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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, October 18, 2010

Passion, Patience, and Practicality

Passion and patience at the outset can seem to be unlikely partners.

Passion being the intense driving force behind our obsession deep interest for plants and flowers and beauty and all things earthy.
Circle Garden
Patience gives us the ability to be steadfast and forbearing even in the face of difficulties or adversity.

Arriving at a happy balance enlisting these two characteristics has to be what gardeners everywhere uniquely possess.

Practicality is putting both passion and patience into action and working diligently to achieve the results we long for. Whether in a small garden or a larger garden it makes no difference.

No garden is created in an instant. Not a real, living garden designed and planted from the sweat of our brow with nurturing hands by a novice home-gardener.

Building a garden step by step requires large doses of unwavering passion and devotion and along the way will reflect much time, attention, dedication, and inspiration given to it.

Somewhere in a gardener's enthusiasm for achieving success in the projects we undertake is also a willingness to admit we fail at times. Patience is enlisted to learn, to grow personally, to share, to encourage, and to try again with hope we will master some of our mistakes along the way.

Looking back, at this juncture of my life, it is kind of difficult to pinpoint just when my 'love of gardening' became a deeply rooted passion that coupled with the practice of patience and practicality now brings me a great deal of personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

What I can determine without question is that I am most assuredly passionate about gardening. I have indeed had to learn patience and it hasn't been an easy lesson. Practicality comes naturally for me as I never mind being one to get things done no matter how much work is involved.

Creating Hoe and Shovel gardens has been a most rewarding endeavor. That said, it hasn't been without its failures. It has been a get-your-hands-dirty, one project at a time, build-it-from-the-ground-up-effort.

In this post wouldn't it be kind of fun to have a look back at some points of that progression? If one single person is encouraged to KEEP growing or to START growing their own space it would be worth every minute of putting this post together. My intent is to encourage you at whatever level you find your gardening skills.
Many of the choices I made early-on were without knowledge of Florida-Friendly principles or the environmentally sustainable practices I adhere to now.

Before Photos

An example being that common sense prevailed when deciding to add fallen oak leaves and (cold) composted grass clippings to all the planting beds in lieu of purchased mulches that tended to be expensive. Little did I realize how much good nutrition those broken down leaves and unscientific composting were adding to my plantings. It made practical sense then as it does even now.

Inspired by my daughter's discovery of the above photo (actually I've put two together for a more panoramic view) from her own box of memories ~~ this idea to travel back to the beginnings of this garden was conceived. She recently handed the pictures to me expressing how remarkable it is that the back gardens have turned into a little haven of plant-life compared to the expanse of grassy lawn she and her 2 brothers grew up with.

Endless games of every sport were played across three adjoining yards and the boys even turned the woods behind us into dirt bike trails. The four oak trees and one drake elm (since removed) you see above were planted in 1991 at a cost of $10.00 each. The width of the each trunk only an inch or so in diameter.

All I really knew back then was that I wanted to create some shade in a barren back yard.

My daughter took the photos a few years later because a pricey housing development was being built behind us. Even though at that point all my children were out of the 'playing in the woods' stage it was a sentimental thing for her realizing a 12 foot wall was about to separate what had been a very large playground for them growing up. I'm grateful she thought to snap the BEFORE pictures.
Digging through the archives of digital photos it wasn't until around 2003 that I started chronicling progress just for the purpose of cataloging (even so, apparently I wasn't very good at it as there were not many available).

Other than the classic circular ring of seasonal annuals popped in around the bottom of each tree it was 12 years (2003) after the trees were planted that the first official beginnings of an understory was carved out ~ which can be seen above. It joined the four oaks together with one continuous planting bed surrounding them. It was every bit trial and error based on instinct. (The 12' wall is very prominent at this point.)
The front gardens had a head start with mature stands of oak trees present when we moved in. It was fun to find this photo of Persian shield (and of course caladiums)from 2003 where I now have variegated shell ginger planted as the middle layer instead.

Okay let's go back around to the back and concentrate on the progression of those small live oaks and how this gardener grew with them.

Lots of lawn remained in August 2005. But with shade growing denser from maturing trees (far back) the temptation to remove even more grass is deepening.

Observing the changes these wonderful shade trees have brought to my garden over time ~~
I have a saying, "time is passing anyway ~~ you might as well be growing a tree while it does." Now that I think about it, it may be stolen from someone... I can't remember~~ but I like it and I say it all the time.
The view from my kitchen window was improving all the time at this point. This ~~ seeing pretty things from the kitchen window ~~ is my inspiration for many projects. Typically if I'm not in the garden I'm in the kitchen. I like my views to be peaceful and relaxing.

The drake elm in the SE corner was removed in April 2006 to make way for what was intended to be a sunnier side of the garden. The wall was built to add architectural interest and height. ***An interesting observation is that presently not only is the wall hardly visible due to obstruction by plants but those boulder stones can hardly be seen anymore as well. Note to self: I should do something about seeing those boulder stones again. I do love them. (I wrote about this project's step by step progress a long time ago here.)

Meanwhile, by October 2006, the original (back) planting beds created in 1998, connected by an arbor laden with confederate jasmine, continue on their journey to maturity. The Natchez crape myrtle and standard ligustrum tree growing larger and providing more shade than I ever predicted in their infancy. Soon it will be discovered these two trees will be encroaching on my supposed sunnier SE corner. Write it off to trial and error.

A few months of summer growth and the SE corner is begging to be tweaked. The ensuing enlargements are detailed here.

The area around the four live oaks is expanded even further out into the lawn (but not for the last time) and the fruits of those earlier (2003) plantings are beginning to show signs of continuity. Blending the contiguous SE corner wall planting with an ever-enlarging center garden is proving to be a pleasing element as well by 2008.

A view (in 2008 ~above) from the back side of the SE corner property line looking horizontally across the garden through the four oaks offers an even different perspective of the changes.

So much lawn has been removed and numerous pathways and plants have been added in the last two years, one at a time, that the view from 2008 is hardly recognizable.
Many visions and designs have been realized over the years. All can be attributed, in part, to a passion for beauty and patience to wait for small plants to mature and the practicality of each specimen lovingly planted one at a time.

Additions of more Florida natives and learning how to group plants with like-needs and chasing appropriate pockets of sunlight for the more sun-needy plants has all been part of the learning adventure. And isn't it true there is always more to learn!

Seeing lush foliage packed in around those four oaks today it's kind of hard to remember where we started. But important to remember nevertheless!

A gardener's garden is never built quickly.

When I look today at how the tropical pathway has grown in just one year I'm reminded of all those wonderful micro-nutrients and the water holding power the organic layering has provided over the years. Which translates to no step is too small. No energy is wasted. Every little bit helps. And it all pays off in the end.

The latest project created and designed, along with the circle garden, in the spring of 2010, was the northside berm (above). The idea was to stretch out a wide, raised border along the north property line almost the entire length of the back garden to provide some separation and privacy between neighbors.

It has far exceeded my expectations in achieving a natural, visual barrier while attracting and feeding even more wildlife as the majority of plants are Florida natives and the remainder are Florida-Friendly.
Hopefully this wordy post offers motivation to gardeners who struggle with trying to complete a garden in fast motion. What if we put our passions to work FOR us! Adding some patience to our drive and lots of practicality ~~ admitting time is really our friend in a garden.

A garden is never finished. What fun would it be if we ever put our hoes and shovels to rest?

Mine will likely never retire.

Happy gardening and thanks for hanging in!



  1. I really enjoyed going through time and reading about your inspiration and how the family grew as you nurtured them. Then you nurtured your garden as your focus shifted from seeing to their every need. Thanks for sharing this story of progression and passion. We all need a passion in life, in your case, many passions.

  2. Meems ~ What a wonderfully inspiring post. I can hardly wait to get outside to do some more work. The progression of your gardens is really something to see. Your three P's have paid off and you've created a lovely haven to be enjoyed by all who enter.


  3. Meems-just when I thought I was done with projects for awhile.You have inspired me to gey back out there.YardBoy is not going to be happy.LOL!I wish,30 years ago,I had thought of chronicling the progress of our gardens.I must go look thru our old photos.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a great post! Passion, patience and practicality are certainly evidenced in your gardens. I AM inspired to keep at it in my garden. You have a gift for being able to have a vision (passion) and then plan the implementation necessary (practicality) to achieve it. Then patience has allowed you to watch as it all unfolds allowing you to see needed adjustments. I'm putting on my gardening gloves now and heading out the door!

  5. I too cannot recall when that mild interest in the "yard" transformed into an obsessive passion for gardening. I love seeing old gardens like yours that have passed gracefully through so many stages of development, a feat certainly only obtained through patience and persistence. How lucky you are to have so much land and so many years in your garden! Lucky too that your daughter took those "before" photos. Sad though that you lost that woodland to development, but it sounds like it is at least a nice neighborhood. May your passion live on and on!

  6. Hi Meems. That was inspirational. A check on passion for me, maybe even practicality but a question mark on patience. I hope I can one day do a post as yours and show all the pictures I have gathered since moving to our new home.

  7. This is a great post. It gives me hope for my garden. I have the passion, and some practicality. Patience is the hard one.

    Gardening is always a learning experience. And, you help us all sharing what you've learned.

    Thanks for the inspiration, and the lessons.

  8. Your Garden is beautiful. I loved the post. I am trying to be patient (it's hard). I look forward to visiting your blog and learn from your wisdom.
    Your Painting Buddy

  9. Hi Meems...Mine will never rest either. You're right...what fun would that be?

    Great post! It was fun to see how your garden has evolved over the years, and I'm sure it was fun for you to relive your garden's progression, as well.

    Hopefully, your encouraging words will keep some frustrated gardeners from giving up.

  10. Well said, Meems. Every time you look into the garden, you see your hard work, passion and patience looking back at you. What a feeling of fulfillment.
    I will remember to take befores after we get to our new homestead.
    Thanks, as always, for sharing.

  11. Meems, your garden shows so much progress, love, passion and patience! What a lovely progression and fantastic planning! I enjoyed watching your garden develop from year to year. I hope mine will one day live up to the splendor of yours!

  12. Meems,
    I just love, love, love your garden, and it was great to follow the progress - I spent a full hour going back on all your past links :)
    You did say that you let oak leaves lie on the ground and that is one thing I have worried about - most of my small garden is under a lychee tree and there are continuous leaves falling onto the ground. Occasionally I get the mulcher in there and get up most of the leaves to add to the compost or leaf mould piles. Then about once a year I add compost onto the top. I add compost more often to the vegetable garden. I woud be interested to see a more detailed post on how you actually go about your composting process and specifically your fallen leaves.

  13. I really enjoyed coming on the garden journey with you...beautiful!

  14. Meems - just incredible! Your gardening journey has been amazing and your skills are boundless. (...AND, you write like a poet!...)

  15. Meems, a great post that I thoroughly enjoyed. I've looked at your garden progression for some time now & I can see that change which is ever more beautiful.
    I just wish that I could still garden like old but some things do change. It just takes me a lot longer to do it. I still enjoy getting my hands 'dirty'.

  16. I love this post, it gives me hope and reminds me to be patient. My house came 5 bushes and lots and lots of grass. I am slowly and it at times it seems very slowly trying to turn my yard into a garden.

  17. What a beautiful tribute to virtues, often underrated, in our "instant" society. I continue to be grateful for the time you take to share your joy. Not only have you nutured a garden, but you have nurtured my soul along the way.

  18. Rick,
    Without photos to help us chronicle the progress it's easy to forget how life has changed. The first time I held that old photo of the 5 trees in my hand a flood of memories came pouring into my head of my children using that backyard to its fullest. Now the grandkids play there but learning so much more about God's creation and how to take care of it. Life is good!

    It has been a wonderful journey... certainly not over. I've grown personally along with my garden. Learning better all the time that those 3 P's work in every area of life. :-)

    Please don't tell yardboy I had anything to do with you putting him to work.

    At least we are taking better care to chronicle our gardens now... thanks to blogging.

  19. Kay,
    I put my gardening gloves on yesterday and played in the garden all day... wasn't it beautiful! One of the hazards of 'vision' i.e., passion is how the adrenalin kicks in and I can't stop until I get it done. Crazy how that works... I guess that's why it's also called DRIVE.

    Oh, that woodland was such a treasure when the children were growing up. Wow~ was it hard to get used to seeing lights and hearing sounds behind us once it was occupied by homes. We still have lots of privacy though because that wall is like Jericho. :-)

    Patience is acquired and learned through our 'own' maturing process probably more than anything- don't you think. I'm not considered the most patient person in the world by those that know me... I'm still learning, too. Wherever you are in your garden you could- more than likely -tell stories of patience... someday you will notice and tell the stories too even in your new garden.

    Sometimes the emotion of passion makes us 'feel' as if we aren't patient. I believe every gardener possesses it ~~else we would 'hire' someone to get the job done. We've all got more of it than we think... evidenced by our willingness to get out there and live our dreams. I'm not finished yet either ... just trying to enjoy the journey every step of the way. That's really important to me in this season in life. :-)

  20. My dear painting buddy,
    We will learn patience together! All of us could use another dose... thank YOU for your sweet words (always). YOU encourage and inspire me.

    I hear frustration in the voices of lots of gardeners. It is a step by step process and in this world of instant gratification sometimes gardening will denies us. Every principle and lesson of 'true' gardening defies our culture. Time is our friend in the garden.

    I can't wait to see the progress you enjoy. You have patience all wrapped I think ~~ I look forward to learning some lessons from YOU.

    YOur garden has its very OWN splendor we are all getting to watch the progression as it unfolds. Blogging just brings that out doesn't it! And we get to help prod each other along ... all the while fueling our passions.

    So nice of you to say such kind things and to spend so much time hanging out here. I am not familiar with the lychee tree or if you are saying you shouldn't let the leaves stay on the ground. Did you check my label on compost... I can't recall how much detail I've gotten into this subject but I will try to answer your questions at some point. Maybe you could e-mail me and we could "chat" about it there. Happy to help if I can. hoe and shovel garden at

    I'm happy you came... I have a feeling you know exactly what I was trying to express in this post.

    And your words insprie me onward... thank you for the sweet encouragement.

  21. Lola,
    Our personal seasons change as well as the garden's. Adjustments are made and we do what we can. You will always enjoy getting your hands dirty on some level and I believe you will figure out a way. :-)

    Oh, you are so young and full of ideas and purpose! And so fortunate to already realize your passion for gardening. Just try to remember to breathe it all in as you go. It's easy to forget the lessons along the way if the results are all we notice. :-)

    It is true (in our culture) we 'expect' everything to happen quickly. And we might have forgotten what it's like to fail and then pick ourselves back up and try again. No one wants me to get started on that trail... :-)

    Thank YOU for your kind encouragements along this journey of blogging my joys and excitements in the garden. Getting to know people like you along this path has made my life even better! *hugs*

  22. Meems I can't believe how your garden has evolved. It is a work of art! You are really talented. Your garden is an inspiration to us all, and the results of what dedication and hard work can bring. Another Award year for the best Florida garden blog!

  23. Meems: I really enjoyed reading this post and the progress of your garden over the decades. That three "P"s are so true for a gardener to create a wonderful garden. Yours is just inspirational!

    I especially loved how those oak trees grew to provide the shade, and the peaceful and relaxing environment to the rest of the garden plants. Although my garden is too small to fit the large trees, I always had s soft spots for the large garden with large trees, maybe this somehow triggers something sweet deep in the memory lane.

    And I really LOVE LOVE that stone wall, which was what I wished for my garden bed wall. But at that time I wanted that wall built quick and not have enough time to shop around, so I just used whatever we can get from HD. And of course the cost was another considering factor. Real Stones are very expensive.

    Thanks for another wonderful post!

  24. Dear Helen,
    It will be fun for you to see some of the changes when you visit again. And this time before the freezes! Thanks for being a fan ... and a friend. *hugs*

    YOU have done a remarkable job in a very short period of time in your VERY pretty garden. It isn't the SIZE of the garden ~ it's making the most with whatever we have. AND doing it on the level each gardener is comfortable and able to do it. Love what you do and make your own world beautiful.

    Those stones are not real (I wish, too) they are the stacking stones from HD. Previously they had been around another bed in a single layer. The wall made much better use of them in a more profound way. See what I mean ~~ it's all about progression and learning as we go. Thank you for being such a great example of how hard work really does pay off. (hugs)

  25. Hi Meems, It's fun to go back and see how much our land has changed as we've tilled and toiled. Yours is an amazing story.

    I got your plant in the mail today!! Hopefully it will arrive in good order.

  26. Dear Grace,
    Strolling through the archives has brought back lots of good memories. It's always a good reminder to continue to be patient. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for a "fun" box all the way from the WEST. **Hugs**

  27. I came over here yesterday after you visited my blog and I was absolutely enthralled by this post. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty you have created in your yard that I couldn't think of a thing to say.

    The way your place has grown and developed over the years is quite wonderful. You should be very proud of your accomplishments.

    This post gave me hope for my front yard project, although I am starting to rethink the "all in" method that we are proposing to use to change it. Rather than see it grow slowly and methodically to something spectacular, we are planning to do ti all in one huge project that will no doubt take us an entire year to do. But we have a massive infestation of bermuda grass, and the only way to successfully change the aspect of the yard is to get rid of all of it before we start. Otherwise, it will just move into the new plantings before they get well established and make the whole thing very painful.

    This is a very inspirational post, and I share your passion, need more patience!

  28. Your garden.the information you so willingly share,the astonishingly beautiful photographs ...truly inspirational!
    Thank you.
    I live in Englewood, Fl, 1 hour S of Sarasota, 6 miles inland from the W coast. I haven't had much luck with plants- too hot, or too cold.
    I want to get a low chill peach, and am vey excited at your sucess so far.

  29. HealingMagicHands,
    It was so thoughtful of you to come back and leave your kind comment. It is a treat for me to know that the progress of my garden would perhaps help you to realize a possible plan in your own garden.

    Every gardener has their own approach and perhaps for you an "all in" makes more sense. I seem to work better as the vision gets formed in my head. For me, that has been on an "as I go along" basis. I finish one area and "see" the next project or design I want to implement. It is then rewarding to nurture what's been created. I wish you the best with whatever you decide to do with your front yard. I'm sure it will be perfect.

    I was just in your 'nect of the woods' today... down to Port Charlotte passing through Sarasota and Englewood. You have some nice choices for plants due to the warmer microclimate from the Gulf breezes. The peaches were amazing this year. I can only hope they will return next year. You never know.

    Thank you for taking a minute to let me know your thoughts... very kind words... I appreciate them very much.

  30. I love your blog, Meems! I'm planning on moving to central FL this fall and discovered your site while looking for central FL gardening ideas. It'll be a great help for the massive change and challenge I'll have in switching from lifelong Michigan gardening to the subtropical I've dreamed of since my first visit to FL in 1972.

    Quick question: How far apart did you plant your four live oaks?

    Thanks for all the effort you put into making this such a great blog!

    Jenny in Michigan

  31. Hi there Jenny... how exciting that you are realizing a dream to move here! I'd say the oaks are about 20 feet apart ... it wasn't a calculated plan for sure. It was an eye-ball placement. :-)Look forward to hearing from you later when you arrive. Meems


Have a blessed day,

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