And so we did. In addition to following the "right plant, right place" approach, we also embraced "right plant, right region." We wanted cold-hardy plants that would survive a North Tampa winter. Not only does this make sense, it saves cents -- as in not having to continually replace plants each spring.
|Beautyberry is a cold-hardy native that flourishes throughout the Southeast U.S.|
Yet our attitude appears to be unusual, even in our own neighborhood. No doubt about it: residents of Tampa Bay love their tropicals!
We live in USDA Hardiness Zone 9A, though I often select plants from 9B as well. Anything below that is a no-go, unless it can grow in a container that can be moved inside during freezes. In fact, just to show I am not immune to the tropical allure, I recently purchased a stunning heliconia at the USF Fall Plant Sale. But I bought it expressly for a large container, and that is where it will stay. I can imagine, however, that my husband will have a few choice words for it -- and me -- when it comes time for us to tag team this hefty thing of beauty into the shed.
I was heartened to see that many of the vendors at the plant sale -- especially the Native Plant Society -- were actively promoting cold-hardy species. I bought two more rouge plants from them to go with the single lonely specimen I now have.
|Ocala (yellow) anise is a cold-weather champion. |
When crushed, its leaves smell like -- you guessed it -- anise.
A major motivation for our landscape makeover was to save time. In the Spring, we'd rather be fishing or cycling than planting. And we sure don't want to have to keep shelling out our hard-earned money for new plants over and over again.
Yet the lure of tropicals is so strong for many of us - why is that? All of Florida is certainly not Miami, yet to look at the most common landscaping plants here you'd think it was. Sago and royal palms, ti plants, crotons, and bougainvilleas abound. And none can tolerate freezing temperatures for long. Some can't even take temperatures in the mid-40s -- and you can be sure we will see those every winter.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Cold-sensitive plants grown along a fence, with a southern exposure, may do fine. Ditto for plants grown under the insulating warmth of an oak's canopy. This is where "right plant, right place" comes back into play. We were amazed at the way our large live oak served as a natural blanket for everything in our front yard. This is why our dracaena marginata tricolor, a definite tropical, flourishes there. Only the threesome on the very perimeter of the oak canopy showed any cold damage at all last winter, and then it was very little. Yet another reason to salute live oaks!
|Our tri-color dracaenas are now 4 feet tall and|
quite happy under the shelter of our large live oak
But the vast majority of the landscape is cold-hardy, for a reason. We learned our lesson in 2010.
|The distinctive Weeping Yaupon Holly makes a lovely small specimen tree|
All it takes is a little thought, and planning -- and maybe a bit of luck as well -- to beat winter to the punch!