Tag Archive: Blue

African Blue Basil: A Pollinator Favorite

African Blue Basil: A Pollinator Favorite

Many bees and beneficial wasps will be attracted to African blue basil. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Basil is a favorite plant in the summer herb garden and an absolute must for those who enjoy fresh leaves for a sandwich or delicious homemade pesto. While we grow basils as a food enhancer, an added benefit is that those basil selections that form flowers are very attractive to pollinators.  If you would rather not let your favorite basil form flowers, consider adding a specific species that is grown more for its attractiveness to pollinators than its culinary uses.

African blue basil is a hybrid of two basils that has inherited a camphor flavor from one of its parents. Although edible, the flavor may not be appealing to those who are familiar with more traditional basil flavors.  Plants produce abundant flowers that are pink with a dark purple base, although flowers are sterile so no seeds will be formed.  If you want more African blue basil, you must purchase transplants or start your own from cuttings off the main plants.

African blue basil enhances gardens and landscapes. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Flowers of African blue basil are also showy in the garden. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Like other basils, African blue basil does like soils amended with composts that are well-drained. Plants thrive in full sun and will form rounded mounds that will be much larger than more culinary basils, up to five feet in some gardens.  Plants do form woody stems and although frost tender, some plants may return in the spring in more protected areas.

Although some edible gardeners may not want to allow space for a basil that they will not use in the kitchen, the amount of pollinator activity on this selection makes it a benefit to any edible garden for all the frost-free months.

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Author: Beth Bolles – bbolles@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Escambia County

Beth Bolles

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/05/african-blue-basil-a-pollinator-favorite/

Summer Blue Flowers Enjoyed by People and Bees

Summer Blue Flowers Enjoyed by People and Bees

VitexThe showy chaste tree makes an attractive specimen as the centerpiece of your landscape bed or in a large container on the deck. Easy-to-grow, drought resistant, and attractive to butterflies and bees, Vitex agnus-castus is a multi-stemmed small tree with fragrant, upwardly-pointing lavender blooms and gray-green foliage.  The chaste tree’s palmately divided leaves resemble those of the marijuana (Cannabis sativa) plant; its flowers can be mistaken for butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.); and the dry, darkened drupes can be used for seasoning, similar to black pepper, making it a conversation piece for those unfamiliar with the tree.

Vitex, with its sage-scented leaves that were once believed to have a sedative effect, has the common name “Chastetree” since Athenian women used the leaves in their beds to keep themselves chaste during the feasts of Ceres, a Roman festival held on April 12.  In modern times, the tree is more often planted where beekeepers visit in order to promote excellent honey production or simply included in the landscape for the enjoyment of its showy, summer display of violet panicles.vite_ag8bee

Chaste tree is native to woodlands and dry areas of southern Europe and western Asia. It will thrive in almost any soil that has good drainage, prefers full sun or light shade, and can even tolerate moderate salt air. Vitex is a sprawling plant that grows 10-20 feet high and wide, that looks best unpruned.  If pruning is desired to control the size, it should be done in the winter, since it is a deciduous tree and the blooms form on new wood.  The chaste tree can take care of itself, but can be pushed to faster growth with light applications of fertilizer in spring and early summer and by mulching around the plant.  There are no pests of major concern associated with this species, but, root rot can cause decline in soils that are kept too moist.

 

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Author: Sheila Dunning – sdunning@ufl.edu


http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu

Sheila Dunning

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/23/summer-blue-flowers-enjoyed-by-people-and-bees/

Grow Confidence with Blue Ribbon 4-H Public Presentations

4-H has given Cass Dillard the confidence to deliver his first illustrated talk at the Washington County 4-H Events.

4-H has helped this Washington County youth develop confidence to speak in front of groups.  Photo credit: Julie Dillard, UF IFAS

A 2001 Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans suffer from glossophobia, or fear of public speaking.  This statistic inspired the famous joke by stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld that a most funerals, “the average person would prefer to be the one in the casket rather than the one delivering the eulogy.”  Fortunately, 4-H offers an easy antidote through our public speaking program.  4-H public speaking helps youth:

  • Demonstrate mastery of a subject
  • Practice quality communication
  • Increase self-confidence when speaking in front of others.

How and where would you find a 4-H volunteer teaching public speaking? Almost anywhere you’ll find 4-H activities! Here are some examples:

The main public speaking education program supported by your 4-H Office is called County Events.

What is County Events?

County Events is a venue in which 4-H’ers can share what they have learned in their project work though several different contests, including demonstrations and illustrated talks. These are show-and-tell type presentations lasting 3-12 minutes in which a 4-H member shows mastery of a subject matter area. Some contest regulations include:

  • Talks must fall between 3-12 minutes for juniors and intermediates, and 5-12 minutes for seniors.
  • Team demonstrations must show active, equal participation of both members.
  • Presentation must fall under an approved category.

Creating a Presentation

  1. Topic Selection- should be age appropriate and preferably related to their 4-H project.
  2. Organizing Thoughts- points should be logical and support the main theme.
  3. Visuals- neat, attractive and easy to read
  4. Practice Strategies- club meetings are a great place to practice and practice makes perfect!

Creating Buy in

Last month our Make a Difference Monday online volunteer training addressed ways for club leaders and parents to get their youth excited about public speaking.  Regional Specialized 4-H Agent Stacey Ellison shared some creative ideas to encourage youth and families to “buy in” to the idea of public speaking:

  • Set expectations
  • Have older youth mentor younger youth
  • Use the team approach
  • Approach it as a game show or cooking show where they can highlight their knowledge or skills

Awards and Recognition

County Events combine two forms of achievement and recognition for youth. These are:

  • Peer Competition (a panel of judges subjectively identifies, in a concrete time and place, the best teams or individuals through ranking)

Through this dual recognition system it would be possible for a blue ribbon presentation to place third in peer competition. All 4-H’ers who achieve blue ribbon standard at the county level move forward to the district level of competition.

If you have a passion for public speaking, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  We are in need of judges for our speech contests as well as speech coaches.  For more information on County Events please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

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Author: Stefanie Prevatt – sduda1@ufl.edu


http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/4h

Stefanie Prevatt

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/25/grow-confidence-with-blue-ribbon-4-h-public-presentations/

National Seafood Month – Blue Crabs

National Seafood Month – Blue Crabs

Well… we have talked about the “big two”… snapper and shrimp, but there are other popular fin and shellfish harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.  This week we look at my personal favorite… blue crab.

 

Probably like many of you out there, the very first sea creature I ever caught was a blue crab.  It was with one of those classic basket traps where you baited it, lowered to the bottom where you could see, waited until a crab came for the bait, and pulled her in… GREAT fun.  My parents cooked the crab, saved the shell and dated it.  It sat on the cabinet above our breakfast bar for years.  It was something I did every summer off the dock of the house we rented on Pensacola Beach… good times.

 

The thin telson beneath this crab indicates it is a male.  Photo: FWC

The thin telson beneath this crab indicates it is a male.
Photo: FWC

As I got older we switched from crab traps to hand-held crab nets.  We would spend hours searching the grass beds around Gulf Breeze collecting and cleaning these guys.  I remember cleaning over 60 of them once until my hands bled, that was about the time I thought I would let the commercial guys do this and I would just buy it from them!

As much fun as I had catching them, I had just as much fun cooking.  My wife and I would make deviled crab and one of my personal favorites of hers, crab meat baked on an English muffin with cheese.  Man o’ man.  What a great creature the crab.

 

There are about 4500 species of “true crabs” found on our planet and many are valuable as a seafood product.  In the Florida Panhandle it is the Blue Crab most seek out.  In recent years commercial and recreational crabbers have noticed a decline in their numbers.  Landings of blue crab ranged between 8 and 12 million pounds in Florida from 1982-1999 and since 2000 the landings have ranged from 4 to 8 million pounds.  Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have run several models to determine why the decline in landings has occurred.  Though the decline in the Chesapeake may be due to overfishing, the models do not suggest this for Florida.  They are not sure why the decline has happened but do have data that support the argument that freshwater discharge during heavy rain events does impact their population in a negative way.  Some data suggest the increase in salinity during drought conditions has done the same.  Whatever the reason, many would like to see their numbers rebound to the 12 million lb. landings we had just a few years ago.

 

Blue crabs typically live to be 1-2 years old, though some have been aged to 5 years.  Males prefer the less saline waters of the upper estuary and the females can be found throughout the bay.  Males reproduce more than once in their lives providing the females with a sack of sperm called a spermatophore.  Females mate only once, just after their last molt.  Once she has received the spermatophore she heads for the mouth of the bay where the water is more saline, she may enter the Gulf of Mexico searching for the right habitat.  When she fertilizers her eggs they remain with her as a mass on her underside; the egg mass resembles a sponge.  The larva hatch from this mass and go through several development stages as they re-enter the estuary and begin the cycle again.

Male blue crab

Whatever the reason for their decline, and recent increase in price, these crustaceans remain a Gulf coast favorite and I for one hope they remain around for a long time.

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Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/10/23/national-seafood-month-blue-crabs/

Florida Wildflowers: Blue Mistflower

Florida Wildflowers: Blue Mistflower

Blue Mistflower - Image Credit Mary Derrick, UF / IFAS

Blue Mistflower – Image Credit Mary Derrick, UF / IFAS

 

Here’s a beautiful native perennial wildflower that is easy to grow and generally available in the independent nursery trade. In the wild, you can encounter them at the edges of woodlands and ponds as they prefer moist areas. Blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinumperforms well as a perennial in the home landscape but does spread easily by seed and will spread in the garden. It also spreads through underground rhizomes which allow it to form large clumps. This is an advantage for the informal garden, however, the gardener who prefers a more formal look will have a bit more maintenance in controlling that spread.

The abundant flowers look like bluish-purple puffballs on the top of the stems. The color is unusual and adds a striking touch in the garden. The bloom season is mid-summer to mid-fall. Butterflies are frequent visitors, making this an excellent addition to your butterfly garden.

Blue mistflower has a full rounded form and will grow to 3 feet under optimum conditions. Leaves are opposite and have a triangular shape. Growth and blooming is best in full sun to part sun conditions.

Give it a try!

 

 

 

 

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Author: Mary Derrick – mderrick@ufl.edu

Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County

Mary Derrick

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/11/18/florida-wildflowers-blue-mistflower/

Dry Fall In Florida’s Big Bend, But Ample Blue Skies

Winter forage crops are sitting inactive due to our dry fall, but December may bring much needed moisture.

Showers began in April for Florida’s growers in the Big Bend region.  With the exception of Tropical Storm Debbie, the showers were steady, and if not generous, they were ample.

Early autumn saw the frequency of showers slowdown and the rain amounts dwindle.  It was great hay cutting weather and easy to get machinery over fields to harvest.

Unfortunately, the dry trend has continued and is now to the point of retarding growth of winter forage.  Dryland fields of ryegrass, rye, oats and others forages are sitting inactive.  Worse, in a few cases where a shower occured, there was enough moisture to germinate the seed. The following weeks without moisture killed the seed.

The National Weather Service is calling for a “normal” December, which should deliver five inches to most producers.  This will help overcome the deficiency of 2.9 inches and 3.9 inches that did not fall in October and November respectively.

 

The National Weather Service is calling for “normal” rainfall amounts for December 2012, which should bring five inches to most producers.

Les Harrison

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/11/21/dry-fall-in-floridas-big-bend-but-ample-blue-skies/