Welcome to my zone 9 garden. My roots are deeply planted in the sandy soil of sub-tropical central Florida, where the summers are long and hot, but the rest of the year is paradise!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Borrowed View

As I keep moving right along on landscaping my backyard, it takes a while before it all starts to come together and look nice. It's a plus when you can start with a "borrowed" view. And, fortunately for me, one of my neighbors has a nice fence-line of greenery. Having their jasmine vine drape over my side of the fence is a BIG bonus! It softens the hard edges and floats in the wind. I'm weaving the long strands throughout my side to partially cover the fence. Behind it is a crape myrtle whose flowers I'll be able to enjoy all summer long. The Sabal (cabbage) palm is another wonderful layer of green that provides some height, and one that the birds love.

Running down the fence line are 3 large viburnum. The birds use these small trees as cover when they dart in and out of them to the feeders and birdbaths. Higher up there's a nice canopy of oak trees.  All these combine to make me feel nice and cozy in my backyard.

From that angle and the side yard there's a view of a breathtaking native Chickasaw Plum tree in full bloom. I can't get enough of this tree. Fortunately, I can see it from my kitchen and I can't stop admiring it. 

I've never seen a Chickasaw plum this beautiful. It is loaded with small white flowers and is a buzz with pollinators. 

They are truly in "bee heaven" as they drift from flower to flower. Hopefully, some of them will lay eggs in my bee house located in a couple of photos above. With any luck the small plums on this tree will keep our neighborhood birds happy. 

From a distance you cannot tell that the flowers have any pink on them at all. But a close up view reveals that the center stamens are a very pretty soft pink. 

It is simply stunning, and I am thoroughly enjoying this "borrowed view"of spring from my backyard. 


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Daily Visitors

It was November 23rd when I noticed the first bird in my backyard. It was a Mockingbird enjoying a dip in the fountain that was filled with rainwater in my barren backyard. I was so excited that I immediately hung up several bird feeders and got busy adding plants to the backyard.

A short 2 1/2 months later and guess what? We've had a total of 15 different varieties of birds show up in our garden. How exciting!

Here's Mr. Cardinal taking cover beneath my neighbor's vine which hovers over my fence. I had the birdfeeder in the middle of the yard for 2 weeks without attracting any birds. Once I moved it next to this fence and vine, he showed up within an hour.

Here's the birds we've seen:

1 - Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal
2 - Gray catbird
3 - Brown thrasher
4 - White heron
5 - Red Shouldered hawk
6 - Ruby-throated hummingbird
7 - Northern Mockingbird
8 - White ibis
9 - Blue jay
10- Mr. and Mrs. Mourning dove
11- Carolina chickadees
12- Titmice
13- Carolina wren
14- Red-bellied woodpecker
15- Pileated woodpecker

It's amazing how quickly they show up when there there's food and some cover. We've placed some nesting material around the backyard and hung out a few nesting boxes in the hope of having some baby birds in the spring!!!! 

Putting Down Roots

Four months after moving into our new home, we are truly putting down roots. We are loving our little community, and with each and every passing month we are feeling at home. I've been on a planting marathon the last 2 months and our empty canvas is filling in very quickly.


 The 125 plants that I brought with me have almost all been planted and countless numbers of other plants have been purchased and added to our ever evolving little piece of paradise as evidenced by this growing stack of plastic pots. I've got to get them cleaned up and deliver them to the master gardeners.


Thanks to a mild winter that has brought steady rations of rain, my plants are noticeably putting down roots, too. No, I can't see their roots, but the plants are filling in and new growth is visible everywhere.


Just a couple more weeks . . . and I'll feel safe enough to plant some of my favorite tropical beauties. I can hardly wait until the end of summer to see how much the garden has grown and changed. Talk about impatience . . .I know . . . it's all about the journey . . .  yada, yada, yada! But, I still can't wait to see the plan begin to come together. So, while I wait, I take pleasure in the small signs of bigger things to come like the small baby leaves on the Red Buckeye tree that was started from a seed from my sister's tree. This tree is very slow to grow from a seed, and I'm excited to see that it likes its new location.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

At a Snail's Pace

I'm TRYING to take a lesson from the snails and move at a slower pace in my backyard. This goes against my nature because I like to get things done quickly. But with the current water restrictions, and what I believe could be a total ban on landscape watering in the not to distant future, I'm trying to create soil with good water holding abilities. This takes some time . . . so I must keep reminding myself not to rush! Slow down and be patient! It's all about the journey and not the destination!!!!

In some areas of my yard there is wonderful rich soil where years of leaf matter have decomposed into a pretty nice loam . . .  at least by Florida standards. In other areas . . . Compacted soil, red clay or builder's sand . . . Not so great. 


These are the areas that I have to work on the most. I've been reading about a permaculture practice where they place sticks and twigs on the soil, add compost on top, then wait for it all to breakdown before planting in the newly enriched raised bed. This is called the hugelkultur method - which is a German term which roughly means "mound culture."  You then have to be REAL patient while you wait for the twigs to break down. I'm not that patient, so I dig wide and deep planting holes, line them with the broken twigs, compost and leaf matter before planting the plants. I figure that the compost enriches the soil now, and in time, the twigs and leaf matter will further enrich the soil as they break down.Click here to read more about the hugelkultur method.

Photo Source: Pinterest (www.permaculture.org.au)

I like the permaculurist's idea of retaining as much dead plant material on your property by either composting it, or breaking up the small branches and twigs and placing them top of the mulched beds. It seems to make a lot of sense to retain as much organic material as possible instead of dragging it to the curb.

I once read a book called Zero Waste House which was very interesting and eye-opening ... I highly recommend it if you're into this sort of thing, and even if you're not! I know I could never have a completely "zero waste home," - - - I won't give up my toilet tissue - - - but I wonder if it's possible to come close to a zero waste yard. Sounds like it might be a fun experiment!

Afterall, gardening really is just one experiment after another. Sometimes we're successful, and sometimes we're not.  The best part is we keep learning, and when we're successful we get beautiful flowers and delicious vegetables. Who knew science could be so much fun!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Search of Red

Because it's the holiday season, I planted a few containers with some red annuals for a bit of color in my hum-drum backyard. Lucky for me, hummers are attracted to red and it didn't take long for one to show up!   A week after seeing the Mockingbird in my fountain, I was standing at the back door looking out over the backyard, as I so often do, and thinking about which plants to plant where when unexpectedly, the hummer appeared just a few feet in front of me. I let out a gasp and watched as he darted from one red flower to another.

At first he visited this container of red million bells . . . 

before darting on to these red striped petunias. He then headed for a pot of red poinsettias before changing his mind, and ...

deciding to check out the spike of African blue basil flowers.

When he left the patio he darted all over the backyard in search of more red. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything else of interest, so he headed over to the neighbor's house for a visit. A few days later I moved the red pentas that were planted on the side of the house to the backyard in hopes of enticing this little fella to come more often. Now, I'm going to head to the nursery and pick up a firespike plant or two.

So happy to see the little critters showing up one by one!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Taking a Dip

One of my goals for 'ma petit' garden space is to fill it full of plants that provide a variety of nectar,  berries and seeds for butterflies and birds. I'm blessed with quite a few American beautyberry plants that were already on the property, and many of my favorites - salvias, daylilies, agapanthus, bronze fennel, parsley, roses, pentas, sparkleberries, Simpson stoppers, wax myrtles and several others are still in pots waiting to be planted.

I have lots of these little rascals racing across the top of the fence line, but I really miss the birds and butterflies.


I guess for now I must be content to see and hear the birds in my neighbors' yards which are full of trees. So you can imagine my delight when I looked up from the kitchen sink and saw a Mockingbird taking a dip in my fountain that was full of rain water. There sat the fountain, surrounded only by bare ground and weeds - no seed or berry laden plants. Repeatedly, he jumped in and out of the water, and fluttered all about.


This one simple element in the garden was enough to attract this feathered-friend, who for a few moments enjoyed a blissful dip in the fountain in my garden. It was enough to bring a smile to my face, knowing that soon I'll be watching more birds drop by for a sip and a dip, and a snack on a few berries or seeds. Needless to say, I rooted through my stash of garden items in search of a couple of feeders. So, now I have hung a bird feeder and a hummingbird nectar feeder in my backyard in hopes of attracting more birds into my cozy backyard.

It gives a gardener hope that a barren piece of land can be slowly transformed into a wildlife habitat one element at a time. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Planting Away

Now that the inside of the house is squared away, I've been spending my days outdoors planting away to my heart's delight. And, what a delight it is! With days in the 70's, beautiful blue skies and lots of sunshine ~ ~ it's the perfect time to be outside in the garden.

The plants that spent the summer in pots were really starting to get to me. They were screaming for me to get them in the ground. So, I got busy and moved them to the areas in the backyard where they will probably be planted, and I repotted some plants which I decided to over-winter so they wouldn't freeze. I really missed not being able to plant my vegetable garden, so I did the next best thing and got a few vegetables going in pots. Better late than never!

The pathway through the backyard (which will be finished in bricks) has been established and I started planting around the large oak. A few garden items have found their spots like the bench (mid-way in the photo), the fountain and compost bin (back of the photo). Slowly, but surely, the garden is beginning to fall into place.

The walkway to the back  patio been completed because I got tired of dragging dirt into the house.

More plants are waiting their turn to be planted.

Earlier this summer I purchased 4 Sioux crape myrtle trees, and while they haven't been planted yet, I am in love with the red color their leaves have turned following our recent low temperatures. I'm thoroughly looking forward to seeing them in the back garden next autumn when they are a little bigger.

This American Beautyberry, along with several others were already on the property when I purchased it. I made sure to mark each one, so that the builders would not destroy them. It is loaded with berries and is a real beauty!!!! Yes, that pun was intended!

So, while progress is slow . . . I am enjoying spending my days in the garden finding just the right spot for all my favorite plants. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Getting Settled

A lot has happened in the last 3 weeks. We're settling into our new home. There's still a lot of boxes to unpack, but that all takes some time. At the end of our first week, I worked quickly at getting the front yard landscaped so the house looked a little more completed.

Luckily, the section between the road and sidewalk, also known as the "hell strip" is only about 18 inches wide. This is a positive in my book because why waste ground on a tough-to-garden area with numerous limitations. Opting to keep things simple . . . and because family and friends rave about it . . . I went with the Asiatic jasmine groundcover. Hopefully, it will fill in quickly in this small area.

As far as grass goes, this and a very small section on the right side of the driveway is it. A small, almost circular, patch of zoysia grass. Zoysia because the city gave me two choices: zoysia or bahia - no St. Augustine allowed anymore. I opted for zoysia because I've grown bahia before, and I didn't think it would perform well in this much shade. So, there will be a learning curve with this new turf, but at least there's a minimum amount of it.

In the last week and a half, I've been feverishly moving plants from my mother and sister's homes. This is a narrow strip on the side of the house, so I'll be doing a walkway and some vertical gardening here. I'm hoping to hang my orchids from the trellis once some vines are established. 

 There's more plants just hanging out in the backyard waiting to be planted, and 

also on the other side of the house. I've definitely got my work cut out for me from now until May when the weather starts to warm up. My plants are not very happy with me after hanging out in pots over a long, hot summer. I'm going to need to work quickly to get them in the ground where they'll be happy once again. 

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