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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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tropical Lushness

It occurred to me recently Hoe and Shovel hasn't been talking too much about anything except the back gardens and the side veggie garden. There are many more plantings to be seen so today I'll start with the north-side beds. The house faces West. There are two large curvy planting beds to the left of the driveway entry visible before walking around to the actual side garden(enclosed by a fence) where the veggie garden was planted in spring. Two beds formed by the growth of the oak trees creating "natural islands". The two islands are divided by a narrow oak leaf laden pathway.

Over the last few years I've concentrated on developing this shady area with colored foliage, varied textures and some shrubs mixed in with the native palmettos. Everything underplanted beneath the tall live oaks. It has evolved much to my gladness into a rather tropical looking part of the garden that is a pleasure to see as I drive into the garage, not to mention it is the main view on my route to the back gardens.
Looking across from the front walkway (above) over to the north-side gardens you can see the expanse of the Pagoda flower in the upper middle of the photo. There are several smaller Pagoda plants coming up behind and beside it all the way to the neighbor's property line about fifteen feet beyond the tall one you see.
The leaves on the Pagoda flower; Clerodendrum paniculatum are every bit as glorious as the shrub itself. They are very large and heart shaped; the most mature leaves span a good twelve to fourteen inches across at its widest point.
Large, leafy, lush foliage along with the wide expanse of space the perennial requires speaks of so many things tropical. The entire shrub stands 7 feet tall and almost as wide.

My neighbor gave me a small cutting of the Pagoda when neither of us knew its habits or its name. It's a good thing I stuck it in the ground by chance where there was plenty of room to grow. At first I confused this plant with Glory Bower ---another of the Clerodendrums. Glory Bower is known for its invasive habits of sending up suckers and being a nuisance wherever it starts. Pagoda isn't considered invasive but I can tell you it drops seeds and starts on its own with absolutely no encouragement from this gardener.
The flowers are tiny little funnels of bright orange-red clustered and graduating in tiers downward for the height of about one foot and when fully formed resemble a Japanese pagoda. The showy flowers begin in late spring and will last right through the fall and I make a habit of pruning them when they go to seed.
I don't mind the way the green poddy seeds look either so I leave them for a while just to enjoy this phase as well.
Above is a view of the two beds from the East looking West toward the street. The palmettos are naturally placed here and there throughout. I absolutely love them! What I've put in the ground around them is a variety of foundational plantings and then hundreds of caladiums for summer color.

The entire planting is bordered by variegated liriope and within its borders are penta, self-seeded impatiens sprinkled throughout, xanadu, red salvia, holly ferns, bromeliads, aloe, mexican petunia, begonia, blue ginger, azalea... and some more perennials layered deeply into the beds which are not visible in these photos.

This is a view from the street side looking directly East with the pathway visible. It is clear in the above photo how the Pagoda Flower stands sentinel where the grass meets the pathway at the curve.

Another of my favorite vignettes within this planting is another passalong tropical plant from the same neighbor (visible in the above photo). It is called a buddha plant. The large lily pad type leaves of the buddha (jatropha family)are delightfully tropical... lying lower, sitting at the feet of the pagoda flower.

Both of these plants have proven to add to my enthusiasm for this tropical, spacious area.

In a (typically) frost-free zone like mine, this native shrub of India will flower almost year-round and requires little attention. If you have plenty of space and the need for large leaves and profusely flowering perennials I encourage you to give this shrub a home in your zone 8-10 garden.


  1. I am so happy to see these beautiful photos. Our upcoming new home has so many huge oak and elm trees. The previous owner has put in huge expanses of mulched bed that only have a few mature plants here and there. I was wondering what to do under the trees, and you have given me so much to think about. Beautiful photos, Meems do you have many Black Racer snakes?

  2. Oh my gosh Meems, I have so enjoyed seeing this tropical paradise you have created.

  3. While my garden is asleep in winter, I will be watching yours grow.

  4. Ah Meems, how fabulous your tropical paradise is! Thank you for sharing it with us!

    There's a frustrated tropical gardener inside me that must be content with a small sampling of plants that come inside for the winter. I love being able to enjoy your tropical lushness through your eyes! You have such a wonderful variety of gorgeous plants.

    Everything is so beautiful. I love the Pagoda and the buddha plant. I particularly enjoyed the caladiums. We had those speckled ones at the nursery this June and they disappeared like hotcakes. I regretted not grabbing a couple while I had chance. That was the first time I'd seen that variety. So pretty! I overwintered some caladiums last year, but they came back so small, I don't think I'll bother doing that again this year.

    Do you replant all of yours every year? Hundreds! Wow. I have only a couple of handfuls. They're so pretty. Who needs flowers when you've got foliage like that! Do you let yours bloom or cut off the flowers to save strength for the foliage?

  5. It's all so lovely and lush and green, and well cared for. I'd love to lie in a hammock in your yard, with a good gardening book and a glass of iced tea :)

  6. Sue, Oh you will have so much fun with your new canvas to plant in. We do have racers. Haven't seen too many this year but they are always around... and rat snakes ... and garden snakes... comes with the territory.

    Lisa, Thank you!

    Thank you also, Nancy. It has been a long time in the making.

    Donna, My garden doesn't grow in the winter like it is right now... it seems like a jungle right now. In the winter-- although we rarely freeze the profuse growth slows down ... thank goodness.

    Linda, the speckled caladiums are "Miss Muffet". They are right up there with "White Queen" as my favorites.I've used them for several years but this year started noticing them in the gardening magazines. That's probably why they went like hotcakes from your nursery.

    Caladiums are what I depend on in the summer when it gets too hot (and then the roller coaster of rainy to dry) for so many of the annuals to survive.

    We leave them in the ground. Most come back every year but I always buy another huge supply of bulbs in the spring to fill in.

    I do walk around with the pruners trying to cut off all the blooms. I have so many of them everywhere that it is hard to keep up with but it is better for the foliage to keep the blooms from developing.

    That's sounds really nice, Amy. Only you probably would change your mind when you were swatting mosquitoes and dripping with perspiration in a quick hurry.No, there isn't much lingering these days unless it is in the pool. BUT come the late fall, I'll join you with that glass of tea ... we would really enjoy it then. grin

  7. Your garden is splendid Meems and a credit to I have said before it is like paradise and you can see the work and detail you put in every area.....
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful space.....

  8. I do agree with everyone you have a lovely garden, Meems, it is a credit to your skill. While I couldn't grow the plants you mention, most of which I know as house plants or never heard off, I can learn from your layouts/designs. I love the idea of variegated liriopes edging the beds.

    You are incredibly positive, it doesn't sound like paradise to me - snakes,"swatting mosquitoes and dripping with perspiration". No thank you!

    Thank you for sharing your fantastic garden, your plants are different and you are extremely clever to achieve so much.

    Best wishes Sylvia (grey and cloudy England)

  9. It look lovely, lush and tropical. MY front garden is still very young but I hope it looks as good as yours ina few years

  10. Wow...that is the word I use when I am delighted beyond words. Meems, your garden is cool and lush. Then you throw in a sprinkling of hot with the Pagoda flowers! What a lovely tropical experience. I love the Buddha plant's wonderful leaves!

  11. glad you decided to share more than your back yard oasis. your whole yard is so well thought out and beautiful. it was my pleasure to spend a few days getting to look at it from the perspective of the pools cool water. watching the birds and other such life in and around the garden was very relaxing. the conversation was quite good, too!

  12. What a delightful area of your garden. I love your wonderful foliage combinations together with the hot tropical flowers. I too pictured myself lounging in the middle, but after reading your response, I added a mosquito jacket to my picture.
    I also kept looking at the photos, thinking, "what could I substitute that would grow here?", but it is uniquely of your environment.

  13. Meems, when I first saw the photo of your Pagoda, I thought how similar the bloom was to my Clerodendrum, and now I know why!

    I'm drooling over that Buddha...

    And darn it, one of these years I'm going to make it to your gardens. We think we *might* go to my aunt and uncle's in Bradenton this coming winter and if we do, expect an e-mail! :-)

    I really would love to see your tropical paradise there and meet you, too.

  14. patient gardener: You have chosen your name correctly as it does take patience to wait for the garden to mature. This one is 24 years of work. I'm certain yours will bring you just as much joy as this one has brought us... now and as it matures... all the stages are fulfilling.

    Gail: It is hard to put into words how very unique the leaves of the buddha are... so large and leafy and yet the way they hover just over each other is just delightful.

    The seeds of the flower drop and new ones come up quite easily. I actually pull them out because there could be so many... and after all I have to have room for the caladiums.

    marmee: It was good for me that you were here ... it helped me relax and enjoy the pool too.I'm getting better (in my elder state)about hanging out in the garden and not having to be 'working' all the time.

    northern shade: It's only fair I let my readers know all is not bliss in the tropics. We do have lots of bugs. The early mornings are still delightful so this gardener tries to get all the gardening done in the cool of the morning. I wouldn't trade for another climate though. The year round experience is what feeds my soul.

    Kylee: Do you have the Glory Bower? It probably isn't invasive in Ohio?

    Okay, now you have my excitement up... even though the garden isn't anywhere as lovely in the winter... I would be so thrilled for you to visit! AND Bradenton is absolutely perfect in the winter!

  15. I'm really hoping we get to go this year. Romie's surgery last year prevented us from going, because he had no vacation time left to use. We'll see! If we get to go, I'll definitely be visiting you! :-)

    Glory Bower isn't invasive here because it's not hardy here. Mine is in a container that lives outside in the summer and winters over in a south window inside. It went an entire year without blooming, but this summer it's been blooming nicely. Mine is the 'Bleeding Heart' kind - white with blood red centers.

  16. Most people are challenged with just a garden "spot" to maintain, some people are challenged to just have some patio containers to keep watered (moi!), but you have the N,E,S, & W sides of your yard in continual bloom. For those of us who just enjoy the blog pics, we are entranced. For the few of us who get to physically meander thruout the areas of beauty, we are fascinated by the variety of lovely plantings. And for the real gardeners who recognize the amount of time, sweat equity and skillful planning it takes to produce the results, we are awed. You truly have a showcase yard, and it is a delight to be able to share it all with you.


Have a blessed day,

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Tropical Pathway