If I Could Turn Back Time


Now that we’ve just turned back our clocks, it seems like a perfect reason to turn back time on my garden — because if I could, the bed pictured above would have looked like this years ago.

The bed is one of two on either side of my backdoor. Time, it seems, has not been kind to the beds, which were planted in a rush to get the backyard looking like something after the pool was put in several years ago.

Following construction, the dirt in the beds became a mix of sand and nutrient-poor Florida soil.  Eager to cover any hint of construction, I took the easier path.  Rather than dig up the hardscrabble and replace it with new garden soil, I planted, choosing specimens that were easy and could handle the unfriendly mix: variegated arboricola “Trinette,” two large terra cotta pots, a dwarf variety of oyster plant, and lots of bromeliads, including a variety better suited for shady areas. The leaves of these were soft, but the flowers were spectacular — and they seemed to adapt to their location, partially shaded by several sunshine palms.

Arboricola, which was planted along the back of the bed.

In time, the palms grew taller, allowing more sun to reach the shade-loving bromeliads.  Meanwhile, palm trees on the far side of the patio came down as a result of last year’s Hurricane Irma, also bringing in more sun to the bed.  As a result, the shade-loving bromeliads looked beaten and burnt.

Then, there was the mosquito issue and a variety of low-growing bromeliad that holds water in its cup. These acted as a front-of-the-border row.  While I’ve always searched for any sign of larvae in the water — and have never seen one — Joe believed the sitting water had to be the culprit of our mosquito swarm.

This bromeliad becomes . . .

. . . this bromeliad.  Still, I’ve never seen mosquito larvae — just primordial soup.

For peace of mind and peace from scratching, these bros had to go.

The next phase of the garden re-do was to salvage what I could from the burnt, shade-loving bromeliads.  These were lifted and divided.

This, in turn, provided me with a bucketful of bromeliad cuttings to plant in shadier beds around the yard.

Next, there was the issue of soil.  Because I didn’t want to remove and replace soil, I considered using pots as a middle row for the bed, something smaller than the aboricola in the back, but taller than the ground cover in the front.

There was already a large terra cotta pot in the center of each bed.  These had been a home for a large variety of bromeliad.

I removed the bros and transplanted some desert roses that I had grown from seed into the pots.  This not only gave me flowers, but it also rescued them from the far reaches of the yard where iguanas, while not great fans of the plant, nibbled on the leaves.

On either side of the terra cotta pots, I opted for plastic terra cotta-colored troughs.  I thought plastic would be better at retaining moisture and was more cost-effective.   Besides, the ground cover would conceal most of the pot.

I planted these troughs with vinca. I had heard some gardener gossip that iguanas don’t eat them, so this was another way to get some flowers in the backyard.  So far, so good.

The final step was to fill in the blank spaces with a groundcover.  I’m trying to decrease dependency on mulch, and so I chose a dwarf variety of oyster plant because I have plenty of it and it’s incredibly easy to propagate.  I raided my other beds, snipped out some plants, a stuck them in the ground.

In the end, I didn’t exactly turn back time.  I did, though, take some time to address the issues that had built up over time — and that was time well-spent.

We Have A Winner!

I wanted to thank everyone who left a comment on the previous post to win a copy of the The Gardens of Bunny Mellon.  On Halloween, I reached into a plastic pumpkin and the winning entry is Debra, the woman behind the breathelighter blog.  Congratulations and thank you!



Iguana Apocalypse


I’m not a fan of zombies. They’re creepy, unstoppable and incoherent. Yet, millions of people flock to their movies, read their novels, and watch their television shows. While some battle zombies in video games, others are preparing for an actual zombie apocalypse.

But they’re wasting their time. The real cause of our undoing is a creature far colder than zombies.


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Say Hello To My Little Friends

Palm Tree Night

Don’t be deceived by the romance of a warm tropical night, gentle breezes, and swaying palms — there are countless eyes in the shadows watching us, studying us.  I know this because I’ve met them, face-to-face — or rather face-to-web.  Just recently, I managed to entertain a whole new set of neighbors with my spider web dance, the kind where I flail my arms all around me, overdramatically brushing webs from my face and hair.

The difference, though, between these South Florida webs and my Long Island webs was that these seemed a bit thicker and gooier — but there was no sign of the spider that spun this mess.

Generally speaking, I like spiders. They provide a valuable garden service. I  just want them to keep their webs out of my space and I’ll gladly stay out of theirs.

Then came the morning when I — in what can only be described as a Little Miss Muffet moment — had the feeling I was being watched.  It wasn’t the sort of staring that comes from the countless lizards scurrying and sunning about.  I’ve grown accustomed to  them.

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