After Joe and I purchased our house in 1992 — one month before Hurricane Andrew — we traveled to South Florida during December and February school recesses to get our yard-work fix.
The somedays were the conversations we had as we trimmed palms and imagined: “Someday, the pool will be here.” “Someday, there will be a hibiscus hedge.” “Someday, we’ll be able to get a bottle of water from our refrigerator and use our bathroom.”
Now that we’re here full time, the somedays — especially during Florida’s cool, dry, and breezy winter days that feel like the most perfect New York spring day — are today, and days like today are meant to be gardening days, a chance to take care of projects that have been staring me in the face each and every day.
Project #1: Oysters, oysters everywhere
Many of the gardeners I’ve met here despise oyster plant. It’s invasive, they say — and they’re correct. Mostly, the plant spreads by shoots, but its seeds can also do the trick — so oyster plants often pop up where no one wants them.
I, on the other hand, have learned to embrace the green and purple sword-like foliage. My neighbor (on the left) has a bed filled with oyster plants along the property line with my yard. When I first started landscaping, I decided to not fight city hall and extended that bed into my own yard (on the right). There is now a shared bed of oyster plants between us, and each time I see a new plant, I cut it or remove it and then stick it in the ground (yes, it will root just by sticking it in the ground) further along the line to help fill in the blanks. That’s in the front yard.
Another neighbor has a bed of a dwarf variety, which I really like as a groundcover. One day, this smaller version appeared in the bed with the larger version and I nursed it along, transplanting it to beds in the backyard.
The dwarf variety is a fast and dense grower, so much so that it acts as mulch and chokes out weeds. The only real maintenance is to trim it away from walkways as it encroaches.
Project #2: Too many bros
When we first moved down, I planted a small terracotta planter with a soft-edged bromeliad that produced bright red flowers. The softer-edged plants do better in shade, which is why so many casinos and malls plant them inside.
I kept my pot on the shady side of the house, where generations have bloomed. Now, the pot is a packed mess of dead mother plants, decaying plants, and pups yearning to be free.
I pulled the mass out of the pot and separated the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good were repotted in the same small planter, the bad were tossed out, and I held onto the so-so ones in case they could still produce more pups.
Project #3: Snakes in the garden
My grandmother first introduced me to sanseveria, also known as snake plant, steel plant, and mother-in-law’s tongue. She had them growing as houseplants.
When I was much younger, my parents dropped me off at her house in Queens, NY, so I could spend the night there. I was to sleep in my great-grandmother’s room, which my grandmother had turned into a kind of indoor garden after Nana’s passing. The sunny window filled the room with light, which the various pots of ivy, philodendron, and sanseveria loved.
In what Joe calls a “nerd alert” moment, I told my grandmother how excited I was to sleep there because I would have so much fresh oxygen. I wasn’t too far off, since sanseveria is now sold as a plant that is especially good for purifying indoor air.
In any event, I went to sleep in a jungle of plants and woke up in a desert. Overnight, my grandmother had tiptoed into the room and removed every plant because she thought I said the plants would rob me of oxygen.
Now, sanseveria is back in my life — and I’m the one removing it. The neighbor on the other side of my house has a bed of wild and unruly snake plants, which are very good at sending orange runners slithering under the fence separating our properties. The runners then send up green tongues on my side.
While I do like the stiff structure of the foliage, I appreciate it more when it’s confined to a pot so the runners can’t get out and take over. I traveled along the fence line with a shovel, separating the plants on my side from the parent bed on the other. Some of these I planted in a pot.
These three projects are just some of what needs to be done before it gets too hot and steamy. As I walk around, I see plants that need pruning, beds that need weeding, bromeliads that need separating, everything that needs fertilizing . . .
I guess that’s why we have somedays — as in “Someday, it will all be done” — and that’s a nice thought to have because as gardeners all over the world know, gardening is never, ever done.