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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Swamp Sunflower

Once in a while I get so enamored with a particular plant/flower that I want to stare at it, take photos daily, talk about it and share it with anyone who will listen. Swamp Sunflower. Yes. Here we go.
My friend and fellow Hillsborough County Master Gardener, Nanette, over at Bay-Friendly Landscaping heard that I was trying to create my new sunny garden without spending any money. One day when we were volunteering together she showed up with 4 baby swamp sunflower plants and a couple of scorpion tail plants. I planted them all in June.
I gave my baby swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) plants the sunniest possible conditions because that's what they like. Wow. Did they ever grow fast and they grew tall! They were every bit of 9' (probably taller) in height by September with tiny tight buds from top to bottom. Even those were cute. I'm not kidding.

If you live in Florida, you have probably seen these sunny yellow wildflowers along the roadside this month. They don't grow as tall there, but they are full of bright yellow faces and brown buttons in the middle.  I have seen some gorgeous groupings of them on my trips over to the center of the state. We also saw them along country roads on a recent trip to North Florida. 

They are so bright and cheery, you can't miss them.  Each flower is about 3" across. They will catch your attention even if you aren't looking for them. 

Give me blue skies and swamp sunflowers any day and I'll be just as cheery as their happy faces. It's the simple things y'all!
This is the back side of my sunniest bed. Only the perennial peanut ground cover was planted here when we moved in. I'm letting that spread as it wants to.
Placed in the middle of my sunniest flower bed seems to be a good place for swamp sunflower. They are so tall I can see them as I round the corner from the central pathway. I staked the center stalks with rebar before they bloomed. I suspected they might get top heavy. I think that was wise because some of the side shoots drooped and snapped during that week of constant rain we had in late September. 

I'm going to give them a hard prune next June to try to keep each bush a little more compact, but that's not to say I mind the height they are at all. Just thinking I might not need to stake them if they are bushier.

The purple flowers you see are Celosia spicata. Don't they make a nice pairing. Native bee balm (Monarda punctata) is blooming pale pink flowers right next to both of them. There are so many pollinators buzzing around this area that you can hear their music.
My only wish is that swamp sunflower would last through spring. Alas, they are a fall flowering native plant to Florida. I've been told they will self-seed. Oh, what a glorious thought. More swamp sunflowers next year. Oh my.

I hope you're enjoying this excellent fall weather Central Florida is having this week. Pretty perfect for outdoor activities.

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All material © 2007-2014 by Meems for Hoe and Shovel Gardening Blog. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My New Garden

A cross view of the front garden. Sidewalk leads to the front door (to the right). I've made very few changes to the front so far. 
Yes, I'm embracing my new garden fully after these few months of working in it and learning to love it. I purposely didn't get attached to this new garden initially because our plan was to resell quickly once our primary house was remodeled. For that reason I also held off making any significant changes in this garden. Then we made the decision in June 2014 to make this our permanent home.  [If you missed the story about why we bought the house next door you can catch up on that here.]
Some fall-like colors in the back sunny garden. Maple leaf hibiscus and Swamp sunflower.
When we made that decision it changed my perspective instantly. My adrenalin sent my planning, organizing self into overdrive. I was consumed with how/where/when to move plants and to start cuttings from my old garden. I challenged myself to get this garden started without spending any money on new plants. That's was super-fun. I worked straight through the heat and humidity of summer in order to accomplish that first phase of making my new garden a place of respite.
The fire pit doubles as a big family room with plentiful and roomy seating. There was nothing here except and weeds when we moved in. (The banana trees in the background are my neighbor's and you can see the cypress hammock in the distance.)
With all that said, I'm trying my best to take my time and really think out what and how much I want to add to this garden overall. Some would say it's too late for that because I've already added so many plants and created so many new spaces. I guess what I mean is that I want to try to stay true to the overall feel of this piece of property. This property has a natural, woodsy feel to it.  Mature saw palmettos gather in clumps beneath tall old oaks throughout the front and back. We are only a lot away from a cypress hammock that surrounds a conservation water area.
The view across from the fire pit and on the way out to the far back yard. This was a huge bed of invasive Mexican petunia when we moved in. I am still pulling out pieces of it as it shoots up. 
So far my thoughts are to keep this garden looking more natural. Less manicured. Maybe even less plants. Did I just say that? By less plants I mean planting less crowded in some of the beds.
Tiny slips of rooted coleus from my old garden were planted in the Birdhouse Garden in June 2014.
Our rainy Florida summer was just what they needed to flourish. 
The views in the shadiest part sorta contradict what I just stated. That's okay. I'm not committed to less crowding everywhere.
This is the back side of the sunniest part of the garden. The plumbago in the center is the only plant that I left in this bed when I started adding my own plants.
Grass was removed from the front 8' in early July to enlarge and enhance the shape of this large bed.
I have to admit the whole challenge of moving to a new garden, although heartbreaking at the outset, has been an extremely rewarding and fun endeavor. As I look back on the decisions we made with a clearer perspective I think I actually needed a change-up. It has given me new inspiration and sparked fresh ways of thinking and designing. Especially in my sunniest garden that is in the wide open back part of the yard.
The partially shady area that I created first thing in order to move my birdhouses and the plants you see here.
You can see how I did it and the before and after photos here.
My old garden was filled with literally thousands of plants jammed in so tightly there was hardly room for anymore. I loved the layout of that garden. I'm learning to love the layout of this one.
A large area of lawn was removed in late July to create this space in the very back corner of my back yard. The mature plants in view in the background are actually in my old garden. I'm using it as a backdrop to this new seating area. :-)
Seating arrangements are a key element in any garden to instantly add a sense of warmth and coziness. I moved most of my Adirondacks, benches and captain's chairs from my new garden. Finding suitable places for all of them has involved creating inviting planting beds.
Part of the front garden. I moved the lime green coleus, the iron chair, the begonia, and the birdbath from my old garden.
Lots of mixed white Caladiums were planted from bulbs in July.
I'm feeling blessed and satisfied that we made the right decision to stay here. Now that I've embraced this new garden my mind whirls with ideas and plans for improvement. I'm gonna take my time. As much as I LOVE maintenance (I really do) I'm trying keep maintenance low. We have other interests and we like to pick up and leave when we want to for short periods of time. So far we've been able to do that without worries.

What about you? What's new in your garden? I hope your fall garden is off to a great start.


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All material © 2007-2014 by Meems for Hoe and Shovel Gardening Blog. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway