Humble Beginnings ...
I haven't written in a long while. I don't feel the need as much. I'm busy living and enjoying my life which is such a great thing! But with the start of this week celebrating new beginnings and the earth, I thought I would share my new garden with you. Please bear in mind that it is in its infancy — just three years — and I no longer have the gumption I did when I began the Violet Fern garden. I am much more patient and operate at a much slower pace than I used to, and so does this garden. Also, I am at a learning curve with a whole new world of new plants in a new planting zone 9.
So far, I have developed three to four garden "beds" or areas and I have been concentrating on those before going further. Two are off the back deck and two are off the front porch which we have screened in — so balanced.
This is the largest bed as seen from the back deck and it has a mix of shrubs, grasses and perennials that have a bit of growing up to do.
The beds are defined by wine bottles — my favorite way to repurpose. It is because in case we need to hire a mowing service while we summer up North, my plants will be protected by their "island mote." The Key Lime (just to the right of the ceramic tray aka bird bath with the glass bee saver/ball in it), took a hit last year with much colder temperatures then we are used to but has made a great comeback this year so I hope to see some growth coming on by next season. The Plumbago (lower right corner) started out small and has grown incredibly slow but increased in size this year and had a few beautiful blue blooms so I think it is still establishing. The old adage "first year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap" is pretty true to form in this garden. I'm hoping for a great leap year next season! In this bed there is also Pink and White Muhly Grass both of which look pretty dead right now but always seem to have wonderful fronds come fall. I'm not sure if they're getting enough sun and may be moved in the future. Beauty Bush is pretty unremarkable until Fall when it dons its wonderfully bright purple berries. Its spring flowers are barely noticeable. Shrimp Plant has established itself and is full of blooms (the patch of red towards the top of the photo). I am happy with its contrast next to native Spiderwort which grows freely and is a beautiful drift of purple blooms except our most recent storm tossed it around a bit. A young Bottle Brush Tree is tucked next to those and no blooms this year but new growth so it, too, is still establishing. The Japanese Plum or Loquat (upper left) that I planted from seed "took" this year and is really shrubbing out. I'm hoping for the billowy flowers next year that attract all the local Monarchs! This year I've added a few more flowering perennials and self-sowing annuals to this bed such as Sages, Brown-eyed Susans, Standing Cypress, and Columbine. Still growing thankfully from last year, a couple of Lantanas still trying to establish and a type of Cigar Plant. A few herbs are also tucked in here like Cilantro and Rosemary. I really want to provide for the pollinators here. Butterflies are year round!
Although I haven't worked at Thousand Island Park for some time, before leaving I did rescue a Mandevilla vine from the cold North Country climate where I planted her as an annual display. She is living happily in this garden all the way from Hafner's in Syracuse, growing up the fence in this back bed along with a very small sprig of honeysuckle that was rooted from a cutting. It amazes me that some of the plants that are native in North Country are also native here in Florida like the Honeysuckle, Columbine, Brown or Black-eyed Susan and Spiderwort. Just goes to show you how incredible plants are!
There are some differences to gardening here ... You HAVE TO water, at least until plants are established. I have a soaker hose watering system in place (purchased from Gardeners Supply), in this back bed on a timer connected to my faucet. You HAVE TO fertilize. I always do my best to choose organic granular fertilizers that I sprinkle around the plants every so often. I'm hoping to improve my sandy soil over time and that the need to fertilize will lessen. I bucket compost here, meaning that I fill a bucket with compostable scraps and then dig a hole in the garden somewhere, empty the bucket into it, then bury it. Whatever I'm doing is working as I actually dug up a couple earth worms the other day which don't come immediately to mind in Florida. I was quite surprised! What I do tend to dig up are little cockroaches and sometimes they climb up my legs much to my horror but I'm adapting (says the girl who had to work up the nerve to crush Japanese beetles in her bare fingers!). I only screamed out loud once when I unearthed a rather large wolf spider the size of a tarantula.
I mulch with pine straw in the back bed. It's native and long-lasting and the birds and other garden friends seem to love it. It comes bound in twine much like a hay bale.
The garden creatures are a bit different. Spiders are moving in like Spiny Orb Weaver and the Orchard Spiders are quite abundant. Box turtles also frequently visit the garden. Last year a Black Racer snake was sneaking around but I haven't seen him or her this year. I have a lot of these little lizard guys running around. Most are invasive but a few are native. I've learned the native lizards will climb higher than the invasive ones so if you have high shrubs or trees you provide better habitat for them. I've also learned they love to eat those horrifying cockroaches! Hi my lizard friends.
The back bed ends with a newly planted small Cedar Tree. We have a large one out front and we have named our little cabana in Paradise here Cedar Kottage (purposely spelled incorrectly to have the same initials as our town which I don't mention in the hopes of keeping it a secret).
You may remember my road side rescues from last year? This Sago Palm is one of them and has obviously, lived. I spontaneously created a tiny island around it near the back bed. (The other one didn't make it but gave me a little baby!) Newly planted in the island with the Sago (to the left) is a Cassia Tree/Shrub. It is native and a butterfly host plant. Another difference gardening here — plants bloom in winter (like the Cassia)! Around this island will eventually be some sort of hardscape. I am slowly creating a ground level patio beneath the deck (which you can see in the next photo where the back bed extends around our deck). I have visions of a small bistro table for morning coffee. So all that scraggly weed stuff that isn't really lawn will eventually be stone or cement.
The island with the road rescue Sago Palm and Cassia
The back bed begins at the right of the stairs from the deck and extends along the deck and into the back. Here you can see the beginning of what will be a future patio to the left.
The patio will extend all the way to the back bed and stone pebbles will surround the island.
I am really into the tropical foliage. My favorites so far are the Sago and the White Bird of Paradise (above and below). I also dig those Loquat leaves.
Native Carolina Jassamine grows on the deck rail and blooms in February! I have a nice collection of pots going. The banana and succulents live year round. I like to sit here with my morning coffee.
The back deck
Leaving the deck stairs a path (that still needs some work) runs to the stone path that flanks the fruit trees. I finally finished the stone path this year. I wanted a path that took me from the front to the back without walking through the weeds because we have a lot of nasty sandspurs. The end of the stone path marks where I will be creating a bog garden from an old tire that was on the property when we purchased it. I painted it coral for some punch and to dress it up a bit. I will plant pitcher plants, sundews and flytraps in the bog. I'm pretty excited about it. The fruit trees are holding their own despite my neglect. I need to weed their boxed frames — again — but am thinking a new strategy of planting ground covers within their frames.
Once the paths, frames around the trees and back patio are in place, cleaned up and running efficiently, I will begin solarizing the areas between the fruit trees for new plantings. I don't want any "lawn" which really is currently all weeds. A lawn would require irrigation and mowing. I would rather have hardscape, mulch, ground cover, and plantings.
The front bed off the screen porch and beneath the large Cedar Tree is where I began and it is showing some promise. I just planted some native Indian Pink in here, a plant I've longed to grow for quite some time! So far, so good. A lot of the plants here are former house plants and rescues off the side of the road here in town. My Spider Plant is doing very well (all the way from Maine) and has become a mini drift. My Amaryllis is currently blooming. I recently added some Wire Vine which I always grew in a pot in the Violet Fern garden. The Begonias next to the bird bath I planted last year and they're still going! I put my Paperwhite Bulbs out here as well. The Passion Vine by the turquoise trellis is not thriving. I'm not sure it is getting enough sun. It has some new growth this year so maybe it is still establishing. If it doesn't improve by October I will move it. I am hoping it will host our state butterfly the Zebra Longwing. I am enjoying collecting pots of all sorts because I can leave them out year round!
To the right of the screened porch is the newest bed. It was going to be the lizard garden but has evolved into a hummingbird garden. Newly planted Pentas (will grow as perennials here) and Tropical Milkweed already attract the hummingbirds. Spring planted bulbs Crocosmia, Foxtail and Pineapple Lily are just coming up — all plants I've longed to grow. Also coming up is the Ornamental Ginger I grew at the lake last summer! It went dormant but I just discovered some new shoots. I have a small Windmill Palm establishing as well as some dwarf Yaupon Holly shrubs. Also added, perennial Wild Petunia — I read the box turtles like it! Non native Firecracker Plant grows here, too, because it grows well here in town and the red flowers attract the hummingbirds. It's fern-like foliage attracts me. I have some small ornamental Purslane plants I hope to establish as ground cover. I made the stepping stone in a workshop here at the local art center. I have a new watering system to install here for the summer.
I'm also developing a traveling garden of my plant pets that hang out on the porch and travel with me summers. One of them is my prized Nepenthes Pitcher Plant which has grown considerably. The Staghorn Fern still travels but will one day reside in the large Cedar Tree. I have collected a few new orchids, too. Newest plant pets include a Bead Plant and Hoya. I used to think that maybe I would get another dog but my heart still breaks for Mojo. I wouldn't know what to feed a new dog or how to treat for fleas without fear of cancer. So I've decided my pets will be plants from now on and I'm collecting plants I've long admired. So far they are immune from cancer.
Nepenthes Pitcher Plant
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
All quoted verse is from the Bible I am currently studying: The New Living Translation Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition