Camellia Workshop

As a community service, the Greater Fort Walton Beach Camellia Society (GFWBCS), which is over 50 years old, conducts a free yearly Camellia Workshop to introduce the camellia to area residents. This year’s workshop will be held Saturday, February 3, 9 a.m. to Noon at the Okaloosa County Extension Annex located at 127 NW Hollywood Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach.

Members of the GFWBCS will be available to answer questions and provide demonstrations and handouts on the following topics.

Planting and Care of Camellias – The special planting requirements for your new camellia and a monthly care calendar will be available for your potted and landscape camellias.

Propagation – There are several simple methods to propagate camellias that will be demonstrated. They include air layering, seeds and grafting.

Gibbing/Debudding – Instructions will be given on how to improve the size and quality of your camellia blooms through gibbing and debudding.

Insects/Pests/Diseases – Bring samples of any camellia plant problems you may have for identification and recommended treatment. This might include stem and leaf samples that have suspected scale insects, mites, diseases or nutrient deficiencies. It’s important to bring fresh plant samples that represent what is seen in the landscape. Photos on smart phones, etc., also may be sufficient to ID the problem.

Gardening with Camellias in Containers – This topic will be covered at the workshop, as well. If you don’t have a place to plant them or if you live in a northern climate, consider employing camellias as a potted plant.

Free Back Issues of Camellia Magazines – These will be available in addition to an opportunity to join the GFWBCS and the American Camellia Society.

In addition to the above topics, there will be a limited number of plants for sale and a camellia bloom display. Attendees also may bring fresh camellia blooms or photos of the flowers from unknown camellia plants for identification.

You are invited to come learn more about camellias and have a cup of coffee with the GFWBCS members.

Call Joseph Jenus, GFWBCS Workshop Chairman, at (850) 862-4526 for more info.

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Dos and Don’ts of February Gardening

February can be a confusing month for North Florida gardeners. Winter isn’t over. So don’t let spring fever cause you to make some gardening mistakes. Let’s take a look at some dos and don’ts of February gardening.

Despite colder temperatures that we can experience this month, it’s still okay to plant trees and shrubs from containers. The roots are better protected in the ground and will quickly grow outward to establish as compared to being exposed to cold temperatures above ground, confined in a container. But be cautious about planting cold sensitive tropical plants too soon while freezing weather is likely. Bare-root trees and shrubs (those with no soil attached to the roots) should be in the ground promptly. This includes bare-root nut and fruit trees, pine and hardwood tree seedlings and bare-root roses. Dormant season planting allows time for establishment before hot weather arrives.

February is a good time to transplant or move trees and shrubs that are in the wrong place. Consider moving plants that require pruning to force them to “fit” into small or confined spaces. Move them to an appropriate location where they can grow to full size. Then you can plant something new and appropriately sized for replacement.

Late February is a good time to prune overgrown shrubs such as ligustrum and holly. These plants usually respond well to severe pruning and can be pruned almost to the ground, if necessary. But remember, they will eventually regrow to their larger size. Prune to shape and thin broadleaf evergreens and deciduous flowering trees such as oleander, crape myrtle and vitex. Avoid severely pruning narrow leaf evergreens such as junipers because they have few buds on old wood from which to form new growth. Mid-February is a good time to prune bush roses, removing dead or weak canes. Leave several healthy canes and cut these back to about eighteen inches. Delay doing much pruning on early spring flowering shrubs such as azalea and spirea until shortly after they flower. Pruning these plants now will remove present flower buds before they can open. Prune deciduous fruit trees such as peach, plum, apple, etc.

If your lawn has had a history of problems with summer annual weeds such as crabgrass, apply a preemergence herbicide. This should be done February 15 to March 1 when day temperatures reach 65° to 70°F for 4 or 5 consecutive days. A second application may be needed eight weeks later. Many people fertilize their lawns too early. Wait until mid-April to fertilize to prevent lawn injury and for the most efficient use of the fertilizer.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County

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Merry Christmas

From our family to yours

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and all the joy the holidays bring.

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Local Lawn Questions by Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension

Q: In past years I put out ryegrass seed to keep my yard “green” through winter. Will it harm my new centipedegrass (sodded in October) if I overseed with ryegrass seed?

A: The ryegrass can compete with the permanent grass. I’ve seen a number of centipedegrass lawns that were weakened during spring green up, attempting to out compete the ryegrass. The extra fertilizer used on the ryegrass also can cause problems for centipedegrass, possibly inducing centipedegrass decline.

There are pros and cons for overseeding. Overseeding a lawn with ryegrass to create a green lawn during winter is mostly done for cosmetic reasons. Personally, I don’t overseed because I’m ready to take a break from routine lawn care. But this is personal preference. You’ll have to make that decision.

The optimal time to broadcast ryegrass seed is mid-October through mid-November if you wish to have a winter lawn. But there is the possibility of causing some damage in your centipedegrass as a result of overseeding.

Photo credit Mary Derrick, UF/IFAS Extension


Q: Should I let the fall leaves stay on the lawn?

A: You should not allow a thick layer of tree leaves to stay on the lawn for long periods of time. A layer of leaves left on the lawn through winter can reduce oxygen and sunlight availability to the lawn. This may result in a weak, thin lawn come spring. Also, a layer of leaves may hold too much water and possibly cause rot problems for your lawn. A few leaves (scattering of leaves) should not be a problem, though.

Florida home and yard.

Q: What’s the best lawn grass for North Florida?

A: There is no “best” lawn grass. Choosing a lawn grass involves selecting a grass that best fits the site conditions. Is the site shady? Do you have an irrigation system? Is salt spray or saltwater a factor? Means of establishment comes into play? Can the grass be established from seeds or does it require being established from sod, plugs or sprigs? Time and expense involved with maintaining the lawn should be considered. Some lawn grasses require more time and/or money to maintain. Cost of the sod or seed may be a factor. For example, St. Augustinegrass sod usually costs more as compared to centipedegrass sod. Intended use of the lawn may be a factor. Are you trying to prevent erosion on a slope or do you need a play area for children…? Where you expect a lot of foot traffic, you need to consider the wear tolerance of the grass.

The following website should be helpful in choosing a lawn grass that best fits your site and needs.


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Tax Preparation Assistance

by Jill Breslawski, UF/IFAS Extension Agent
Not to rush through the holidays but tax season is quickly approaching. Each year, low to moderate income Okaloosa County residents pay high fees to have their taxes prepared, sometimes spending hundreds of dollars. Preparing your own taxes can be a very confusing process. The United Way of Okaloosa and Walton Counties and the UF/IFAS Okaloosa Extension Services are partnering up this year to help relieve some of that confusion.

This year the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program will be offered at the Okaloosa County Extension office in Crestview and Fort Walton Beach, and also the Walton County Extension office in DeFuniak Springs. Qualifying individuals and families are able to set an appointment to have their taxes prepared for absolutely no charge beginning in January 25th.

To prepare for this opportunity the United Way and The Extension office is looking for individuals who would like to become certified tax volunteers.  A free tax preparation class will be offered to all volunteers. If you are a person willing to give a minimum of two hours per week to saving people in your community money please contact: Jill Breslawski, Family and Consumer Science Agent, at the Okaloosa County Extension office at 850-689-5850, or or


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Panhandle Bee College

2018 Panhandle Bee College
Registration is open!

University of Florida Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab hosts:

2018 Panhandle Bee College
Blountstown, FL
March 23 & 24, 2018

Panhandle Bee College is a two-day event offering training for beekeepers of all experience levels, gardeners, naturalist, county agents, and anyone with an interest in bees.

Early Bird discount tickets are on sale now

To register and for more information click here!

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The Poinsettia

by Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Thousands of poinsettias will be purchased and displayed in homes or offices during this Christmas Season. This plant’s bright red petal-like leaves and dark green foliage is especially appreciated this time of year.

Our present day poinsettia plant was no more than a weed growing wild in Mexico when it was discovered by our first ambassador to Mexico Joel Poinsett who brought the plant to this country in the 1820’s. The plant has since borne his name. By the time Poinsett got to the plant, Mexicans had been collecting the prized flowers for years and decorating their mangers with them as symbols of the star of Bethlehem.

Today’s poinsettia looks nothing like the ones that Poinsett brought back from Mexico. The modern poinsettia comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and forms.

The true flowers are small, green and yellow and inconspicuous. The showy red parts, often called flowers are modified petal-like leaves, which botanist calls bracts. The bracts are formed below each flower.

The poinsettia buyer should do the following:

  • Select a plant that has green foliage nearly to the soil line. Old plants will usually have experienced excessive leaf drop.
  • The bracts should be large and extend over the lower green foliage. The most popular color in poinsettias is red. However, there are numerous shades of whites, pinks and color combinations.
  • Select only plants with small tight green button-like flower parts in the center of the bracts. These little buttons will eventually develop into open flowers. If the poinsettia is already producing pollen, you can be assured that a portion of its useful display life has already passed and the bracts will begin to fade.

Poinsettias are predominately greenhouse grown as pot plants for Christmas in most of the United States. But in South Florida where it is warmer they can be used as colorful landscape shrubs. Here in North Florida they may be frozen to the ground before flowering so are best used as container plants.

If the new varieties are properly watered and placed in a cool, sunny, draft free area, the bracts will remain attractive for one to two months when used as houseplants.

Poinsettias need bright light to keep them looking good but it doesn’t have to be direct sunlight. Avoid dark locations. They will stay fresh longer in a cool room. If kept too hot, the leaves may suddenly drop. Night temperatures of 60-65ºF and day temperatures of 70-75ºF are ideal. Water the when the top of the soil feels dry and don’t let it sit in water constantly.

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