As the Horticulture Manager at LEGOLAND® Florida Nigel Dunning is responsible for keeping the park looking beautiful. General Manage Adrian Jones is proud to say it's the most beautiful LEGOLAND Park in the world and much of that is owed to Dunning's expertise. In fact, the minute we knew we would have stewardship of the historical Cypress Gardens and adjacent properties, we hired Nigel for the job.
With Earth Day and Arbor Day coming in the same week, it was a good time to sit down with Nigel and ask him some tips you could use at home in your garden.
First, tell us a little about yourself
I grew up loving the fact that I could plant something and it would develop into something magnificent. Imagine putting one little seed into the ground and watch it turn into a giant Oak tree over the years. I have been working with the green industry for 33 years in just about all the USDA zones that are on the map and I love each and everyone of them.
What are some of the best varieties of annuals to plant this time of year?
This time of year a few of the best annuals to plant would be Marigolds (they have many new kinds), also red and blue Sylvia burst with color. SunPatiens are full of energy and color. They grow large for an annual so they can fill up a flower bed quickly.
If I wanted to plant a tree for Earth Day/ Arbor Day, what species would you recommend?
I would plant Live Oak. They are one of the most majestic trees I have ever seen in my time as a Landscaper. They always have character in the structure not to mention the value in shade here in Florida.
How do you know when it is time to refresh your garden?
When I see a garden that lacks in buds or flowers or no shine it is time to bring it back to life with a seasonal flower change. There are other symptoms to look for also. The plant no longer seems to fill the area that they once did or if it is insect ridden. Look for insects such as aphids and scale insects.
What do you recommend to do with old plant material when you replace it?
Compost is a great solution for old plant material. They also have plenty of good products on the market to help manage this process. Starting a compost pile is easy. You need to keep it moist at all times, if it drys out all the micro organisms will die and the break down of product will stop. It is also important to turn the organic material often.
What kind of plants can I use in my yard that are safe around children?
Most fruit trees are a great choice and kids love to eat the fresh fruit that come from THERE trees. Orange trees are easy in this region. If you have a little more experience try the Florida peach tree.
What are some activities that kids can help with around the garden?
I have watch my kids grow up and from when they were very young I will always remember them picking the vegetables out of the garden putting some in the basket and eating some as they went along the rows.
We'd like to send a big thank you to Nigel! You can find more of Nigel's expertise and planting ideas for your garden inside the Fresh From Florida Greenhouse next time you visit LEGOLAND Florida. If you have any questions you'd like us to ask Nigel for our next Q&A please leave a comment on this post.