It has been called the world’s most colorful shrub, which is certainly not an exaggeration. I have been in love with it ever since I made my first visit to the Caribbean 30 years ago. If you are a gardener, then you probably know the plant I am talking about — the croton.Crotons are known botanically as “Codiaeum variegatum” and are native to Malaysia, Indonesia, northern Australia and western Pacific islands. As far as its family classification, it is a Euphorbiaceae, so it is related to copper plants and our wonderful Christmas plant, the poinsettia.In the Caribbean and in its native habitats, you’ll see this somewhat woody perennial reach heights of more than 6 feet, giving a carnival-like atmosphere to wherever it is being grown. Here in Savannah, Georgia, and the South Carolina low country, I have never seen so many grown as annuals in the summer landscape. With that in mind, gardeners everywhere can do that, too.For the amount of impact they give, crotons are certainly a good buy. Depending on the size you buy, they will reach 2 feet tall and perhaps a little wider. The heat and humidity prevalent in most of Georgia sets up the perfect conditions to allow them to thrive. Wherever I look, whether grown with elephant ears, hibiscus or the Hawaiian ti plant, crotons look festive and tropical.You might be wondering why I’m touting this most amazingly beautiful tropical in September? The answer is opportunity. I don’t know if you have been to a garden center lately, but this time of year, crotons show up as special buys. I love this for a couple of reasons.First, I love using crotons in partnership with Belgian mums to create a colorful fall display. I like them with pumpkins and asters, too. Let your creative genius come alive. There are no rules to follow on how to use tropical crotons, so buy several. Don’t be bashful.As I write this, I am sitting in a large sunroom with a ton of glass and available light, which would be the perfect spot for not just the world’s most colorful shrub, but the world’s most colorful houseplant. In the landscape, croton needs fertile, organic, rich soil with good drainage. As an indoor houseplant, select a good, fluffy, humusy blend that contains controlled-release fertilizer.Indoors, croton needs bright light with a moment or two of direct sun. In the landscape, they thrive anywhere other than pure shade. The sunlight stimulates an incredible display of color. As a houseplant, keep croton amply moist, but never soggy or wet. If your room has low humidity, consider placing the container on a saucer of wet gravel.The croton is cold hardy to zones 10 and 11 and, in these locales, they would be spaced 3 to 4 feet apart. If you are going to use them as annuals, like in my region, mass or cluster them together 18 to 24 inches apart for the showiest display.There are a number of selected varieties and types of leaf shape and size, but you will be buying generically. You have to agree that a plant with large, glossy, waxy leaves and every shade of gold, yellow, green, red and pink is simply too mesmerizing to overlook.I hope you take this opportunity to use croton in your fall décor. And, next spring, their addition to your landscape will shock your neighbors, friends and relatives.Follow me on Twitter @CGBGgardenguru. Learn more about the University of Georgia Coastal Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm at >www.coastalgeorgiabg.org.
Published on March 4, 2016 at 8:08 pm Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossman No. 3 Syracuse (4-0) traveled to Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia for its first road game of the season and beat No. 17 Virginia (2-3), 14-13, on Friday night.The Orange withstood a five-goal fourth quarter barrage from Virginia, including four straight goals that shrunk a 13-8 lead to a 13-12 one. James Pannell scored his fourth goal of the game with 37 seconds left, causing UVA head coach Dom Starsia to call a timeout to strategize before the potential game-deciding faceoff.Faceoff specialist Michael Howard stepped on the stick of SU’s specialist, Ben Williams, drawing the referee’s whistle and keeping the ball with the Orange. The Syracuse offense ran out the remaining time on the clock to barely escape with the team’s first-ever win in Charlottesville.Here are three immediate reactions to Syracuse’s fourth-straight win to start the season.Welcome to the showAdvertisementThis is placeholder textNick Mariano has been a formidable presence on the Orange’s midfield line in his first year as a transfer. Entering Friday he’d scored six goals, including a three-tally performance against Albany last weekend. The junior tied his season-best mark against Virginia, but more meaningfully with two fourth-quarter goals cementing the final result.He stretched the lead out to five early in the fourth quarter, but Virginia stormed back with four unanswered goals to draw within 13-12. Derek DeJoe took an ill-advised shot on a near-impossible angle that clanked off the near post and dribbled in front of the crease.Mariano weaved through the mosh of players and deftly scooped and scored in a swift motion to stop the Orange’s bleeding. It proved to be the final score for Syracuse, and perhaps its biggest as it shortly thereafter forced the Cavaliers to vacate its goal.“(Mariano’s) been scoring for us and doing a nice job,” head coach John Desko told CuseTV after the game. “Helped us on man-up today too.”Greener on the other sideThe majority of ground ball attempts come on faceoffs, and Syracuse is primed to win the majority of them with Williams. But despite his 18-for-29 game at the X, the Orange was beaten badly in the ground ball battle, 43-29. It’s the first time this season SU fell short on the ground ball margin, and something that happened only twice last year.Desko indicated his concern Wednesday that his team hadn’t practice groundballs on a grass field. The ball bounces differently on grass than FieldTurf, Desko said, and it certainly did Friday night.Several scrums at the faceoff X turned into makeshift kicking contests as SU’s wings tried to create separation on the ball after struggling to scoop it up. Plays in transition were harder to come by, as quick, bobbled passes turned into scooping battles off the ground.But Syracuse perhaps reeled in the biggest ground ball of the game after Virginia scored four unanswered goals early in the fourth quarter. Greg Coholan tried to knot the score at 13, but Warren Hill knocked his shot away from the crease and midfielder Paolo Ciferri emerged from the ground ball scrum near midfield. Mariano made good on the possession and cushioned SU’s lead.“To win down here on the grass, first time we’ve been on the grass this year, was big for us,” Desko said. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Extra men, everywhereWhat initially allowed Virginia to creep back into the contest was its dominance on SU’s man-down defense, which was forced into action by eight Syracuse penalties. After UVA knotted the score at five, both Nick Mellen and Austin Fusco were assessed penalties, compromising the Orange’s defense by two men. Midfielder Matt Emery made SU’s young duo pay for their mistakes, and put Virginia ahead, 6-5.Careless penalties like a Sergio Salcido late hit on Zach Ambrosino and a Scott Firman slash on the head put Syracuse at a disadvantage. The Orange’s man-down package is without Mellen, the team leader in caused turnovers, because of its complexity to the freshman defender.The 5-foot-7 Salcido did make good on two man-up opportunities for Syracuse’s offense, balancing out the Orange’s extra-man offense that’s always been dominated by Donahue’s presence. He led the country in extra-man goals last year.