Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Just Because It's a Native . . .

The post was already written. It was titled: "Just Because it's a Native, Doesn't Mean You Can't Kill It" Catchy, huh? It would have been about my beloved Pinxter Azalea. The Pinxter is beloved first because of the name. I seriously considered changing the name of this blog to the Pinxter blog. Don't really know why. Just really like it. Secondly, I loved the unique look of flower. It is a native in this part of Florida that I bought in Dunnellon last year. It looks so different than the run-of-the-mill variety that are so ubiquitous around here. The plant is a big, wild and unruly bush. The stamens on the flowers extend way past the petals making them look a little alien. It was so different it was almost, ironically enough, exotic looking.

The native part was a huge attractor for me. I know I'm supposed to like natives because they don't disrupt the local habitat and all that blah, blah, blah. Really, when I see the word native on a plant, the phrase Hard to Kill almost instantly replaces it. I mean if this plant can supposedly grow out on its own in the wild, with zero human intervention, that should mean it will do just peachy in my garden, with just slightly more attention, right? I thought that until about October. My poor Pinxter started to loose its leaves, way before any frost hit. By the time the frosts did hit, the bush was looking decidedly dead-stick-like. It was in good company. Many of the other plants had seen better days too. But when they started to come back to life, the Pinxter kept up the impression. So I started writing the post about paying attention to even the natives and mentally started figure out what I'd plant in that spot next.

Fortunately, I procrastinate. Er, I mean I am patient. A few days ago I stepped out in to the garden ready to take out the Dead Stick Bush, and look what I found!
A not so dead Pinxter! I will not be charged with criminal plant neglect after all! At least not yet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Newbie List

My co-worker asked me a simple question today: “I have a small bed in my front yard and I want some pretty plants. What should I plant? Those pink flowers (snapdragons) out back of the office are really pretty . . . “ I think I scared the woman with my exuberance. “Nooo!!! That is a winter annual! It will totally die in a few months, no matter what you do!” As I rattled off some names of this and that to get and this and that to avoid, her eyes got wider and wider. She was never going to remember any of it. “Never mind,” I told her, “I’ll email you a list.”

All the way home I thought about it, because this is a question a Garden Geek like me lives for. This woman is not a gardener. She isn’t going to read up on a plant or seek out info online. She just wants to have a small garden bed look good with as little money and work as possible. So here are my criteria for a Newbie Plant List for Central Florida:

1. Simple basic plants that you can find anywhere. Go into any big box store, ask any random clerk where this plant is located, and chances are they’ll be able to find it for you. They also have to be cheap, with bonus points if they reproduce easily. (Sorry Gunnera)

2. They can stand the extreme heat Florida often has. They can take a drought, a flood, and a drought again without a lot of babying. They will look good most of the summer with minimal work. Bonus points if they can take a frost too. (Impatiens - that means you’re out)

3. They have to have pretty flowers. There plenty of really attractive grasses and shrubs out there, but for the newbie, they are kind of boring. I will make the exception for plants with leaves so colorful, they might as well be flowers. (Mondo grass - you’re great but dull as dishwater.)

So here’s my Newbie list:

African Iris: This plant has grass-like leaves with white flowers. It has done very well during the freezes and can take both droughts and floods well. Blooms year round. Clumps will get larger over the years and you can divide them for more plants.

Daylilies: This plant did well with the recent frosts, and I’m very excited to stock up on them this year. They are grass-like, with flowers that range in color from white to deep purple, although yellow, red and orange are most common. Blooms from mid-April to mid-June.

Pentas: Butterfly and hummingbird magnets. Look nice all summer. Might die back during frosts, but during relatively mild winters (like ones with no snow,) they will come back for another year. They bloom all year and come in white, pink, hot pink and purple.

Coleus: This plant is grown for its very colorful leaves. They come in kinds of colors, deep purple, red, lime green and my favorite, hot pink. Very easy to grow from cuttings. They will die in the winter.

Vinca: Downside: These are true summer annuals that only good from April to about October and tend to fade if we get too much rain. They will die in the winter. Upside: They do well in a drought. They multiply like rabbits from cuttings and seeds. One sturdy plant can fill a garden bed by the end of a season.

Persian Shield: No flowers, but purple and silver leaves I really love. Propagates well from cuttings. It will die to the ground, but in snow-less winters it will come back. Jury is still out if mine made it through the winter, but if it didn’t, I will be buying more.

Salvia: This plant comes a wide variety of colors and types. They come in colors ranging from purple to blue to red and pink. Mine come back year after year from seeds.

Avoid winter annuals: Snapdragons, Petunias and Pansies. Plant them in October.

There is my highly subjective, totally incomplete Newbie list. What should I add?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lesson Learned

If they gave out gold medals for procrastination, I'd be Micheal Phelps. I'm a total pro. Sometimes the things that are most important to me get procrastinated the most. I'm terribly good at doing things when I feel like it, and not when they really need to get done. Case in point: I was looking at posts from this time last year and came across this pic from the front garden.

And the same garden bed this year: Pretty much the same plants each year, but last year I did what I was supposed to do and planted the snapdragons and petunias back in October. This year the summer annuals were still going strong in October and it was hard to think about taking them out. Money and time were tight too. So I put it off, and now instead of a nice lush garden, I have a wimpy, limp garden. Oh well. Chalk it up to a lesson learned. Plant winter annuals by October.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Don't tell the Squirrels

Finally. A gorgeous weekend where I didn't have a ton to do. That meant I've had plenty of time to go out and get dirty in the garden. It was a very clear weather in the 70's that makes you wish it was like this all of the time. Okay, I'd be even okay with 48 weeks a year - giving 2 to hot weather and two weeks to cold. That would be just about perfect.

It was a huge relief to see that some of my favorite plants are starting to come back. With a week of hard freezes in January, I wasn't sure if even my most dependable tropicals were going to pull through. The Philodendron is unfurling some new branches.
The canna is going full force.
And, I'm so happy about this:
My gingers are back!!! (Just don't tell the squirrels.)

Related Posts with Thumbnails