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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.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Quest for Florida Native Plants

Coral Honeysuckle; Lonicera sempervirens
Last spring I was delving into the (new-to-me) world of vegetable-gardening-in-Florida and it captured all my brain energy. It was the center of all my attention~ reading, researching, planning, ordering, and simply figuring out where/how/when to plant and nurture a (very) small one in my side yard.
This spring, along with expanding that (very) small vegetable garden, and learning more about companion planting ... it is Florida native plants that has my focus and energy.

My brain is on overload making every effort to learn more about them. The goal being to incorporate them (this spring) into my tropicalesque, eclectic landscape style. I sort of, kind of started this ambition last year adding a few native plants here and there. But this year, it is serious business. :-)

Walter's Viburnum; Viburnum obovatum
Acquiring native plants seems to be a task in itself. No retail nurseries close by sell natives as a specialty. Some of them have a few but not necessarily the ones I'm looking out for. I've gone out of town and had more good fortune in finding the plants on my wish list.
Last week mom and I were on our way to a fun getaway day. On our way to a Florida State Park, while passing through Dunnellon, a little town about 2 hours north of us, Mom agreed to let me detour into a Native Plant Nursery I had located from the Internet. It occurred to me to jot down the phone number just in case we decided to take the time out of our fun day for a plant nursery tour. To tell you the truth, I didn't expect too much since the nursery didn't even have a website. Still, I thought, it was worth a look-see.

What we found at the end of a very long and bumpy dirt road and way out in the middle of 'no-where ville' was a delightful little lady living alone with her nursery and nature. Her nursery was her front yard. Her name was Jane.
Jane sees customers by appointment only. But on my spur of the moment phone call she happened to be there and graciously welcomed us to have a look around. Immediately it was clear, she contained a wealth of knowledge about native plants and didn't mind sharing what she knew. I asked my usual 1001 questions and she talked a mile a minute.

Other than the plants she was so willingly educating me about, she had an uncanny connection with the natural habitat around her.

We sat down together on a bench under a shade tree. Generously Jane gave me a folder with some general information that was going to make it easy for me to reference later what she was teaching me.
What happened while we chatted I've never witnessed before. The wild birds started flying in and perching on nearby branches. Mostly Towhees at first. Then Cardinals and Titmice, and a stray blue jay. She talked to them in between sentences while talking to me. It was really something to witness! It was as if a signal went out to the birds when she sat down.

Jane directed Mom and I to move with her onto her wide, open front porch because she was saying to the birds that "yes, she had a treat for them." On a wooden table situated only 3 or 4 feet in front of us she offered a handful of seeds and some peanut butter to her bird friends.

In the meantime she continued giving me all kinds of good information and telling me which is THE best native plant book to buy for Florida Landscapes.

I was thrilled because it was one that was already on my wish list. Her confirmation that it was worth purchasing meant I ordered it as soon as I got home. It has already been delivered and I am consuming the great information contained in its pages.

Mrs. Cardinal


Carolina Chickadee

It was so fun to walk through the nursery and pick out some plants to take home with me. My mind swirling with which ones like full sun or not, how big they would get, whether they bloom or not and when and how much water and what kind of soil... I feel like I'm starting over in the garden and learning all brand new stuff.

After we loaded up my car - and I do mean loaded - she asked us to stay for tea. Isn't that just like a gardener? There we sat, three hours after our arrival, sipping tea in china cups on her shady porch with the birds flying in for sunflowers and peanut butter.
Coreopsis; Leavenworthii Tickseed (the only one native to my county)She was more interested in talking about plants than selling them. Most of what I purchased had recently been transplanted or were seedlings. This made the price nice for me. All the plants were $2 or less. Some of them might not even do well in my location. Afterall she was 4 counties north of me.

Blue-eyed grass; Sisyrinchium angustifolium
Spiderwort; Tradescontia ohiensis

So here's the rundown of what has found a home at Hoe and Shovel:
Blue-eyed grass; Sisyrinchium angustifolium
Cherokee Bean; Erythrina Herbacea
Oakleaf Hydrangea; Hydrangea quercifolia
Spiderwort; Tradescantia ohiensis
Coreopsis; Leavenworthii Tickseed
Seaside Goldenrod; Solidago sempervirens
Gayfeather/Blazing Star; Liatris spicata
Stoke's Aster; Stokesia laevis
Garlic Chives; Allium tuberosum
Black-eyed Susan; Rudbeckia hirta

We aren't finished with our quest but it's a good start. Practicing patience, waiting to see how well they do here, will be the order of the season.
And a big thanks to Mom for indulging me on this fun day away from the ordinary. Mom didn't go away empty handed either. She took home a Carolina Jessamine and a Japanese Yew.

Southern Crabapple; Malus angustifolia
If you'd like to see more of this magnificently blooming crabapple tree click over here to my post, Florida in Flower, on my 'For the Love of Florida' blog. Mom and I ended up at Rainbow Springs State Park that day for a feast of Florida's flowering plants.
Happy Spring!


  1. How perfectly delightful - what a treat!

  2. Wow! Great Towhee pix!

  3. Meems, sometimes those impromtu stops are the best. What fun you had.

  4. Sound like you and your mum had great day Meems. Native plants are usually overlooked in many gardens because we tend to take them for granted or we associate them with weeds. With the building boom many native plant habitats have been destroyed. Good thing you found that nursery with that delightful lady. MMmmm gives me food for thought of incorporating native plants in my little nursery.

  5. Meems, I really enjoyed your post, what a lovely visit. I hope your Mum enjoyed it as well. These are lovely plants, I have the blue eye grass and gayfeather in my garden. When I started looking at native plants in the UK I was surprised at how many I already grew. A lot we think of as garden plants. I hope these all do well for you.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  6. I really need to get some native plants, I am so inot the Bananaa and Elephnat Ears though, I bet I can mix the natives in. Alos thanks for the book recommendation!



  7. Gardeners are the best! What a great find for you and your Mom. I am amazed at the range of the blue stem as it grows in New England also. It seems as though you have found a new friend and resource for your quest with native plants.

  8. Just moved a big section of blue eyed grass to a new place in the garden. It is so beautiful in large swaths....

  9. Meems,

    You found quite a gardener in Jane! No wonder she only takes appointments. She obviously treats each customer like a guest and spends plenty of time with them to educate. What a gem she is! I love how the birds know her (have you ever read about Wing Haven in Charlotte, NC?).

    I look forward to hearing more about your native adventures! I'm sure you'll weave your new plants into your stunning garden.


  10. It's a treasure to find a place like that. We had one here in Cherry Valley until the owner retired.

    I really enjoyed seeding her birds. What a wonderful place.

  11. Patricia,

    Hey P.,
    I've never seen one in my yard so I was entranced.

    Ha! Impromptu is not typically in my vocabulary. LOL ...Which is what added to the excitement of the day. Nothing went according to plan that day... but in a good way.

    There is a turning tide in awareness but I don't think the average homeowner has placed a demand on the market. Most of the native nurseries sell wholesale not retail.
    I think you're onto something. There might be folks in your area looking for natives and you could expand your business with them.

    Mom and I were enthralled with this little lady and all her goodness.

    You are right- I DO have some standards that are native.
    I've NEVER seen liatris growing in my area. We'll see how I do with it. Glad you liked the post and thanks for letting me know. :-)

    I enjoy looking at the banana's and bird of paradise's amazing foliage but they get so ratty with wind and storms. I don't have any either and probably never will. I'm not into the giant green elephant ears but I've added a couple varieties of alocasia (sp?)- midnight (the deep purple one) and illustris... I LOVE them blended in with caladiums, lantana and hibiscus. The thing about natives is many of them don't look very tropical -- so learning to blend the two is VERY interesting. Get the book... it will open a whole new world.

    You are SO right- gardeners are a special breed!
    The blue eye grass must be everywhere- which makes me a little leary of how it will like the intense humidity of summer here. My new resource is quite a "fer piece away" as they say in the south. But I do hope to get up there again to visit.

    ooooooohhhhh, now that sounds wonderful. It will take me a while to have a swath but like I said... patience.

    hmmmmm... that's how I felt standing in that nursery.

  12. What a delightful nursery owner & gardener. Looks like you got some great selections. I love Oakleaf Hydrangeas! I've been slowly adding more Natives to my garden for the past couple of years.

  13. Cameron,
    You just have to get out and get down those dirt roads... the gems are still out there making our GREAT America go round. I wish I could have spent more time there- but what I got was perfectly timed with the knowledge I had gathered so far... she gave me a little kick to take some chances with some plants. AND the price was right. No, not familiar with Wing Haven-- I'll google it-- thanks.

    Florida is full of little towns and great people. It is a blessing to run across them with the same interests.

  14. Oh my! What a great day you had not only with your mom, but that little lady as well. She does seem to be one with nature. When you come this way, there is a Native Nursery here. Don't know how impressed you will be with it, although it might be worth a look see! I have your pineapple sage all potted up!!

  15. Racquel(PGL),
    I bought two Oakleaf last year. They are growing and putting on lots of new foliage but for me the test will be if they bloom again. Then I'll know if they are sited correctly here. I'm stretching the zone a bit for them here.
    It is a slow process adding new things... I'm doing the same thing.

    I absolutely LOVE to visit the Tallahassee nursery. I've been there and to the exotic plant nursery in Crawfordville. My DIL has said the same thing about the native nursery but I will definitely check it out on this visit. I will e-mail you about the sage... thanks so much!

  16. What a fantastic day you had Meems! I felt like I was right there with you on the porch enjoying a cup of tea, watching the birds, and enjoying the conversation.

    Enjoy your new natives! I have a mix of natives and cultivated plants, and also plan to incorporate more natives into my garden this spring.

    Have a great weekend!

  17. Dear Meems, What a delightful day you had~~ A perfectly delightful day with with your mom, plants, birds, a new friend and tea! Your list of plants could be at home in my garden...isn't that fascinating? Loved all your photos and meeting your new friend! Have a deliciously wonderful weekend in your garden! ...Have you already planted the flowers/plants? Can't wait to see where and how they look! gail

  18. What an extraordinary experience! I wish I could get that honeysuckle. The bird pics are lovely.

  19. Oh Meems, Don't you just love meeting people like Jane---people who know the area, who love nature and who have stories to tell. What a neat experience you had.

    Knowing the woman was probably as good an experience as going home with LOTS of Native plants. WOW!!!!

    Great post... Love the Towhee and all of the birds. I've never seen a Towhee up close and personal.

  20. Lovely pictures for the first day of spring.

  21. I relate to Miss Jane, except I don't sell my plants.

    In my garden are many of the items on your purchase list. The GA Native Plant Society gave my part of the state over to Florida, since the native plants here near the line are more apt to be found in FL than Atlanta or Athens, naturally more like Tallahassee than Tampa or Miami.

    Keep your eyes open; that's how I found Elephantapus at wood's edge here, and Pinesaps.

  22. Hi Meems, What a great day out. the good gardening angel must have brought to to this delightful place. It is wonderful to see people who are so dedicated to nature. I chuckle, because I must be a 'Floridian' in my dreams because I grow so many of your wildflowers in my garden. You have a very extraordinary, beautiful garden. Meems, thank you for your visit.

  23. Oh, what a wonderful afternoon. The knowledge, the fellowship with Jane, and her birds.

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  24. Hi that is what I call an outing. To meet someone with so much knowledge and an affinity with nature is a dream.

    I agree with you native planting is so important. I have at last found a supplier but like you it has been a struggle.

    Good luck with your project and look forward to reading about your progress.....

  25. I have ordered the Illustris Elephnat Ear and I have a Black Magic in the ground now. I also have one coming that has pink stems. When they are really grown in like July or August I will post some pics and I will let you know.

    I will look for that book,


  26. Learning about new types of plants is one of the best things about gardening. A nursery not to far from you that has a nice selection of natives is Wilcox Nursery in Largo. Good luck in your new venture.

  27. What a great visit you had, Meems, and it's cool to see at least one plant we have in common--the charming blue-eyed grass, though it doesn't flower here til June!

  28. This is a little off topic, but what do you use to enrich your new garden beds? I'm trying to use plants native to florida or plants that at least like sandy soil, but I feel like I need to add something to my beds. I'm on a limited budget and want the best bang for my buck! Any suggestions?

  29. how wonderful to find jane and her wealth of knowledge. those are the unexpected joys that make life so interesting and exciting. so glad you were able to find her and get some great native plants. i hope they do well. it is so much fun doing things as nature intended. can't wait to hear how they all are doing and what new things you are learning.

  30. GardenGirl(Linda),
    Oh, that would have been fun... you there with us. Mixing the natives and cultivated plants is the plan here too. It's a lot to learn but then again that is the fun of gardening right?
    Have a great weekend.

  31. Dear Gail,
    It truly was one of those perfectly delightful days... not only did we have a nice long chatty ride in the car but we both really enjoyed visiting with Jane and being schooled by such an expert.

    I thought about you so many times when we were there. Jane's Garden could easily grow Rudbekia Hirta... not necessarily so here... but I'm going to give it my best shot. It has been quite a process getting the two new (or expanded)beds ready for new plants. I just started planting them out with some of my purchases this morning. I have a long way to go.

    The little one is here for the afternoon/overnight so I won't get much more accomplished today...not in the way of plants anyway. I keep reminding myself it is only March 21... I don't know why I feel I'm so behind on things.
    Have a really fabulous weekend enjoying your new backyard digs.

  32. Nicole,
    Thanks... loved those birds, too.
    I'm not wishing for the honeysuckle... I DO wish for a pergola though... THEN I'd wish for a honeysuckle to drape on it. It is an eye catcher in the right place.

    Yes, you are so right. Jane had some stories to tell... she has traveled the world... you'd never know it until she starts talking. She was delightful and we think she was thrilled to have visitors sit down and spend some time with her. It was a blessing for us as well.

    I had never seen a Towhee either. What a treat.

    And what a beautiful spring day it was! Today is even prettier! Yeah.

    You are full of knowledge as well... I'm just learning... and yes, thanks for the good advice... I'll keep my eyes open.

    Jane had a way with the critters and the woodsy life she lives out on her acreage ... away from city life. It was really fascinating and I learned so much in a short period of time. You are kind to compliment my gardens... it will be a while before they look like they did before those freak freezes we had in January. But with a little bit of warm weather--- which we have plenty of --- recovery is on its way. Thanks for stopping by... always nice to have you.

  33. Leedra,
    It was all very fascinating... and a true blessing.

    Hi Cheryl,
    We have what are called "Florida Friendly" plants, too. They aren't necessarily native but they are quite suited to our area... I have collected many of them over the years. Native plants are so important, too, and very much overlooked by developers and homeowners. As that changes suppliers will be more in demand... it is a gradual process I suppose.

    Oh, good. And I like the sound of a pink one. Enjoy the book.

    You are so right. It is one of the best things about gardening but also quite challenging at first. Information overload and then gradually a sense of sorting it all out for what works best in my garden. More trial and error... oh the fun. Thank goodness for my blogging friends who have taught me so much.

    I had seen Wilcox online ... it is in Largo I believe. It would be a fun journey over the bridge to check it out. Thanks for the reminder.

    Wow... we have a plant in common! That blue eyed grass gets around. I saw it in the big box store yesterday for the first time ever... imagine that! Mine were $2 from Jane... they were charging $4 for a 6" pot.

    No problem. Never off topic when gardening questions arise. :-) I use a couple of things. Firstly, I have composted with oak leaves for many years. The break down of organic material has greatly enriched my soil... it is probably the #1 contributing factor. Secondly, whenever I expand a bed or dig up more grass for a bed I add compost from my own compost pile to the existing dirt and mix it in. Thirdly, and you could do without this one to save $$$$. I add blood bone and bone meal. It is very expensive at the big box stores. Try to find it online or at a local nursery supply in larger quantities. Hope that helps.
    Thanks for stopping by.

    Truly unexpected. But what a joy and delight she was. All the plants I bought are very small. I am getting to practice patience in so many ways these days in the garden. LOL What's great about most of them is that IF they do well I can divide them and make more plants when they mature. It is so much more fiscally prudent these days to divide and multiply what I already have in the garden. I did it all morning long with day lilies, liriope, society garlic, rain lilies, agapanthus... one of the new beds is starting to take shape.

  34. Nowheresville - that's my neck of the woods! In my dreams, I will have a neighbor like Jane. Knowledgable and chatty. If only she had a blog . . .

  35. Meems, Is Allium tuberosum native or just considered Florida Friendly?

  36. WG,
    She doesn't even have a website. HA. But keep your hopes up- you never know when you might run across someone unexpectedly like Jane.

    Rick Brown,
    Good question.
    I can't find it in either of my Florida Native Plant books.

    I probably shouldn't have included it on the list - Jane GAVE me one of those because "she thought I should try it in my zone." It is only hardy to ZONE 8 - I am WAAAAAy past Zone 8.

  37. Garlic Chives is/are an amazing perennial for Florida. You can divide them forever and ever and they are always there for you to use in place of garden chives which are less reliable. Garlic Chives have nice white flowers which make them great in the perennial border and the white garden. I can't recall if they are in Felder's books - Passalong Plants or Tough Plants for Florida Gardens but if not they should be. I wish they were found to be native be as we need more easy plants like this in the Native catagory. I thought there were more coreopsis native to central Florida.

  38. Rick Brown,
    I read all about it on when I got home from Jane's. All your good information agrees with what I've read... what zone do you garden in? It tastes wonderful, too.

    I was thinking about giving this one pot of Allium away to my DIL and son who live in Zone 8. I'm wondering if I should keep this one and give it a try here in Zone 9b? If it works I could always divide it up and give her some later anyway. :-)

  39. Meems, I am right here in your neck of the woods and one of your biggest fans.

  40. What a wonderful, adventurous day. I've been leaning towards the native plant side myself after all those freezes took down some of my favorites. The blue eyed grass and tickseed look like fun and not something our local nurseries carry. And Jane was a treasure trove of info and hospitality. I love it.

    Thanks for the book reference and the beautiful pictures. You always take the best pictures.

  41. Rick Brown,
    Ahhh, you are also in my favorites... great site. I will go ahead and plant the Allium just to give it a go on your recommendation.

    Jane was so intriguing... she's the kind of person you want to spend a whole day with not just a few hours.

    Some natives will freeze back as well as Florida Friendly plants and cultivated plants - native isn't a guarantee for that. But there are several that won't. I actually saw the blue-eyed grass at Home Depot last week... go figure. Never have seen it here before. It was $4 a pot.

    I enjoy taking the photos of plants 'almost' as much as growing them... thanks for that nice comment.

  42. What a wonderful way for you and your mom to spend the day! Jane certainly has a special connection to the birds. What a, birds, garden talk and tea! Great prices too. It sounds like a perfect day to me :)

  43. Me again. I meant to say what wonderful pics you got, especially of the Towee. I've only ever seen one here once, and that was an exciting few moments! :)

  44. What an incredible visit Meems. I'd love to have a neighbor like her ~ you could learn so much. Also a rapport with birds like her. That's astonishing...

  45. CREW Wildflower Festival near Esero, FL

    I wish I could have told you about this sooner, but I just found it in the Thursday edition of The Fort Myers' News-Press. There is always next year, if you are still interested in native FL plants. I'm going to try to make it and see how it goes.

  46. Jane seems wonderful, and having tea in those lovely pink cups?? Sounds like it's straight from a book! Can't wait to see how your new finds turn out. If you ever need to divide those beautiful osteospermums I'll gladly take some off your hands!

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Have a blessed day,

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