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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, May 30, 2011

Berry American

Native plants have been incorporated into the landscape to blend with the natural habitat of mature live oaks and saw palmettos in the way-back gardens. All are wildlife attractors.

Isn't it interesting that every year the *American* Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) blooms coincide with the arrival of Memorial Day. A day first observed in 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Since then this holiday's significance has been extended to honor all those who paid the ultimate price for our nation. I am grateful for each man and woman who has fallen for the freedom we hold so dear in this great nation.

These pale pink flowers are delicate and tiny borne on the stems of a rugged native plant. One that requires very little care from the gardener. It is not persnickety about soil or irrigation as it will survive drought conditions in well drained soil. It prefers filtered light but will adapt to sunnier locations.

Come late summer/early fall the flowers will turn to those gorgeous magenta berries the birds love to feast on. This is one of those plants I've added more of each year. They look great for that naturalized feeling I'm leaning towards more and more.

**For those of you who live in the Tampa Bay Area they can be purchased in summertime for a very reasonable price at Pine Lake Nursery.**

Have a safe and thankful Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Garden Vignettes

Every garden possesses its own unique beauty, characteristics, and charm. As gardeners no matter how much we appreciate the overall culture we've created it seems we develop preferences. There is definitely favorite scenery, nooks, and niches that draw our attention more than others within the garden. These particular spots often change with the seasons. They aren't necessarily perfect in every way yet these choice vignettes prove to be fulfilling and pleasing to our senses as our eyes rest on them again and again.

On the periphery of the circle garden impatiens seed themselves in abundance each spring. None have been planted in years. They are like weeds and even though they try to demand extra irrigation they are on their own to survive with the supply the rest of the garden receives. They do make a colorful addition to the mostly foliage entrance to the tropical pathway.

Rounding that corner a fork in the pathway leads to either the butterfly garden or the tropical pathway that further leads to the way-back garden. This is one of the most peaceful settings in the entire garden.

There are many niches along the stroll down the tropical pathway that urge me to pause. Stopping to reflect on the simplest delights that my garden provides refreshes my soul time and again. The nook with the red banana and roundleaf begonias (rotundifolia) surrounded by lush layers of plants is just one of them.

A garden is the perfect place to work out the burdens of the day leaving them behind as we touch the earth and stress melts away with our toils. Layers and layers of textures, forms, varying heights and diverse hues all contribute to the quiet sanctuary within these borders.

Tropical plants suited for protection from the intense sunshine under the mature oaks blend together in shades of red, magenta, yellow, and green.

At the curve, behind the retaining wall, Miss Muffet caladiums snuggle up next to a bird's nest fern that rests between two large stones as if it squeezed itself naturally into that small bit of soil.

Exiting the tropical pathway gives an equally soothing view.

On the other side of the back gardens Florida-Friendly plants of bromeliads, White Queen caladiums, pentas, shell gingers, aztec grasses, cordylines all converge with the native gardens happily thriving in like-environments.

The northside berm was planted with much the same method in mind. A mixture of natives and a wide variety of fitting tropicals blending together offering a calming effect for the viewer. A garden discreetly and eternally touches the heart of anyone willing to pause and breathe it in.
The majestic Australian Fern is a favorite from any angle. It is tucked to the side of the central pathway where it can be seen from just about any point in the back gardens.

Seating arrangements serve as focal points adding structure whever they are placed. Prevalent morning shade in the circle garden allows for a cool meditation spot.
Brightly colored wildflowers continue to catch my eye at every turn.

An unusual sight at Hoe and Shovel but much loved this spring.

The dangling shell ginger blooms vie for the attention of any passersby. We will savor their loveliness while they last. When they fade it will be another spring before they return.

Since replacing the front lawn turf with low-lying ground covers mowing chores have been reduced dramatically. Chairs placed at the end of the curvy path remind us to take some extra moments to relax.

From the front street-side butterfly attractors take up the sunniest corner available at Hoe and Shovel. The seating in the previous photo is tucked into the upper right corner of this photo (if you could see it from this vantage point).

It's likely you'll be seeing more of these favorite vignettes throughout the summer. As my eye gravitates to them so does my camera. Thank you for coming along with me to some of my favorite places in the garden.

I wish you peace and restfulness as you breathe in your own garden today. Meems

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rain Brings the Lilies

Blushing pink Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes) appear quite regularly following ... you guessed it ... a good rain shower in late spring.

Short in height with fairly insignificant grass-like foliage from tiny bulbs that multiply on their own they are repeat bloomers throughout the season. Even into mid-summer flowers will flush out although not as abundant as this time of year.

I wish I could say this mass of lilies is mine. I DO have a few of them scattered in pockets here and there. But not a display quite as stunning as my sweet neighbor, Ms. Helen, across the street from me. She has shared so many wonderful plants with me over the years including many rain lilies.

These plants prefer a location with a good deal of sunshine (which is one reason I don't have more of them). Given a warm site along with a healthy down pour to urge them forth they are an easy, simple-pleasure lily to grow in Florida.

Fortunately for me, Ms. Helen's are planted en masse on the street side where I get to savor their delicate blush of pink and smile everytime I glance over at them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How The Birds See It

Close up views of the garden and individual flowers are unmatched for showcasing exquisite detail. Even so, many of the readers here have expressed their appreciation for seeing WIDE views of the garden as a way of displaying the layout. Recently I was up on the roof cleaning off the leaves that quickly collect there from the oak trees.

So for what it's worth here is a view from the roof looking out to the street. It is the (shady)South side of the driveway. The lighting is terrible for photos but then again it reveals the way sunlight filters through all those mature oak trees.

This is a panoramic view of 4 photos 'stitched' together to give an even broader sense of the entire garden on that side.

Can you see the center section (up in the right hand corner of photo above) that was just completed? For the back story on removing the lawn you can go here if you missed it.

And while we're at it the north side (the other side of the driveway) garden leading around to the edible garden. The trees are blocking the rest of the view down to the street.

It really is quite a different view from up there where the birds perch. I hope this helped give you a better idea of the overall front garden.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Flax Lily :: How-to Maintenance

Flax Lily (Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata') has been utilized to the fullest at Hoe and Shovel and several posts have been previously written about my admiration for it. By some standards it is probably over-used. When I first fell in love with it I implemented it mostly as an edging plant for curvaceous borders. Once established I began dividing it and placing it in container plants as vertical interest and sometimes clumping it in groups within a planting bed.

It IS a versatile Florida-Friendly plant with that much-loved upright habit that tends to draw my attention in many plant varieties.

I almost always recommend flax lily to my clients as it is a low maintenance, highly drought tolerant, cold hardy in winter plant that remarkably adapts well to either the sun or shade.

What's NOT to love, right?

Over time I've discovered that it has some attributes that aren't particularly exciting.

The most noticeable being the older, outer leaves on each fan blade eventually die and turn brown. We've all heard about flax lily rust, too. I can live with them showing a little bit of rust but along with the aging leaves the overall plant can eventually become unsightly.

With hundreds (mostly from divisions) of flax lily planted throughout the garden it was time to find a solution.

If you've been wondering what to do to help your flax lily come alive and return to that beautiful vigor you first loved about these great plants follow along for a simple how-to pictorial on cleaning them out.

One by one it was my aim to clean out every 'blade' that displayed any sign of death. It was a scary thought at first. What in the world would be left of each plant? Rather than pulling out just the brown leaves I decided to boldly cut back the entire blade. Each one displaying any sign of age. Plant by plant.

Using a sharp pair of hand pruners remove the entire blade by cutting it at the base. This is a good time to pull back some of the leaves (or mulch) that have piled up around the bottom. No mulch at the base is good for the plant in any instance as it helps air circulation and allows for better drainage to the roots.

While it seemed like a severe move at first to remove so much foliage from each plant (debris from two pruned plants above) I have a good feeling that with Florida's heat and humidity they will return quickly. And be healthier going into the summer.

It was encouraging to see all the new growth/blades revealed once the old ones were thinned out.

And the final results were refreshing ... much thinner and smaller in size but so healthy in appearance. Completing this task actually gave the whole garden a bit of a face lift.

How does your flax lily grow? I see these issues all around town so I'm wondering if gardeners have had the same experience as I have here and what did you do about it???

Happy gardening!!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Meet Meems :: Saturday6 Gardening Q & A at Lowe's

Troy-Bilt has teamed up with six bloggers from across the country calling us the Saturday6. And guess what? I'm one of the Saturday6! Isn't that exciting!!

Click above to meet the entire team!

THIS SATURDAY I'll be on hand to answer your gardening questions at the New Tampa Lowe's.

Here's ALL the scoop

Outside the garden center under the tent
New Tampa Lowe's Store (#1003)
6201 Commerce Palms Dr.
Tampa 33647

May 21, 2011, Saturday
10:00 am to 1:00 pm

A Troy-Bilt representative will be there with products available to test run and I'll be on hand to answer gardening questions. Sound like fun?

All we need is YOU to join us and make the day a success!

In the future, as part of the Saturday6, you can look forward to my review of Troy Bilt products, give-away offers, and gardening articles written for Troy Bilt's newsletter, The Dirt.

As backyard gardeners just like you the Saturday6 team will do our best to help you love getting the most from your Saturdays spent in the garden.

Recently all of us met together in Cleveland, Ohio where we were given a tour of the still-family-owned Troy-Bilt headquarters. It was a fascinating experience getting to hear from the employees and see how they implement the company philosophy with the customer foremost in mind.

More to come on that fabulous trip later.

I hope to see you Saturday.

Disclosure: My reviews and/or recommendations are always my own thoughts. I am being compensated for my partnership with Troy-Bilt as one of the Saturday6 team members. This post is in conjunction with that partnership.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Colors of May

It is the month of May that urges the return of Agapathus blooms. And so many others.

Lily of the Nile (A. africanus) as it is often referred to is an anticipated bloomer each year.

It is loved for its sturdy foliage in every other season.

Springtime, though, is when it sends up its large pom-pom of individual trumpet-shaped flowers on tall scapes for amazing appeal in the May garden.
And while I'm out with the camera let's have a look around the garden.
Cane begonias

Native oakleaf hydrangea

Variegated Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet)


Closer still. (The evidence of why it is called "shell" ginger)

Spathiphyllum or Peace Lily

Black and Blue Salvia

Salvia my neighbor gave me... anyone know the ID?

Crimson Pentas

An Easter lily ~~ ONE. A plant stuck in a pot from two Easter's ago and never expected it to bloom. It's a complete fluke. But enjoying it all the same.

Day lily 'Olive Bailey'

A volunteer sunflower.

Caladium 'Red Flash'

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway