My Florida garden in winter

Photographs of my garden, February 13

A tragedy, this fifteen foot bird-of-paradise is 3/5 killed back by the freeze. This one has blue and white "birds" when it blooms. I need to cut it back hard.
A tragedy, this fifteen foot bird-of-paradise is 3/5 killed back by the freeze. This one has blue and white "birds" when it blooms. I need to cut it back hard.
This once full and graceful Areca palm has been devastated by the freeze in December.
This once full and graceful Areca palm has been devastated by the freeze in December.
A bonsai trained azalea in full bloom. Azaleas love the cooler time of year.
A bonsai trained azalea in full bloom. Azaleas love the cooler time of year.
A beautiful bloom on this floribunda type rose bush, in a large terracotta pot.
A beautiful bloom on this floribunda type rose bush, in a large terracotta pot.
Rosebud.
Rosebud.
My herb garden.
My herb garden.
Roses, herbs and a hibiscus in a pot.
Roses, herbs and a hibiscus in a pot.
Culinary herbs doing well. I also have a rosemary shrub, but that is another location.
Culinary herbs doing well. I also have a rosemary shrub, but that is another location.
Tomatoes and basil in a large pot. Unless you enrich the sandy native soil, tomatoes (heavy feeders) won't thrive but a large pot works well.
Tomatoes and basil in a large pot. Unless you enrich the sandy native soil, tomatoes (heavy feeders) won't thrive but a large pot works well.
Greek oregano in my herb garden, a division from a plant in another bed that has overgrown.
Greek oregano in my herb garden, a division from a plant in another bed that has overgrown.
The aloe plant in full bloom. The flower has a rather unpleasant fragrance.
The aloe plant in full bloom. The flower has a rather unpleasant fragrance.
A type of native yucca that spreads by underground rhyzomes and is as happy in shade as it is in sun.
A type of native yucca that spreads by underground rhyzomes and is as happy in shade as it is in sun.
A crown of thorns, the only of four to survive the freeze and a yucca in the background.
A crown of thorns, the only of four to survive the freeze and a yucca in the background.
"Feed me, Seymour."
"Feed me, Seymour."
My mini desert landscape. I find succulents fascinating.
My mini desert landscape. I find succulents fascinating.
Norfolk pine once served as a Christmas tree (I always buy live trees and plant them.) A desert rose, dormant in the chill, in a pot behind.
Norfolk pine once served as a Christmas tree (I always buy live trees and plant them.) A desert rose, dormant in the chill, in a pot behind.
The filibustering toad. I'm not usually one for garden gnomes, or swans filled with marigolds, but this guy, a gift, does have character.
The filibustering toad. I'm not usually one for garden gnomes, or swans filled with marigolds, but this guy, a gift, does have character.
The shaggy Boston fern after a recent division and transplant.
The shaggy Boston fern after a recent division and transplant.
Orchids, baby ferns and violets, oh my.
Orchids, baby ferns and violets, oh my.
A pink orchid grows in a moss pot tucked in with a young fern.
A pink orchid grows in a moss pot tucked in with a young fern.
Is any flower more sensuous than the orchid? A purple bloom that will last for 6 - 8 weeks.
Is any flower more sensuous than the orchid? A purple bloom that will last for 6 - 8 weeks.
A very healthy holly bush covered in red berries.
A very healthy holly bush covered in red berries.
My "guardian" tree.
My "guardian" tree.
Ferns growing in the "guardian" tree. Best I could do for a picture. Fascinating.
Ferns growing in the "guardian" tree. Best I could do for a picture. Fascinating.
My supervisor. We call him The Big Dick (for a number of reasons,) looks impressive but is a true coward.
My supervisor. We call him The Big Dick (for a number of reasons,) looks impressive but is a true coward.
Dick (close up) "What is that thing?"
Dick (close up) "What is that thing?"
Didi, cute but dumb. "Did you say my name?"
Didi, cute but dumb. "Did you say my name?"
Kids next door. "Come on, Didi, come and play."
Kids next door. "Come on, Didi, come and play."

A garden is a private sanctuary

"God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done." ~Author Unknown


An unusual winter

The last time my Florida garden showed up here on hubpages, you saw it swaddled in every blanket I owned, and I whined. My apologies for the whimpering. Back in Canada, I’m now considered a national disgrace to our stoic nation; raising such a ruckus over what, in their estimation, was a slight chill (only a few degrees below freezing. Shame for being such a wimp.) Link to that article in the upper right.

"Unemployment is capitalism's way of getting you to plant a garden." ~Orson Scott Card


Frost damage

You’ll be glad to know I did survive (and I’d like to point out that a few degrees below zero at 96% humidity is not comfortable, ya know) and so did my garden, with some damage of course. The incredibly beautiful bird-of-paradise, at least three to four feet higher than the east side of my house took a pounding, as you can see in the picture. The poor Areca palm on the west corner looks much the worse for the freezing and it’s going to be a job and a half trimming that thing back. Particularly considering such plants are the favorite haunt of spiders, and some of the spiders here in Florida pack a pretty powerful wallop if they bite you – poisonous. That’s a job calling for canvass gloves.

"Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden.... It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks


Still, it could have been much worse. I was out there working on cleaning things up, even though we’re still much cooler than we should be – 20 degrees below seasonal norms this month – and I’m wearing my Canadian clothes. My shorts, tank tops and sundresses languish and haven’t seen the light of day on this whole visit, but I’m not whining now, honest.

"Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration." ~Lou Erickson


Anyway, I was out there and thought why not share. Here’s my Florida garden in winter:

A bonsai trained azalea

The bonsai trained azalea, one of my favorite plants, is in full bloom with its snowy white flowers that remind me of fancy-folded napkins in a posh restaurant. These plants love the cool and only flower in early spring in most of their terrain, and sometimes not at all in Florida if the spring is too warm. This year the bush is ecstatic, putting on quite a show.

"Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it." ~Author Unknown



Roses

Roses also love the cool weather. I have two rose bushes, both of the floribunda type that thrives on neglect. One of them grows in a large terra-cotta pot, because the soil in my back yard is basically just sand, and every time I plant something in the ground, I must dig the hole two or three times larger than required and add good earth, manure and compost. Sometimes, it’s easier to use a big pot, and this has the added advantage of allowing me to move them indoors if freezing threatens. Does mean extra watering though. Both of these rose bushes produce fragrant blossoms, and when working on the herbs that grow around them, the scent on the air is soul-quenching.

"How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence." ~Benjamin Disraeli

Herbs

I planted my favorite culinary herbs around the rose, again enriching the earth beforehand and they seem to be taking well, except for the basil which is rebelling against the constant chill and looking a little sad. I have more basil planted in a big pot along with some tomatoes, (why not? – they go together well when we eat them.) I have to admit, it does seem strange to set out tomatoes in February. In Alberta I’d grow them indoors until the beginning of June, and even then, I’d have to pray to God and Mother Nature not to let it freeze – or snow. These are my favorite variety, Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, sweet, juicy and great in salads. I’ve divided my old oregano plant, as it threatened to take over the bed it was in, and here is the new offspring, having doubled in size in two weeks in spite of the cool weather.

The rose bush, the stump of a tree lost in 2001 to Hurricane Charlie, and the potted hibiscus make a nice back-drop for the herb garden, along with the snapdragons I planted to have something nice to look at while I cultivate.


"The best light for the plant is the shadow of the gardener."-- Author Unknown


Desert plants

I maintain a miniature desert under my bedroom window, where the eaves stop the Florida rain from overwhelming the plants. Actually, many desert plants do well here, because even though the Gulf Coast gets a considerable amount of rain, the sandy soil drains very quickly (washing away nutrients, so a good compost operation is important to add food on a regular basis.)

The aloe plant is in full bloom, obviously oblivious to the cooler temperatures. These are incredibly hardy plants, and the freeze didn’t bother them too much, though I did throw a blanket over them, just in case. These striped desert dwellers are a type of yucca that spread by underground rhizomes, and need to be kept in check. I let the offspring grow, then dig them up and transplant them elsewhere. They are as happy growing under a tree in the shade as they are in full sun. The taller yucca right next to the window is new to the garden, and still acclimatizing. It does appear content though it’s only been there a month. The crown of thorns with the little red flower, properly called a euphorbia, is related to the poinsettia (interesting) and this is the only one to survive the December cold spell.

Just for fun, I keep a small dish garden of miniature desert succulents, sun lovers, but not at all affected by the cool, or the rain (and we have had lots of that in the past few weeks.) I planted them in native sand and their little universe drains within minutes of a downpour.

"I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day." ~F. Frankfort Moore, A Garden of Peace



Norfolk pine

On the east edge of the herb garden, I’ve started a Norfolk pine hedge – past Christmas trees, three of them, and they, too show frost burnt branches, another job for the secateurs when I get in a trimming mood.

"You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt." ~Author Unknown



Dividing the ferns

One good thing about the chill, it’s an excellent time to transplant, divide and repot those specimens that need it. Some of you may remember the huge, bushy Boston ferns in pots from my hub My Pet Ferns ( link also provided in the upper right corner) the one so bushy it bulged out of its pot by a good twelve inches. I’ve finally divided the poor thing, and now the mother plant lives in leaf litter on the edge of the yard, and the small division sit proudly, if inadequately on the same stump. The macho fern also survived, only losing half a dozen fronds, and is doing quite well, even if much smaller than it was.

"When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant." ~Author Unknown


The filibustering toad

In this shaded bed, between two large spreading oaks, whose combined canopy provides protection to the shade loving plants below we find the home of the filibustering toad, seen in the picture – a gift from a friend with a distorted sense of humor.

"As a gardener, I'm among those who believe that much of the evidence of God's existence has been planted." ~Robert Brault



Orchids

Just inside, in the screened lanai, on a table, lives a collection of small plants, baby ferns, violets and my all time favorite, orchids. The joy of a climate where orchids flourish outdoors – unimaginable to someone from a climate with barely ninety frost free days a year. Orchids are far tougher than myth suggests. I think they received that reputation from the days of the Victorian hothouse, replete with coal fueled stoves to heat the conservatory. Orchids are sensitive to toxins, and don’t do well in stale, enclosed air. They died and so were dubbed “delicate and difficult.” Here in Florida, many people wire them to the trees outdoors, an approximation of their natural habitat. Mine live outdoors on the lanai when I’m in residence here, and in a large pot of moss, under the trees when I’m not. They do well, for which I’m grateful, as they are not the cheapest of plants to buy.

Is there any flower more sensuous than the orchid, or one that comes in a greater variety of colors, form and textures? The flowers are long lasting, providing they are kept protected from the full sun, lasting two to four months. Gorgeous

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
~Dorothy Frances Gurney, "Garden Thoughts"



Holly

I walked round the house to the front yard and noted how beautiful the holly bush was, how healthy. I suppose it, too, prefers the cool weather. It must, it’s loaded with bright berries.

"Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,

I keep it staying at Home -
With a bobolink for a Chorister,
And an Orchard, for a Dome." -- Emily Dickinson


Live oaks and aerial ferns

As always, I stopped to admire the “guardian tree,” the massive oak that towers over the house, draped in thick pendulums of Spanish moss. Although live oaks are never bare of leaves, this is the time of year they drop the old and grow new, and with the week of frost and the long cool spell following, this tree is as bare as I’ve ever seen it.

For the first time, I saw the colony of ferns growing twenty-five feet in the air, along one major branch and in the cradle formed where the branch joins the main trunk. I tried to photograph them, but the light was difficult. You see the results of my efforts – you can make them out, but they’re so high up it’s difficult to catch the detail.

"The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don't want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don't have a soul." -- Thomas Moore

Dogwoods? No, mastiffs.

I never work alone in my yard; Dick and Didi, my mastiffs, always supervise me. Dick’s getting on, ten years of age, but still in good shape for such a big dog – two hundred and fifty pounds. He’s impressive and a true deterrent to anyone wishing me ill, providing they don’t know what a cowardly bag of bones he is. His daughter, Didi is a brainless goof, with no common sense whatsoever, but good natured, happy, gentle and trustworthy – favorite with the neighborhood children, who think nothing of grabbing her collar and pulling her up to come play with them.

Dick hauls himself to his legs and follows each time I move from one task to another, though he does shoot me some “oh, not again” looks as he does. I’ve tried to make it clear I can function without his input, but he doesn’t believe me. It’s his job, you see, to be no more than six feet from me at all times, whether that’s to protect me, or so I can protect him, I’ve never decided. I’m happy he’s finally accepted he’s not allowed in the bathroom with me.

"My garden will never make me famous,
I'm a horticultural ignoramus." -- Ogden Nash

Au revoir

Well, time to go in. Thanks for dropping by, and I hoped you enjoyed my Florida garden in winter.

"There are many tired gardeners but I've seldom met old gardeners. I know many elderly gardeners but the majority are young at heart. Gardening simply does not allow one to be mentally old, because too many hopes and dreams are yet to be realized. The one absolute of gardeners is faith. Regardless of how bad past gardens have been, every gardener believes that next year's will be better. It is easy to age when there is nothing to believe in, nothing to hope for; gardeners, however, simply refuse to grow up."

-- Allan Armitage, internationally known writer, speaker, and researcher

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Comments 24 comments

BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

Thanks so much for doing a photo commentary - I loved following along as you talked about the chilly weather. Still you have so much beauty out there...oh, loved all those brilliant quotes too - and certainly the puppies.

As I sit here in barren NYC filled with dirty snow - it was a pleasure to go through your hub. Thanks so much!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi BkCreative -- OMG -- NYC!! Sucks to be you, doesn't it? Sorry, no disrespect intended, but I've been in NYC in winter -- and sorry, it is grey, damp, cold and dirty that time of year. On the other hand, when I've visited NYC in spring, it was lovely, and I spent a wonderful Sunday hanging out in Central Park people watching. Yes, Florida is a beautiful place, at least to me. Others have written of their distaste for the place. For me, with its cowboy history and redneck mentality (at least here on the Gulf Coast) I feel right at home. It's as if someone planted palm trees in my town of Strathmore, Alberta (Western Canada). Thanks for your comment and yes, it IS chilly.


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

What a great hub-I thoroughly enjoyed strolling through your garden,-and I am impressed by the lovely dogs.

It's still too cold here to brave the elements,but I am really looking forward to getting back to the soil-bliss.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you so much for a most enjoyable read. You are right that frog definitely got something about it. Usually I am not a lover of dogs, I am petrified of them, but this one is funny and cute. I love gardening and enjoyed your guided tour. Thank you again for sharing.


Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

Gardening become fun with all these quotes! Sorry your plants suffered, lmmartin, but it was an adventure following your story!


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 6 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

llmartin, the garden is very resilient - so happy to see that many lovely plantings have survived and thrived in the age of "global warming" - and, on that note, (of course, I have to go there!) the deniers are insisting Al Gore and the climate change believers are crazy because "how could it snow or get colder as a result of global warming!" They are so nonsensical! But on a more positive note again, the mastiffs look wonderful and the must be wonderful company. I adore gardens.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hello Itakins, Thanks for the comment. Gardening is one of those pastimes that works better than meditation for me -- what is the popular term -- keeps me grounded. (ha-ah)

Hi Ann Nonymous - you liked the toad? Afraid of dogs, are you? Too bad, you're missing out on a great relationship. And these guys may be big, but they're docile, although my husband tells me to stop broadcasting that news. We have a Chihuahua staying with us right now -- him you can be afraid of. Thanks for visiting my garden and the plants will recover, I hope and if not -- I'll get new ones eventually. Was sad over the bird of paradise though.

Hi Kartika, Yes, people are a little foolish on the whole climate change -- guess they have to be. According to forecast, Florida and this garden will be underwater one day. And there's nothing the individual can do about it, it seems. My personal carbon footprint is tiny, and with the amount of planting I've done in different years and locations is probably negative, but I'm sure the world isn't likely to turn off the machinery any time soon. I had an interest in paleontology years ago, and Alberta is a wonderful place to pursue it. Evidence exists that Alberta was once a steamy tropical rain forest; Florida was once several hundred miles wider than it is -- so climate change is nothing new. We're not in charge of this planet. Whew -- certainly is a digression from a simple essay about my garden, this discussion. Thanks for coming by.


lovelypaper profile image

lovelypaper 6 years ago from Virginia

I'll trade gardens with you anyday. I love your supervisor, Dick. He's adorable.


Martyjay 6 years ago

Your garden looks a whole lot better than those in Calgary, Alberta. Cold grey days with a healthy amount of snow. Enjoyed the tour thank you very much.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks lovelypaper, but not knowing where your garden is, I think I'll stick to this one and turn down your offer. Yes, Dick is a handsome fella (retired show champion.)

Hello Martyjay -- which is why I'm here in the chill instead of in Calgary in the freezing. I'll take chill over frigid anytime. Thanks for dropping in.


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

We just had a winter storm here in Mississippi on Friday. We got over 6 inches the most they say in 20 years. As a Canadian I vowed as a child that I would live somewhere warm and suffered (at least I thought I did) with seasonal affective disorder. I don't seem to be afflicted with it here in the south.

Your dogs are beautiful. I enjoyed a glimpse in to your life. Thanks


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Tammy, Yes, it's been a strange winter for many places. In all the years I've wintered in Florida, I don't recall any as chilly as this one, which wouldn't be so bad, but the houses aren't set up for it with pipes on the outside walls and climate control systems more efficient at cooling than heating. It's probably the same for you in Mississippi.

Thanks for the comment and I'll pass your compliment on to Dick and Didi.


Kerry43 6 years ago

Good evening; I just love your assortment of plants, but I lingered longest on your beautiful dog pictures. They are so adorable.

My Mum used to have the bird of paradise, but I don't recall one with a blue flower. I must look for one.

Thank you so much.

Kez:)


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks Kez, and my dogs thank you too. Lynda


katrinasui profile image

katrinasui 5 years ago

Wow! Your garden is beautiful.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you. Lynda


Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

You'e pretty funny, I enjoyed your writing as much as learning about winter plants in Florida! Love the quote, rainy days are so gardeners can get some housework done! You have lots of plants, how are they doing since the freeze damage?


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

That was last winter and they came back fine. This winter hasn't been as cold, though we've had a few frosts. Enough to turn a lot of stuff brown. Spring will tell what did or didn't make it. Thanks for commenting. Lynda


amybradley77 profile image

amybradley77 5 years ago

I have often wondered about winter gardens, in Florida you are very blessed to have all of this. Ours need to be kept inside with heat lights, with our below zero freezing ice and snow,Great Wallowa Mountain winters. We can only enjoy our flowers for a very short period of the year, this often makes me a little sad, but I dry them all so I can still look at them anyway. A.B.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

I know how you feel, amybradley. In Alberta we were blessed with 90 frost-free days a year. In a good year that is. That's why I appreciate my Florida garden so much. However, today, once again, everything is under blankets. Thanks for visiting. Lynda

PS Where are the Great Wallowa Mountains?


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

"When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant."

I love that quote, not because I have pulled anything important out of the ground lately but because I do not how terribly annoying some weeds are in terms of pulling them out of the ground. On the other hand flowers and herbs are much more fragile. Some weeds are good to though ... depends.

That oak tree you have is magnificent! It should have its own photograph I think. I love your orchids as well, gorgeous! Always. The holy bush looked interesting. How small is that (made me think of Christmas)?

Thank you for a very informative blog. Great garden! Awesome!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks for the comment. I'll have to get out and take some new pictures to share. Lynda


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Ornov. I will check it out. Lynda


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Oh dear, that site is no longer published.

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