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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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Summer of Change

I purposed not to get connected with this new garden because our sincere plan was to resell this house quickly once our primary house was finished with the intended remodel. I didn't make too many changes here nor did I let my mind wander with gardening dreams for that reason.  ***If you are just arriving here and need to catch up on why we moved to the house next door you can catch up here for the back story and here with all the post entries regarding this new garden so far.
This is the closest photo I have to a BEFORE shot. It's taken from the open back deck.
It dawned on me after we got started that I should be documenting this transformation process.
The very day (June 1, 2014) we made the decision to sell our primary home and garden of 30 years my mind kicked into overdrive. It was time to pay attention to the conditions of this garden. The first and practically only thing I could think about was how in the world was I going to transfer my old garden to make a new garden in such a short period of time. There were so many plants I wanted to keep from my old garden. I would need to move them or take cuttings from them in order to preserve them.
June 6, 2014
Time to remove some lawn between some scrubby Swamp Bay trees and a Red Maple on one side and
one Drake Elm next to the open deck.
You would think I would have been consumed with figuring out how I was going to pack up the three rooms and full closets I needed to move from the original house to the new house. I sensed a huge garage sale was looming in my near future along with everything else that needed attention.
June 11, 2014
After all the grass was removed up to the curvy line on the left, I brought in a yard of potting soil to cover the pile of grass. It help create a a small hill between me and my south neighbor.
I had privacy in mind with all the plants I chose for this new location.
When we moved to the house next door 7 months prior I had taken only the furniture and goods we needed for everyday living. Was that ever a lesson in how much extra *stuff* we have! If I didn't need it or use it more often why did I still have it? I had a whole lot of purging to do. :-)
June 11, 2014
I purchased the Sweet Almond Bush at the garden center where I picked up the potting soil. It is the *only plant I purchased* for this entire area. All the rest came from my old garden. 
The usable areas (the beds that had open space for plants) in my new-to-me back garden are mostly sunny. In my old garden I had created a very shady oasis in the back garden and the front garden was also mostly shady. For appropriate conditions and enough space to transplant my shade-loving plants it was necessary to dig some grass in the shadiest spot available in the back garden. I had to make the most of that sliver of shade.
June 6, 2014
The same shady area from the angle looking south (deck is to the right).
I was in a hurry. I hired some help. Two strong boys (brothers) that regularly help my elderly neighbor. Their schedules were busy with summer activities and other jobs so it was a little frustrating only being able to grab them for a few hours at a time. I honestly couldn't have made so many quick changes without them. They did the digging and heavy lifting while I designed and planted. They worked hard right in the middle of Florida's hottest summer humidity.
June 25, 2014
June 22 we started moving some of the bigger accessories.
The birdhouses and the fire pit (not visible, but behind the birdhouses) made a big difference
in the look and feel of the new garden.
I had made a list 3 legal pages long of plants to either move or to make cuttings from. There were plants from neighbors, friends and family I couldn't bear to leave behind. Some of the plants I needed to move because of their mature status. For instance, I divided/transplanted my own plentiful shell gingers rather than buy new ones. Moving my mature plants means larger plants from the start.
June 29, 2014
The background transplants were settling in nicely and for the most part June blessed me
with sufficient rainfall to save me time watering them each day. 
It was one thing to move plants and cuttings. When the process of moving accessories from one garden to the other began it made me feel like this whirlwind move was really truly happening. My emotions were pretty raw about leaving my old garden. But there was no time to lollygag nor did I have extra energy to waste on sadness. It was taking every minute of every day to tackle the garden move and packing.

[Side note: I'm so very grateful to all my family and friends who helped out with packing/sorting/moving/garage-saling (I'm sure that's not a word). They were amazing! Each one with a gift for efficiency. My poor mom had to practically drag me out of the garden (many times) into the house for me to finish inside when I wanted only to be outside.]
June 30, 2014
In my old garden the birdhouses were the focal point in a partially sunny area. Their surroundings were much different there. I decided to change it up a bit here and moved them into the new shade bed. At their feet are Florida-Friendly tropicals, perennials and newly rooted coleus (all from my old garden).
July 1, 2014
Photos create an amazing visual journal that can't be duplicated with words or memory. I planted 'Creamsickle' Caladium bulbs on June 13. In each photo you can see the progression of their growth which would otherwise have been missed.
At the same time I was working on this shady part of the garden I was creating the fire pit area.  The boys (my helpers) were digging out grass in the blazing sun to make room for more plants in the existing sunny area and also digging out another large area of grass for part-sun/part-shade plants.  I would follow them with plants and mulch. I will update on those spaces in the future.
July 1, 2014
The existing *island* made up of the tall Red Maple (to the left), scrubby trees and palmettos curved in a pleasing fashion to create a natural screen. It made the perfect natural divider between the new shaded Birdhouse Garden and the fire pit. All I had to do was deepen it on both sides with suitable plants which elevated the design in each area with depth and intensity.
July 8, 2014

July 8, 2014
I had three objectives prior to turning over my garden to the new owner.
1) To dig up all the plants on my long list and find suitable new homes for them.
2) To put any plants I didn't have room for at the time into grow pots for future planting.
3) To make cuttings of plants too large to move and/or plants I knew I would want more of later on.
July 11, 2014
We closed on the sale of the old house on July 9, 2014. I spent the entire last day in the garden. It was the final time to be in my own garden. I started very early and didn't stop until dark. It meant the world to me to be there one last time without interruption. I can tell you, it was a most memorable day of gardening.  It was the day I checked off the last of the 3 page legal sheet of plants and cuttings. I felt quite satisfied about what I was able to transfer to this new garden.
July 18, 2014
The angle looking directly south. The large banana trees in the background belong to my south neighbor. It's nice for me that both properties flow visually together nicely.
The new shade garden connects my south side into one continuous series of varying sized planting beds. There's a large area at the SE corner that is full with overgrown vines, ferns and weeds. I've not been able to do anything there yet. Eventually it will become another shade garden. Lots of work still to do in that far-back section (it's beyond the fire pit).
July 20, 2014
If you look to the top left of the above photo you might notice there is mulch where the other photos still have grass.  I'll update on that later as well.
July 25, 2014
The view from our open deck has changed quite a bit. We've already removed a lot of grass and replaced it with winding pathways and suitable plants, grasses and shrubs.
August 17, 2014
It's been an insanely busy summer of change! The difference in the way I feel about this garden now and the way I felt on June 1 has completely changed. I'm not gonna lie. It's still hard to think about my old garden and to realize it isn't mine anymore. But it's a lot less hard each day. I'm still finding the blessings at every turn. This garden is feeling more and more like it's mine and more and more like I belong here.

Sometimes the opportunity for change sneaks up on you. That's when we have to decide how we will respond.

"We can't be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don't have something better." ~ C. JoyBell C.

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.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Let's Not Spend Any Money on the Garden

Mr. Meems and I agreed at the start (April 2013 when we bought the new-to-us house) that we probably shouldn't spend any money on the new garden. It made no sense to dump too much energy or cash into a yard that was quite acceptable just like it was. We were looking at it as more of an investment property than like it was our own home. The plan was to resell it as soon as possible. Besides that, I was very preoccupied with plans for renovation ( of both houses), packing to move and actually caring for my own garden. If you missed the story about why we bought the house next door you can catch up on that here.
Trees in the back yard with big gaps for lots of full sun plants.
That said it's important to note that this new yard has really great bones. After all it is as old as my previous garden and has undergone many years of change and evolution. The front yard has wonderfully mature live oaks and a couple of pine trees. The back has different trees. Different from what I've been used to in my old garden. I think I've identified them as Red Bays and Swamp Bays and yes, there are a couple of oaks in the back corner. There are several planting beds throughout the yard. Most are fairly large.

The back yard just before we purchased it... camera pointing west. 

The ones in the back are rather awkwardly shaped and stretch horizontally across at least 2/3rds the width (about 100') of the back yard. One end of the sunniest bed (maybe a 5th of it) had some existing perennials (plumbago, lantana, and Mexican petunia) that were literally covered with that awful (invasive) skunk vine and the rest of the bed was completely empty. Empty. Are you kidding me? Now you tell me. Who in their right mind would expect me to live in a house with a large empty planting bed and leave it that way. Even in a temporary house. I don't think so.
Maybe this will help explain. The back yard just before we purchased it... camera pointing west. 
I didn't do much in this new yard from April 2013 (when we bought the new house) until September 2013 aside from lame attempts at controlling weeds. Sometime last summer (2013) I had the lawn man trim all the existing overgrown-with-weedy-vine plants in that back sunny bed (you can see them in the left side of the photo) to the ground. They were so overgrown with skunk vine that you could barely see or identify the plants. I just thought I'd take my chances. It was a survival test. If it survived I'd work with it. If it didn't ... oh, well.  I was able at that point to start pulling the skunk vine out at the root and then stayed on top of it to eliminate it. Well, at least it is under control finally. We will never be rid of it. The plumbago has been slow to return, but finally looks healthy again. I ripped out the lantana and Mexican petunia even though it keeps trying to come back. I ripped out the dying roses in those awkward brick planters except for one healthy Knockout rose that was planted as a memorial to the previous owner's deceased wife. I've kept it trimmed and fertilized in honor of her.
Same awkward shaped planting bed with photo taken from the side ... camera pointing south. September 2013.
Last September (2013) I started spending a little bit of time in this garden. I decided to plant a few plants in that large, mostly empty bed. In keeping with our decision not to spend money on it, the few things I did plant came from divisions or transplants either from my own garden or some from the new garden. I made stabs here and there at minor improvements to this yard. Really minor. For instance, one of the first changes I made here involved discovering a big batch of chartreuse bromeliads overgrown and hidden under an Azalea shrub in the back.  I pulled them up, separated them and more or less plopped them in some containers (found those hiding in some bushes also) and also spread them around in an empty front bed under a big pine tree.
Indian Hawthorn Standard 'Majestic Beauty' struggled in my garden due to lack of sunshine so I decided to donate them (two) to the new garden. Photo September 2013.
Then gradually I started digging up plants from my garden. There were those that were not getting enough sunshine in my garden like two Indian Hawthorn 'Majestic Beauty' standards and a cuphea (Cigar plant or firecracker plant) I moved to the new garden. The back garden faces east and stays sunny almost all day. Yikes. So-very-different from my previous garden that is mostly shaded by huge oak trees.
Camera pointing south on the second mostly sunny bed that parallels the first one I showed you.
The next step was to move some native ad ornamental Florida-Friendly grasses over to fill in the big center space of both sunny gardens.
20 yards of free mulch delivered in January 2014. It helped toward mulching both yards.
I mulched as I went along from the giant free pile a tree service delivered. Gradually, I added some flowering plants from my own cuttings of Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' and Pentas. The butterflies were following me from my garden to this one and that was inspiring me onward.
The new planting bed I made behind the open deck. Caladium bulbs were given to me also from Classic Caladium.
That's how it all started. We weren't going to spend money on this garden. We physically moved into this house mid-November 2013 but only moved the furniture and what we needed in a temporary home. Ha!

Once January's inspiring cool weather rolled around, I broke with our agreement not to add any new beds and I added ONE. Just one. And it was small. The area around the newly re-built deck was begging for some continuity. You know, for resell purposes. I spent money on some potting soil after the grass was dug out, but the plants I installed were again cuttings or transplants.
This is a current photo of the awkward sunny bed. I've enlarged it to create a better flow. More details on this to come.
The challenge to enhance a garden without spending any money became a motivator. It was fun. I would see a plant when out shopping at a garden center and I'd have to remind myself that I wasn't going to spend any money. It caused me to 'shop the garden'. I looked around at the new garden, thought about what I might need to add that wouldn't cause me or a buyer too much work, then I'd go dig up something from my garden to transplant. Or I'd go dig up a plant like bulbine and separate one plant into 10 for edging. (Example is in the new bed behind the deck photo above.)

It's amazing how fast a garden can change with a little bit of attention. When we signed the contract to sell our original home and garden and stay here on June 1 I went into high-gear to make this garden my own. I'm excited about the progress and about having some sunny areas to play with. I've lots of before and after photos to share in future posts... so stay tuned.

By the way, I just made my first purchases for this garden THIS week. Until now I really didn't spend any money of the garden (except for that one tiny departure I mentioned earlier).

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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September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway