetiginosa, Ipe, is the "Purple Trumpet" tree. (ippie) is a slow grower and reaches 20 to 25 feet.

Tabebuia chrysotricha, "Gold Tree," the yellow tree, is a fast grower reaching 30 feet, very cold hardy in Zone 9 with brown bark.

Tabebuia heterophylla is pink, a moderate grower, 25 to 30 feet high in zone 10.

Tabebuia caraiba is the "Silver Trumpet Tree," 20 to 30 feet, is a moderate to fast grower, with irregular growth habit, grey corky bark, silver leaves and yellow blooms in zone 10.

I've seen these colorful beauties lined along a driveway, being small trees at 20 to 30 feet, they make attractive accents when blooming. They need to be 15 feet from a house, 8-10 feet from walkways, 10-12 feet apart if planting in a row, or when young, it does containers well. Full sun needed, slightly drought and salt tolerant after established, they shed their leaves just before flowering. Everything does much better with regular irrigation, they are no exception. Fertilize three times a year with quality granular fertilizer brings out the best in them.

Tom Becker, horticulture assistant in Charlotte County, put his observations of the Pink Tabebuia on Facebook. He was commenting on the color they give Pine Island Road. You see them everywhere now.

Staking helps with their shallow rooting. You can encourage blooms by withholding water for 6 to 8 weeks in the late winter or early spring. Brittle wood causes limb breakage, but not much harm is done.

They do develop seedpods, but create no mess by dropping onto the ground or sprouting everywhere.

The Pink Tabebuia sometimes develops deep cracks in its trunk. Not to worry, natural happening.

I can heartily recommend planting and thanking this tree for its beauty and clearing all visual and air pollution.

Know how to develop a green thumb? King Edward I of England was so fond of green peas that he often kept half a dozen serfs at work shelling them. The serf who had the "greenest thumb" won a prize.

Well, that's one way, may your thumbs be green, and your back be strong.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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