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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.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Structure in the Garden :: Pergola Dreams

Dreams for the garden. We all like to dream. Dreams really do come true. Sometimes. If you wait long enough. In my story, I just couldn't seem to let go of my idea of adding a potting bench to my garden. A potting bench never really seemed practical or possible in my old garden. Not the bench I wanted anyway. I looked at so many styles and configurations over the years. None really suited what I had in mind. Little did I know I would have to move from my dream garden to actually get a potting bench. (More on the bench in another post.)

An even bigger dream all along had been to install a pergola structure. There was that perfect spot just outside of the pool cage at my previous house/garden. It is a good-size brick paver patio that transitions the screened lanai to the yard. It is the perfect setting for a pergola. I dreamed about it. I talked about it. I could see it in my mind. It didn't happen. Now I don't live there anymore.

It didn't take me long to start dreaming of gardening structures at my new house. I'm hardwired to create. It's in me. It happens. There's no stopping it. Visions. Ideas. Designs. They swirl in my head and they nag my thoughts. It's a gift. I don't fight that anymore. Regardless, all my creative ideas would cost a fortune to accomplish. Since I don't have THAT luxury, I improvise.  I scale back. I find ways to makes things work with less money. I've become a DIY project girl. I've enlisted patience and I come up with ways to accomplish what I see in my mind's eye without breaking the bank. It's very fun and rewarding doing things this way, so no complaints from me. Even so, once in a while you have to call in the craftsmen. The experts. The ones you have to pay. They want real money for their trade. :-)

We did it. We hired a local company, Garden Carpentry, to build our pergola. I had talked them a few years ago about doing something in my old garden. The timing wasn't right then. Now I know why.
There was some preliminary work to do before the pergola could be installed. Brick pavers were going to be the foundation to the entire area. Before the pavers could be laid we had to re-route several downspouts that drain from the gutters on the back side of the house. That involved digging trenches, laying pipe and dropping a couple of underground box drains out in the middle landscape bed for overflow. The whole place felt a mess that day. No, it was a mess. It was also cold. So. Cold. that November day. I made soup for the crew. Thick, hot, made-from-scratch chicken and wild rice warm-your-tummy goodness.Soup has nothing to do with my story.
The paver company was not the same as the pergola company. There was some finagling of scheduling because they had to work around each other. Before the pavers were put down Garden Carpentry wanted to slip in and get the four corner posts in place. It's easier to put pavers around the post than to go through the pavers to set the posts.

Sod removal.

Once the posts were in place and 24 hours passed for the cement to set up, the paver company was back to clear the lawn and get started with the patio. Bye, bye useless grass.

It seemed like a pretty quick 2.5 days to get the pavers all in place. It was December (2014) so I was pretty busy with Christmas hustle and bustle in the middle of all of this.

There was an oddly shaped, but convenient, walkway of pavers already in place when we moved here (visible in the foreground above).

We decided to extend the new pavers from that awkward walkway to under and beyond the pergola area all the way over to the open back deck. Now the space flows from one side to the other of the back garden. The pavers that extend out beyond the pergola create an ample walkway to the deck.

When the patio was completed the guys from Garden Carpentry came in right behind the paver company to get started on their magic 

It took a few weeks of back and forth discussions preceding the construction of the pergola to get the final plans in order. These are the rafters. Aren't they beautiful? The end cuts are called ogees.  Turns out there are lots of design options for ogee cuts.  (I had to learn all this stuff as we went along). Each rafter has to be individually cut. I wanted my rafters to extend out as far as possible over the lintels. They ended up being a little more than a 2.5' overhang. The smaller cross bars on top are called purlins. Aren't you glad you know all that now!

Once Garden Carpentry was on site to start the pergola it was completed in about 3 days. I really appreciated how they worked with me to let me give my input on the design. I knew what I had in mind and with their expert knowledge the collaboration turned out to fit my vision exactly. 

In my mind the pergola was to be a multi-purposed work-station, eatery and gathering place. I wanted a place to gather my gardening supplies and a central spot to work from. It had to be large enough for a small table and a seating area.  We had it covered with a clear polycarbonate roof to keep the rain out as much as possible. All the wood was stained with *Espresso* opaque Olympia wood stain.

You can see all my paint samples painted on the right. The house was a light gray. We painted it a deeper shade of gray (Dovetail Gray -Sherwin Williams) right before the construction of the pergola started. 

The alcove where the pergola was to go was created by the angles of the outer walls of the house. It was a pretty useless area. The garage is just to the right of this photo. The alcove had become a messy gathering of all my grow pots and anything else I hadn't yet found space in the garden for yet.
Immediately the new structure made a world of difference in the overall garden environment and added to the architectural aspects of our newly acquired home. The pergola improved the balance of the back side of the house tremendously. It was as if that strange, ill-used alcove was waiting for a pergola.

You can easily see how connecting the walkway all the way across to the open deck made sense.
Remember the re-purposed painted ladder project? You can see them here. I'm benefiting from the convenience of all my seedlings and sprigs of rooted plants being right there together under this roof. It's so easy to water them (and control how much water/sun they get) with a hose nozzle also under the pergola.
The perspective looking from the yard back toward the house.
The entire space has become a welcoming entry way so-to-speak into the back yard.

I use low container bowls on the edge of the walkway to keep the view open. They are filled with sun-loving herbs and flowers.

I couldn't be more pleased with the results of the pavers and the pergola. We have spent so many wonderful minutes reading, eating and gathering with friends and family under the cozy pergola. The pergola addition is one of those things that will be enjoyed for years to come.

As time goes on I'm sincerely feeling like this new home is MY home.

Soon I'll reveal the long awaited potting bench. Phase #9,989 .... :-)

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All material © 2007-2015 by Meems for Hoe and Shovel Gardening Blog. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Winter is Arriving a Little Late

Camellia japonica
Who can complain about Florida's winter weather? Not me. It's my favorite season of the year. This winter, like so many others before this, we have had gloriously mild weather. Just the right amount of rain when needed, abundant sunshine and perfectly cool but not cold has been our daily report. Until now.
A view across the top half of the back garden. February 2015

Cold hardy Old Garden Roses 'Old Blush' in bloom February 2015
Tomorrow morning in most of Florida including West Central Florida where I am it all changes. That northern blast that has brought record lows to our friends north of us is bearing down this far south with all its might.
Not as much tree cover in this garden as my old garden. Philodendron 'Rojo Congo' are too big to move. Hoping for the best.

It's been predicted we'll see the temperature drop to 32°F and as low as 27°F for about 6 hours. Just long enough to damage the crops of farmers and certainly enough to turn Florida gardeners' tropical plants to mush. Does anyone remember the winter of 2009 or 2010? They were worse.
Lots of Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' will be wishing for blankets they don't have tonight. 
I'm a bit of a weather-holic. I watch the hourly forecast on a weather app and online. I've been hoping the forecasters were wrong or just exaggerating because, well, it happens often. Even if they are wrong by a few degrees or hour or so, it's likely we still get freezing temps (not sure how low) and for several hours.
These pots will be left out in the open. They are a mix of perennials, annuals and herbs. Most are cold hardy.
Still. We can't complain. There are far worse scenarios in life than a few plants looking brown and ugly for a while. Most of them will not die. They will come back from the root.
African blue basil will not like the cold temps. My beautiful Queen Emma Crinums and Cordylines will fold under the pressure also.
Selfishly, I wish this wasn't happening. Especially so late in the season when everything is looking so pretty. Selfishly, I wish I didn't have so many new plants. I started most of my herbaceous perennials from root cuttings and they've only been in the ground since last June/July. All of that can be overcome in the long term. 
Lots of cold-hardy oaks, palmettos, azaleas, Indian hawthorn and giant liriope in the front gardens. 

Looking on the bright side there are loads of great cold-hardy plants in this garden also. AND... since it is so late in the season, we won't have to look at brown for very long. We can cut it off in the next week or two. Our last chance of frost date is 2.15.15. Oh, wait. That was 4 days ago. Ha!!!
Front garden azaleas are blooming so pretty right now.
If this cold weather wasn't right on top of us we would have all been out in our gardens this week with pruners and loppers in hand cutting back overgrown winter foliage. Old Man Winter seems to be mocking us visiting us so late.

I hope you stay cozy and warm until we see better weather. Here's some reliable researched information on what to do for your plants when the cold weather comes

One thing for sure. My blue bottle tree won't freeze tonight. 

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All material © 2007-2015 by Meems for Hoe and Shovel Gardening Blog. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway