My Florida garden in winter
Photographs of my garden, February 13
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
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 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
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
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
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
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"
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
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