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!



A Tale Of Two Women (And A Book Giveaway Treat)

This story of two women begins in 1961. That was the year Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the daughter of the founder of Warner-Lambert and the Gillette Safety Razor Company and wife of banking heir Paul Mellon, hosted an August picnic for some close friends at her home on Cape Cod. Two of the guests were President and Mrs. Kennedy.

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Bloomin’ Update 60: An Autumnal Interlude

If the transition from winter to spring in South Florida is subtle, the one between summer and fall is practically invisible. While autumn is already a few weeks old — according to the calendar and posts from northern gardeners — the weather forecasters in Zone 10 say that anything resembling fall (temperatures below 70) will not arrive until sometime in November — and that will most likely happen while I’m fast asleep.

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Living And Working In Eden

For decades, Joe and I — first, as tourists; now, as residents — have looked around South Florida and said, “Florida, my Eden.” We’ve said it as we’ve marveled at the lush tree canopy of botanical gardens, as we’ve gazed at tables of flowers and fields of shrubs and trees in local nurseries, as we’ve walked about and worked in our own garden, and as I took photos for this post.

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Two Guys And A Farm

When Santiago Arroyo (left) met Jason Long (right), it was the start of a bountiful friendship. When the two men worked side-by-side in a Florida-farmer apprenticeship program, they not only cultivated a friendship but they shared a common vision of how farming could change the way people live, eat, and think about food.

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Repost: When In Rome, Clip As The Romans Do

The other day, Joe and I were in the front yard. He had clippers and I had a rake and a bucket — we had assumed our gardening roles. Although the plants and place were different, the scene was remarkably similar to one that inspired one of my favorite posts from a few years ago. In honor of gardening, roles, Labor Day, and weekend chores, I thought I’d share that post again and throw in some pictures from the present as proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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In Memoriam: Aretha Franklin

I can’t sing. That’s a big reason why I celebrate the talent of someone who can, someone who effortlessly can open his or her mouth and have the most beautiful sound emerge. When it’s really amazing, I get chills. I even cry.

Aretha Franklin had that kind of voice, and how fortunate the world was to have heard her gift — and it only seems appropriate to take a break from gardening and honor this remarkable woman.

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