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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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Finding the Blessings

Often in life you have to look for blessings. Especially in sadness or loss or hurt. With an open heart and a big dose of gratitude, the blessings can be found even in the most difficult times. I'm finding the blessings in leaving my beloved garden behind and starting all over.
Front walkway that leads to front door.
The couple who lived in our (new-to-us) house/garden previous to us were original owners. They had lived here for even longer than the 30 years we lived in our previous home (the one next door). If you missed the back story and want to catch up on why we moved to the house next door, you can read about it here.
Street view to the house.
The husband ended up selling us the house as a widower. He had remained here alone for 6 years after his gardener-wife (and my dear friend) had passed. He did his best to keep up with basic maintenance, but gardening wasn't his passion like it was hers.
Side view of front street side (all those tall shrubs in the far background are in my *old garden*)
In the garden there are a couple of Old Shrub Roses that I've admired for many years. There is a prominent Knockout Rose that was planted by her sister as a memorial to her after her passing. Scattered here and there are many other suitable plants and established perennials.... liriope, Agapanthus, bromeliads, society garlic, Cordylines, a perennial peanut patch, peacock gingers, and a few extremely old Caladiums that have survived despite the gardener's absence. Azaleas galore, mature Camellias and a large stand of Indian Hawthorn are the notable shrubs. Mostly it's fabulous trees and woody shrubs that provide the structural elements for the yard.
Palmettos and a lot of overgrown Cordylines in the back garden.
There is also quite a bit of lawn weaving around the existing planting beds. Quite a lot of lawn actually (updates to come on my progress of removing portions of it already). Native saw palmettos (Serenoa repens) cluster among the oak trees in the front and among other random trees in the back to fill in parts of the understory. My original garden had lots of  palmettos beneath the oaks. I dearly love them. There is no mistaking that palmettos say "Florida". I'm so happy and blessed this property has them!
A view of the back deck looking out to the back garden (the banana trees belong to my neighbor).
There's a lot more to this new property than just the simple sale of a home and a switcheroo from our house to this one. As I've mentioned, the wife who passed seven years ago (this week marks that anniversary) was an amazing woman. Claudia was gentle, kind and very talented.  She and I often took long walks together and we shared our favorite recipes and life's ups and downs along the way.  I wrote a tribute to her in the earliest days of this blog. You can read it and see photos of her garden at the time (my garden now) here. In that post I shared a photo of the pink impatiens she planted to make the bed next to the driveway a pretty vision for passers by. In turned out to be the last time she'd add her beautiful gift of gardening to her front garden. I'll be forever blessed the ways Claudia touched my life.
Pink 'Party Punch' and 'Pink Splash' Caladiums in memory of my late neighbor and previous owner of this house.
This past spring when Classic Caladiums sent me a batch of Caladium bulbs to plant, they included some *pink* varieties. I didn't have to think long about where to plant them.  Claudia died of breast cancer after a long fought battle. She seemed to be fond of pink in the garden and often planted the bed by the driveway with *pink* annuals. In her honor and as a memorial to her I clumped 'Pink Splash' and 'Party Punch' Caladiums in the same planter by the driveway this spring. At the time I planted them, I never gave it a thought that it would end up being my pretty pink planting permanently. (Oh, say that fast three times. lol) I'm blessed with the surprise that pink Caladiums will remain mine and with the memories of Claudia.
Our new house from the driveway
Claudia and her husband designed this custom built home to resemble a cabin in the mountains. Their plan was to someday retire to North Carolina. Sadly they weren't able to fulfill that dream, but she had this house to inspire her and it kept that hope alive for her while she was here. For me, this style of home is closer to my dream (than the ranch style house next door) of someday living in a Craftsman style bungalow. I'm blessed to experience a change of home styles.
My birdhouses had to find a new home in the new garden too.
I imagine Claudia is smiling from heaven knowing I'm living here now and tending the very same soil she loved and nurtured for many beautiful years. Even though my heart still hurts a little for having to leave my garden behind, it's quite an honor and a blessing to follow in her footsteps. She was a gardening mentor to me when we first became neighbors those many years ago. I'm blessed and I'm finding more and more blessings in this new journey each day.

I appreciate each of you coming along with me on this adventure of making this new garden mine. More to come highlighting the changes I've already made.

Happy gardening,

Come hang out with me and other gardening friends for daily updates at Hoe and Shovel on Facebook... here's the link:
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All material © 2007-2014 by Meems for Hoe and Shovel Gardening Blog. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Modern Art and Cheerful Container Caladiums

If you've spent any time with me here or in my garden you already know that I'm a mega-fan of Caladiums. I plant them in the landscape as edging, borders, clumps, and sweeps. Almost every one of my containers has a few of them peeking out between the flowers and plants.

A row of container pots with various Caladiums, begonias, Coleus and ferns along the walkway in my back garden. 
I prefer planting Caladium bulbs over purchasing the potted plants in garden centers. You get more *life* out of your Caladium varieties if you start with bulbs. Plus you get to pick from a vast array of sizes, colors and patterns rather than the few options available in the stores.
A wider view of the walkway and containers pictured above. Photo taken: July 18, 2014
There's nothing wrong with buying Caladium plants for sale in nurseries. But here's something to consider. The beautiful foliage that Caladiums sprout has an annual life span of about 150 days on average, then they return to their dormant state until the following spring. Some quick math will prove the bulbs that were forced in pots and for sale at stores will have less number of days (by a little) to be dancing in your garden. No biggie though. Whether you plant Caladium bulbs or purchase potted plants the important thing to remember is you don't want to be without their glorious cheery faces dancing in your summer garden.
Brand new sprout from Caladium bulbs planted July 12, 2014.
They come up out of the ground very quickly this time of year with summer rain and humidity.
When you plant bulbs versus buying plants, you get the thrill of watching that first sprout rocket out of the ground.
Brand new leaves from bulbs planted July 12, 2014. A package of mixed whites... each leaf a surprise.
Then you look the next day and wonder of wonders... there are more leaves. It's like fireworks. If you blink you might miss the entire explosion.
Red variety in front is 'Bombshell' and to the left is 'Candyland'. Behind 'Candyland' is 'Red Ruffles'.
Each spring/summer I plant a few bulbs into my existing perennial and evergreen pots. Caladiums elevate any plant combination to gorgeous and the additional summer color and texture is a no-brainer. This year I decided to be more deliberate. I planted more Caladium bulbs in containers specifically designed to highlight the splendor of Caladium foliage. Classic Caladiums sent me a number of new and new-er varieties to trial this summer. They produce high quality bulbs at their farm in Avon Park, Florida.
Spray paint your own pots to save some dollars!
For starters I spray painted some plain clay pots with 'Brilliant Blue' to mimic the more expensive blue-glazed pots I already have throughout my garden. I placed them on the open deck at our new home.
Containers were planted 4.15.14 and this photo was taken 5.17.14. Only two Caladiums leaves have started to unfurl.
Silver lace, maidenhair and bird's nest ferns along with various begonias are included in the mixture. The spilling vine is Hemigraphis 'Red Ivy' (amazing part-shade plant) and the sweet green and yellow foliage in left pot is Asystasia. Blue spray-painted Crepe Myrtle branches were *planted* in the center pot.

June 2, 2014 a few more leaves keep me encouraged as we wait.
Then I remembered (for a change) to take photos of the development as the Caladiums evolved into their best cheerful faces.
Just a few days later June 8, 2014 even more progress.
'Modern Art' is the stunning variety I used in this combination. I de-eyed them a few days before planting them. You can read more about the procedure of de-eyeing and see comparison photos of Caladiums de-eyed vs. not de-eyed here.
Also June 8, 2014
Caladiums that are de-eyed take a little bit longer to press out of the soil. But the form and habit of the plant is usually worth the wait!
June 30, 2014 time to trim the Red Ivy and where did the begonias ad ferns go?
'Modern Art' starts out with smaller lace shaped leaves and then push out some nicely large shaped ones to top off the bouquet.
June 30, 2014
The corner spot where these three pots reside is mostly shady with a spot of direct sun for about an hour midday as it shifts through the tree limbs above.

July 11, 2014 Almost 3 months since the bulbs were originally planted.
You gotta love foliage plants with a variety of color, shape and texture. These containers only need water once a week. If it rains I don't give them any extra irrigation.
Stunning close up! July 11, 2014
In each pot I popped in about 3 or 4 #1 size bulbs. I've been using Fafard Professional Formula 4P mix with superb results for my edibles and all my container plants this year. It is light and airy and yet retains moisture better than any other potting soil I've ever used.
July 22, 2014
And there you have it. The full progression through today.  Purposeful pots in the no-flower zone and who can deny the cheerful color they supply all summer long! I'm sold on 'Modern Art'. Cheers!

Have you planted your Caladium bulbs this year? If the answer is no, it's not too late. 

Happy gardening,

Come hang out with me and other gardening friends for daily updates at Hoe and Shovel on Facebook... here's the link:
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All material © 2007-2014 by Meems for Hoe and Shovel Gardening Blog. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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Tropical Pathway