Published February 22, 2011

Thomas HeckerThomas Hecker, Garden Club member and President of EcoBotanic Design, spoke at the February 7th meeting of the Naples Garden Club.  His program ”Orchids, Bromeliads, Succulents, Oh My!” began with an overview of the challenges and rewards when gardening within small spaces such as courtyards, patios, terraces and lanais.  He defined and showed examples of small spaces common in southwest Florida.  He followed with best plant selections, soil recommendations, fertilizers, mulches and containers.  Finally, he addressed common pest issues and possible non-toxic solutions.

Hecker stated the importance of an entryway with curb appeal, a desired feature for homeowners that may present challenges of poor soil and narrow planting space.  “Low maintenance and high Impact” is his motto for this area.  He encouraged us to “select plants that are attractive, can persist in our climate and require minimal care.”  Before and after examples were shown of different small entryways.  Some plants used were small palms, bromeliads, succulents, ti plants, crotons and orchids.

For lanais, Hecker recommended the use of colorful or unusual containers in limited planting areas.  Plants that grow too tall for the area may be replaced easily.   A large variety of possible plants were shown.  Challenges of air circulation due to screening and pests that may have come in on the plants may be addressed by taking the containers outside occasionally, if you can lift them.  A breath of fresh moving air and the possible addition of beneficial insects may solve some problems.
Hecker maintained that if you choose the right plant for the right space you will not need to use toxic pesticides.  Beneficial insects and/or the use of insecticidal soap will take care of most cases of scales, aphids and thrips.  Regular hand picking is one safe way to rid your plants of snails.
After the slide presentation, Hecker demonstrated his talents by planting two containers using a variety of edible and non-edible plants.  He stressed the importance of good drainage when planting any container or planter.  He recommended adding a slow release fertilizer to the soil and used Spanish moss as mulch.

Hecker’s inimitable sense of humor delighted the group of 200.  He encouraged them to realize the joy and rewards of gardening in small spaces despite any inherent challenges.
More information about Hecker may be found at or

by Carol McMenamy