Gardendipity's Florida Friendly Garden in West Central Florida
Welcome to my West Central Florida Garden!
These are my adventures as I try to create a Florida Friendly garden. It's a lot of trial and error, but I'm having fun with the process. Our garden is designed to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and of course our regular Florida birds and wildlife. Thanks for dropping by, I hope you get some ideas for your own garden here!
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Christmas freeze, that is!
We used everything we could find in the garage to cover as many plants as we could...upside-down Rubbermaid tubs and flower pots, black plastic garbage bags (everyone says don't use them, but I've not had any problems so far), sheets, bungee-cords for securing sheets around our large potted plants (we even threw in a lit-up Christmas deer or two under these sheets to provide a little extra warmth), and you-name-it, you are likely to find it either covering a plant, or being used to anchor the covers in these high winds.
While we were running all around the yard covering all these plants I couldn't help thinking that if the plants could talk, they would say, "We who are about to die salute you -- for all the love and care you've given us this past year."
Merry Freeze Eve, and good luck to all your gardens!
Unfortunately I'm a better gardener than I am a blogger. I haven't posted in nine months!
I wanted to show you the progress that has been made, before the freezes come and destroy all my hard work.
We had a very harsh summer, extremely hot and little rain, so my garden didn't progress as much as I'd hoped. But it is looking a little better. I've added some more plants and we are installing drip-irrigation. If you look down this page to the first photos of our front yard, you will see how much better it looks, although there is a long way to go.
We planted rye grass to help green up the lawn. My husband even trenched down the center of the grass pathway and installed a drip irrigation line to water the grass. We are still looking for an affordable lawn replacement that can take regular foot-traffic as this grass path is now used all the time to travel between the front door and the sidewalk. I have been focusing a lot on getting some border plants established. I'm using three kinds of border plants and I like the result a lot: purple queen, oyster plants, and spider plants. I found that the use of different border plants keeps my eye moving around and throughout the yard. It has added a lot of color and interest. The oyster plants were borrowed from a large bed in the backyard. All the Purple Queen (what a great name!) had to be purchased. Both of these border plants should eventually spread to make a soft, unbroken border all throughout the garden paths.
These little spider plants are our choice for this third border. The reasons we used these spider plants are two-fold: first, we already had them and we have to keep an eye on the garden budget; and second, our front yard faces north and it gets shade all throughout the day in winter, and these spider plants have a lot of white in them and that brightens the bed a bit. The purple queen and oyster plants just didn't show up very well when we tried them here. One ongoing problem for us is that our front yard gets both shade and sun, and the shade pattern shifts throughout the year. In summer the bed at the front of our house gets full sun, in winter it's in the shade. Lucky me.
Santa is waving to you! I liked the Purple Queen so much, I circled the bird bath with it, and also used it in the big pots by the front door.
Here's the view from the front door. The hedge behind the birdbath is our blue plumbago. We have a glass front door, and you can see this view from inside the house. We really enjoy it, even though it still needs a lot of work.
Here's a close-up of the two pots. This is red salvia annuals, ringed with the Purple Queen. I used Farmer Rick's pot-in-pot method to plant the salvias. After filling the pots with soil, I buried an empty plastic pot in the middle, then planted the purple queen all around the center (empty) pot. Next, I potted the salvia in a plastic pot, then inserted the salvia pot into the empty pot. This method is brilliant because it allows me to change out the red salvia's for something else (I'm thinking maybe poinsettia) without disturbing the Purple Queen. Thank you Farmer Rick!
In upcoming posts, I'll focus on some individual plants that are in these beds, and also I'll show updated photos of our backyard (we just installed a fountain in the backyard YAY!). Another project for the backyard is to put up a hammock, I can hardly wait.
We've had hummingbirds in our yard off and on all year, and the very best time to attract a hummer to your yard is to put up a feeder right after a freeze. Freezes destroy the food sources in a hummingbird's territory, and it is forced to go looking elsewhere for food. There may be a hummingbird sizing up YOUR garden right this very minute....is your feeder up yet? Make your own sugarwater by simply dissolving 1/4 cup of sugar in one cup of water. Let is cool, then fill your feeder.
By the way, I had my first sighting of the Painted Bunting yesterday...a male and female on our bird feeder. There is a photo of a Painted Bunting posted in the blog entries below (I didn't have my camera with me yesterday).
This is our front yard, where my husband and I are taking advantage of the new Florida Friendly landscaping law. We are in the process of removing all the grass from our entire yard. Our goal is to be water-wise, and to extend our hummingbird and butterfly gardens. In this photo, you can see our new plant bed. I removed all of this grass and planted mostly new (and tiny!) young plants. I designed the new bed so that there would be a path that starts at the sidewalk in the center of the yard, passes by the front door walkway, and then flows out into the next door conservation area where there is a retention pond. For now this path is still (what's left of) grass, but we are going to replace this grass with some kind of water-wise, low-care ground cover that can take low foot traffic. We are considering the perennial peanut plant, but we are still researching. (The tiny path inside the bed is a maintenance access path that my husband wanted, when these plants grow up and fill in, it should not show at all - I hope.)
Here is another view from the front door walkway. It shows the circular pathway a little better, and also the little maintenance path that is located in the middle of the new bed. We are redoing the entire front yard. The area where the bird bath is located (to the right, outside of this photo) is essentially completed. The brand new bed where I removed the grass is mostly done, except for filling in with more plants over time. We will be adding blue porterweed (or some kind of tall salvia) and pentas to these two gardens very soon. We also want to complete outlining the new pathway with the varigated spider plants, but we need to buy a lot of them so we are waiting for a good sale. There is a hummingbird that lives in the oak tree that is right in front of the pond in the center of the photo. Here are the plants that we planted in this garden, once established these should be pretty drought tolerant and low maintenance, and they all do well in full sun: we planted three red firecracker plants (hummers love them and so do I), three yellow bush daisies, and three Lion's Tail (leonotis leonutus - another hummer plant) and one milkweed plant (for butterflies and hummers) and four lantana (butterfly plant). Two of the lantana were transplanted from another part of the yard where they weren't doing very well, and they seem to like their new spot a lot, they are filling in with new tiny leaves. We also planted some little red salvia annuals as "transitional plants" to help make the bed look a little fuller as it matures and to add some color.
This photo is taken from the pond side of the house. It shows our blue plumbago hedge that runs between the sidewalk and the road. It is serves as a natural fence. When the new plants in the new beds mature they will be about 3 feet tall or so, and that should help make the front yard feel more cozy. This street gets a lot of fast car traffic, and this blue plumbago hedge adds a little more safety to our yard for the small children (grandchildren and nieces) in our family.
Here's the whole yard from another angle, standing in the driveway. This bed with the birdbath in it was started last year, and it was half of this size. This year I expanded it and relocated the birdbath to a new spot where it is centered with the front door of the house. The two large brown plants in the front are lantana that are coming back from the freeze. Little green leaves are coming out all along these stems, so I didn't want to cut it back (at least not yet). Here's what we planted in this bed: we started with two lantana and a small grouping of oyster plants (the oyster plants used to surround the bird bath, but I've relocated the birdbath to another spot), also we had several rosey-pink pentas that did very well all last year until the freezes. The pentas appear to be coming back but this is a wait-and-see approach. The new plants we put in this bed are: one red firecracker, one yellow bush daisy , one milkweed and seven kalenchoe plants which circle the bird bath.
The garden that is up against the front of the house is a work-in-progress. That area gets all shade in winter and full sun in summer - we have had many failures with this bed but we are still trying. We just relocated three small Golden Dewdrop bushes into this bed which we will try to prune into trees once they are established. Also, I planted a couple of yellow bush daisies and a red firecracker plant. It will also get some porterweed or salvia and some pentas.
This is the little garden that is tucked into the nook between the garage wall and the front door. It is probably my all-time favorite little garden spot. We have a fountain here with our Louis Philippe antique rose surrouding it on three sides. There is also a yellow bush daisy here. This is where I planted the bush morning glory which is new from a cutting and still getting its act together. The little hummingbird feeder is hanging from a hibiscus tree. We have four matching hibiscus trees total, one on each side of the front door entrance and one on each side of the garage door. We love the sound of the fountain, the sound of water falling adds so much to the ambiance of a garden.
Well, that is a pretty thorough tour of the front yard gardens, such as they are. All are works in progress which I have come to realize is the truth about even the most established gardens. There is still a lot to be done here, but to a gardener, is there anything worse than a finished garden? I think not, we thrive on the creativity of putting it all together: imagining how it will look when it's done, and relishing the knowledge that it will never be done, picking out just the right plants, nurturing them along the way, relocating some, cutting back others, and on and on it goes. Creating a garden is like painting a self-portrait that you know you will never finish, because the image is ever-changing.
It rained all day so I couldn't go outside to play in the garden. But the garden still found a way to give us a couple of thrills anyway. This male Ruby Throated hummingbird visited our garden today. Since the freezes we've had at least three female and immature hummers in our garden, but this was the first male we've seen.
Here he is trying out another restaurant. Isn't he cute! I took all these photos through the window.
The little feeder (top two photos) is only about 6" long and holds one cup of sugar water. We have several of those and we love them. The large feeder above was a gift from some very special friends.
Sugar water formula: one part sugar dissolved into four parts water. It's best not to add food coloring. The ant guards are a must, they made all the difference.
Though it's hard to see him well, this is a male Painted Bunting. They are small birds, and really beautiful. The head is dark blue, the lower body is bright red and the back is an olive green. He's quite the looker!
This little cafe feeder is my favorite among our many feeders.
It's officially Spring, and I thought it would never get here. I'm relieved to put our Florida freezes behind us and look forward to spending some quality time in our garden. I just ran outside to get this picture of the sun setting on the first day of spring. The photo shows the new garden bed I just created last week. These tiny new plants should grow fast and fill in the space nicely. Altogether I planted (or transplanted) over 120 plants in the last two weeks. Most of those were annuals that I found at the garden center reduced to .50 for a 6-pack. I bought as many as I thought I could save.
Can Easter be far behind...?
Just in time for spring, this little bunny hopped into our garden to remind me that Easter is right around the corner, and that tomorrow I need to climb into the attic to get down our giant plastic Easter eggs to decorate the garden. They are a bit on the tacky side I guess, but the children in the neighborhood love them and so do my little nieces and grandson. I just planted these red kalanchoe plants around the bird bath last week, they are one of my favorite plants.
A little help from a friend...
Nope, this isn't a rose tree, it's a hibiscus tree that lost all its leaves in the winter freezes. Our glorious Louis Philippe antique rose bush is blooming with abundance and generously reached out to its naked neighbor with a gesture of kindness. The hibiscus tree is coming back, with little green leaves sprouting all over its branches. There's just nothing like a little help from a friend to get you through the hard times.
Look who flew in to help me inaugurate my new blog!
Each year around this time, migrating birds begin dropping in to feast on the talapia in the pond beside our home. I happened to look out my window just in time to see these pink Roseatte Spoonbills on the far bank. By the time I grabbed my camera and made it outside to take a picture, this flock of American White Pelicans had just swooped in to join the party. The pelicans have been visiting the pond every day for about a week.
The bird that is poking his head up from the water (with just his head and neck showing) is an anhinga, which is a year-round neighbor of ours. They dive in and swim around underwater to catch the fish. This one was just coming up for air.
Our resident great blue heron, guarding his territory, flew across the pond and landed right beside the Roseatte Spoonbills, startling them and causing them to raise their beautiful wings in protest.
Welcome to my blog!
My husband and I built our home in West Central Florida in 1999. It was my very first house and my very first yard, and thus began my adventures in gardening.
We found the perfect place for gardening, with deep conservation behind the house and a pond next door. We wanted to plant lots of colorful flowers for year-round blooms. In particular we wanted hummingbird and butterfly plants, and sought to create an environment that would be attractive to all forms of wildlife. We started with long hedges of blue plumbago and lots of bright yellow lantanas and red salvia annuals. We hung bird feeders and added bird baths. That’s how we got started.
Through the years we’ve added additional garden beds. Today our garden is home to many kinds of butterflies and birds. Hummingbirds, raccoons, neighborhood cats, possums, snakes and turtles all visit us often.
My husband and I are Benedictine Oblates at St. Leo Abbey in Florida. We enjoy living a simple, quiet life. I am a Florida native, and my mother’s side of the family has been Florida natives for many generations.