Monday, February 20, 2012

Trending Now: Florida-ness!

Call me delusional, but I really believe that people are beginning to understand that designing a yard adapted to Florida's fickle climate and sensitive environment makes sense.

We like to sit on our front porch and admire our beautiful Bay-Friendly Landscape 
The sheer numbers of friends and neighbors who have toured my own Bay-Friendly Landscape in the last two years indicate a growing interest in moving beyond that boring old monoculture of St. Augustine grass toward diverse and hardy landscapes that embrace our "Florida-ness." No matter where we hailed from originally, we are all Floridians now, and things are different here. Let the plastic pink yard flamingos run free!
I love my flamingo yard art!

I've also noticed, sadly, that interest in transforming landscapes often is followed by a dejected "I just don't know where to begin" resignation that often results in total inertia. 

I've been thinking lately about how to bridge this gap between desire and action, and offer these simple steps for all you landscape procrastinators:

  • Take small bites. Tackle one area at a time. Of course, I didn't do this, but I was also prepared to dedicate every weekend for three months to remaking our entire yard. I realize most people can't do that -- and wouldn't want to if they could! Just start by removing one area of turf grass and replacing it with a groundcover, or carving out a nice bed for butterfly plants. My guess is that you'll like it so much you'll want to do more.
  • Get a plan. Do some homework before you go to the nursery and start buying those oh-so-pretty plants you've never seen before that are calling your name. Think about what type of soil you have, whether you have sun or shade, how much watering you want to do, and whether you are willing to constantly replace tender tropicals every time we get a winter freeze.  Then select plants that share similar sun, soil and water needs -- a concept called "Right Plant, Right Place." Look for plants that meet your needs on or
  • Put it on paper. You don't have to be an artist, but it is very helpful to sketch out your landscape beds on paper. Note what plants you want in that area, and how far apart to plant them based on their mature height and width. You can even cut out photos of plants you like (the Internet is a gardener's delight) and group them so you can visualize how they'll look together. If you really think you are completely hopeless at this (I was!), hire a landscape designer or gardening coach. My husband and I did, and we never regretted it. Their fees are more reasonable than you might think, and they will almost always SAVE you money over the long run.  Check out the Be Floridian campaign's landscape design partners at for designers and gardening coaches who specialize in landscapes for True Floridians.
Signs throughout the Bette Walker Discovery Garden describe important
 elements of Florida-Friendly Landscapes
  • Beg, borrow and steal. Gardening is one area where all are condoned. Tour a lot of landscapes and take pictures of elements you like (color combos, planting beds, mulches) and then incorporate those great ideas into your own projects. I highly recommend visiting the Bette Walker Discovery Garden at the Hillsborough County Extension Office to see examples of all nine of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles in action.  Ask for seeds, cuttings or transplants of plants you like from friends' yards. Gardeners live to spread the love! 

  • Attend workshops on Florida-Friendly gardening. Each county extension office offers these, and Master Gardeners trained by Extension experts give a variety of gardening workshops and clinics at libraries and other community venues. In my neighborhood, Master Gardeners give evening workshops on a different topic each month at my branch library. They are short, free and packed with information. If you can spare a Saturday, please attend the "Maintaining Your Florida Yard" workshop co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Pinellas County Extension on March 24 at Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg.

Recognize these guys?
They're giving out good advice at the Discovery Garden.
Alright then, no more excuses! It's almost Spring -- time to get moving on making your yard a little more "Floridian." Please let me know if any of these tips are helpful, and how your landscape makeovers are coming along. YOU CAN DO IT!!!