Check Out These Pages, Too!

"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, November 3, 2009

How to Create a Tropicalesque Pathway

The inspiration first came a couple of months ago when 2 red (false) banana plants, Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii' were purchased. On a whim I should add. They were 'end of summer' leftovers at my favorite local nursery and cost a mere $5 each. My resolve to stick with only Florida-friendly and native plants melted away under the pressure of hot, steamy weather conditions.

It's kind of hard for me to believe there weren't already some of these magenta veined beauties around here. But since there wasn't, some contemplation ensued deciding where they would be planted.

Considering the partial sun exposure they prefer one of them was placed in a curvy nook at the feet of some Schefflera arboricola 'Variegata' shrubs. So close in fact that the red banana appears to be growing out of the clump of them from certain angles. This gives the appearance that it is well established and has been there longer than it really has.
To finish off that vignette some lotus begonias were split up and layered in front of the banana and then the variegated liriope was dug up and a new boundary was established curving around all of it after the bird bath was moved there also.

The second red banana was placed just down the way and at the edge of the farthest back planting bed. Both can be seen from almost every angle in the back garden. One draws the eye to the other.
The swirl of continuous new leaves shooting up from the center of them convinces me they are happy where sited.

When the ginormous gift of Giant Spider Lily Crinum augustum 'Queen Emma' was offered my design inspiration shifted into high gear for an entirely new transformation of another grassy area begging to be renovated.

Between the new red banana and the newly planted crinum was a wide grassy pathway that swerved in and out along the edges of some large planting beds.
A (before) photo from May 2009 gives you a good idea of how the grassy swath made its way to the back of the property where the compost piles are hidden to the right or to the left a flagstone path that winds through more planting beds.
Let's Back Up and Have a Look at the How-to's

~The first thing to do to create the pathway is to determine the shape and lines of the new path.
~In this case the left edge was my starting point. Measure out from the edge of the existing planting bed to mark off the width desired. For my path the considerations included leaving safe passage for the width of my wheelbarrow which makes many trips to that back corner on any gardening day. And then the passage width of the riding mower which is driven to the back to dump grass clippings onto the compost pile.
~ Using PVC pipe I hammered in some stakes along the edge in a design shape that made a nicely curved pathway. I never like to copy the exact line of the curve from the opposite side. Creating curves a little shorter or longer on the new side keeps the pathway from being too predictable.
~I started this project digging the grass up. At some point it dawned on me to try the lasagna method of smothering the existing grass with newspapers. This made the project go much faster.

You can see here the crinum has not been transplanted from my neighbor's yet. But, all the while my pathway is being formed, I'm scheming about the best place for it.

~As I don't ever use cypress mulch, it was decided to use pine needles layered over the newspaper. Pine needles (purchased by the bundle) have a nice warm, peaceful appearance to me reminding me of nature's woodsy pathways seen so often in parks and conservation areas.
Changing the grassy path into a more narrow and cozy path meant that plants were dug up from other places and added along the length of it to close in the borders of the pathway. The next previously-grassy inlet beyond the curve from the red banana was filled out with plants like the one above. My neighbor passed this wonderful, deeply colored foliage plant along to me last year. I have no idea the name of it but it likes lots of shade. It blooms a spiking red bloom in the winter. How fun is that! Edit: Name of plant is Stromanthe

The back side of the leaves are very deep magenta. With several of them already planted behind the variegated liriope border bringing one out in front of the border gives a sense of continuity and yet doesn't exactly mimic any other niche on the pathway.

Looking toward the center of the above photo is a view of how buddha-belly plant, Jatropha podagrica and Hardy star begonia, heracleifolia and holly ferns were brought out even further still working to slenderize the new pathway.

What says tropical more than bromeliads! Walking around my garden I picked out the lighter colored foliage to transplant in scalloped curves inward continuing to taper the width of the new trail. The chartreuse hues of this foliage picks up the sunlight that sneaks in between the oak tree branches towering high above.
Even though most of the plants were dug up and divided from existing places at Hoe and Shovel there was a need for a few purchases. The Black Taro Alocasia plumbea I adore and use in another place in the front garden was found at a nursery in north Florida and packed in the car with traveling luggage one weekend.

Lots of Flax Lily Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata' divided, that will fill out over time, fashions the new inside boundary and wraps around the crinum lily. You may remember it was sited about 4 feet out in front of an existing retaining wall that serves as the edge for trailing purple queen and chartreuse potato vine.

Here's another view to compare with almost the same angle below for a pretty good idea of the "before" and "after" changes.

There are more ideas swirling around in my head for removal of the remaining grass visible in this photo. We'll see. Maybe in the spring.

Let's see... there were also transplants of Spathiphyllum floribundum , walking irises and Candy Lily, Pardancanda norrisii.
The concrete sitting bench at the left center marks the end of the trail. It was brought forward about 3 feet along with the two container plants sitting not exactly symmetrical on either side. They are each home to lemon-lime dracaena, holly ferns, caladiums, and coleus.

A view from the side angle reveals how this path now melds right into the flagstone path that makes its way winding through the center planting bed.


  1. The unidentified beauty is Calathea(ka-LAY-thee-uh)rufibarba sometimes called the Furry Feather Calathea. I have found it to be much hardier to cold than other Calatheas. As a houseplant it gets spider mites but in the landscape the predator mites keep it clean. It doesn't stand more than an hour of full sun so be careful where you plant it. This is one of the more valuable calatheas because it grows up tall enough to compete with other front of the border tropicals and it thrives in our Florida zone 9-11 climate. Meems, thanks for pointing it out to us.

  2. I'm just sitting here with my jaw hanging open!

  3. whew, I am just worn to a frazzle just reading about all this work. It is well worth it though. A beautiful work of art. All of these tropicals are just marvelous. I love seeing the bromeliads growing in the ground. This is something I only see in big glass houses at botanical gardens around here. I guess that is why I crave growing them. Ha.. Don't we always want what we don't have.?.

  4. Meems, I missidentified your plant. It is Stromanthe sanguinea. After a second look I am sure this is what you have here and also what I have in my yard which made me take a second look. The heigth and high branching is the give away on this ID. It should get red flowers and possibly get to 4 feet tall.

  5. Rick,
    Thank you. Thank you. My neighbor's yard doesn't have a single blade of grass. She is VERY generous with her pass alongs. I have SO many plants given to me by her. She has gardened all her 81 years but doesn't know the names of anything. :-) I wrote this post last night with blurry eyes.Between your first and second comment I edited the post to add the fact that the Stromanthe sanguinea blooms a red bloom. I've always thought they had some of the same features of the Stromanthe. The ones you see here are almost 4' tall. You're a dear!

    You ARE sitting. New profile pic! My favorite tropical nursery is up in your neck of the woods!Imagine that.

    You are a southern (plant) girl at heart and you need some of these bromeliads to cheer your love for tropicals. Here they multiply and make wonderful ground covers. They are so easy-peasy... I couldn't be without them. Many of the ones featured here were given to me originally by my neighbors.

  6. Hi,
    Wonderful tutorial! I only wish I had a sprawling garden so I could try it out. Looks like it will be beautiful!

  7. Hi Meems! Wow, I wish I was abel to grow those plants in my garden!!! Bananas I'll try next season now I've found a nursery that sells the rigth, hardy kind I need, Hurray! Your garden is so nice and you have so many interesting plants there, Isure like it a lot / gittan

  8. Oh My Gosh Meems!
    I just found your blog this morning. I feel as though I have stumbled upon heaven. Sweetie you have the most beautiful garden I have ever seen. I could sit back in your garden for hours and never grow tired. Thank you for sharing this peace of heaven this morning.

    I have signed up to follow your blog. I can't wait to come back and see what you share next. Please pop over and say hi. I would be so honored to have you follow my blog as well.

    Country hugs sweetie, Sherry

  9. Beautiful design and plants! Not to mention the very nice photos. I love the curves of the path, and how it draws you to the next areas. I could really use a trip down to somewhere as warm and lovely as your yard. You have a great eye for creating beauty!


  10. Hi Meems, I'd give my eye teeth (well, maybe not) to see your gorgeous tropical yard in person!!!!! Everytime I look at your pictures, I'm just in AWE.

    THanks for sharing.

  11. Hi, Me again!!! I noticed that you missed seeing my three blogs showing some of the best Autumn photos we have ever taken. Check them out when you have time. Go to my sidebar and click on the label which says "Cherohala Skyway".. There are three posts and 21 pictures. Check 'em out.

  12. Your pathways are gorgeous -- simply gorgeous! What a wonderful place to spend a leisurely stroll. GREAT work!

  13. Great job on the pathway, Meems. Pretty soon you won't be needing that riding mower. I suggest to everyone that they click on your images as the small size just doesn't do justice to the vignettes you post. Magnificent gardens, Meems.

  14. i always love seeing your post about a completed project - actually a work in process, as you never really finish ;-) since i have the privilege of on site observing as you go through the beginning to end design, it still fascinates me to see it from your photo-lens' eye. i am sure your readers are no more awed than i am with your sense of colors, shapes and placement of plants and materials to create a beautiful retreat in your own back yard. i love this new, serene corner.

  15. Beautiful transformation! You can start charging admission for garden tours in your botanical gardens!


  16. Meems, Simply splendid! I love the red bananas and the photos of the swirling leaves is wonderful! I've been bragging to a garden friend (non-blogger, poor dear) about my friend meems, who designed, planted, tends and improves her Florida garden using all the best design principles with Florida friendly tropicals and Florida natives....she and I both used to live in Florida and marvel how little we know about gardening there! You are the genius! gail

  17. Meems,
    My first visit to the Hoe and Shovel in a while. The new look is beautiful and I have NEVER seen more beautiful pictures in my entire life honey!! You are simply the best, most talented and amazing gardner, photographer and artist I personally know!!

  18. Beautiful pictures and atmosphere. I thought my gosh, she and I grow some of the same things, then I saw that you are also in FL. I love what you have created with your space and will be back to visit more often for inspiration.


  19. Meems, I'm exhausted just reading about your new path! Absoulutely gorgeous . . . the your pics of the banana leaves unfurling, awesome.

  20. hey gorgeous. you are the hardest working gardener i know. this new pathway is so amazing...i love the pine needles look too because of the pathways in parks and hiking trails that it reminds me of. you are going to have to start giving tours of your tropical lush garden and of course charge so you can buy more plants.
    happy gardening in november

  21. Don't you just love those end-of-season bargains Meems! And passalong plants are just the best for the memories they add to the garden.

    Just when I think your garden couldn't possibly get any more gorgeous. . . it does!

    I laughed when you mentioned doing away with the rest of the grass in that area, because earlier in this post I was thinking "It won't be long before there's no grass left there."

    Truly gorgeous Meems - great post.

  22. I just love walking through your lush garden, all those lovely green leaves. Gorgeous photos too.
    Have a great weekend/ Tyra

  23. Who can resist purchasing plants on a whim, especially when they're such a bargain. I've been wanting one of those banana's myself. Great job with your tropicalesque bed, and I'm glad to see the lotus begonia is performing well for you.

  24. Beautiful garden and fantastic photography. I appreciate your do it yourself attitude as I am much the same way myself. From looking at your blog I can see you are a profectionist and your hard work in your yard and your blog site show it. Outstanding!

  25. Hi Meems~~ Have you thought about submitting this to Fine Gardening or Horticulture magazine? This is the stuff they like to see... fabulous photos of transformations with detailed plant IDs and how-to. Seriously. The submission process can be found at their websites. 'Maurelii' doesn't winter over here. $5.00 is a very good price. I wouldn't have been able to resist either. They are just going to look better and better in your borders. Way to go!

  26. Thank you... each and every one for spending a few minutes with me in my garden. It is such an honor that you take the time to leave me your kind comments.

    Transforming this part of the garden seemed rather easy as the "bones" were already in place. I 'came upon' a few more plants this weekend to add to the pathway so it is kind of an on-going project. I have visions of continuing the pine path around the backside of the plumbago and lantana bed, too. If only I could garden full time...

  27. Just wanted to say THANK YOU for sharing your gardening adventures. I've been enjoying your blogs/pictures for a couple of months now and needed to tell you how inspiring you are. It's simply gorgeous what you have done!

    Although our yard is a city lot which is small, long, and narrow, I have already made several changes inspired by the beauty you have shared.

    Thank you so much and Happy Gardening!



Have a blessed day,

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway