Monday, September 26, 2011

Tour of Native Landscapes

This past weekend I went on a tour of native plant landscapes sponsored by the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. This annual event is a self-guided tour of homes featuring all or mostly native plants. The tour is two days -- with South Pinellas homes on Saturday and North Pinellas locations on Sunday. Last year I did the South Pinellas tour -- this year I decided to see what homeowners in North Pinellas are up to, figuring that their climate, soils and plant selections would be more similar to my Tampa landscape.

On any garden tour, It's always inspiring to see what clever, creative ideas other gardeners are implementing that I might want to "borrow" myself. I always take photos to jog my memory later when I'm looking for an interesting planting scheme or a new way to use yard art.

This tour has the special twist of featuring an amazing variety of native plants -- most of which, sadly, can be only be purchased from a native plant nursery or grown from cuttings or seeds bestowed by generous native-loving friends (which is how I got most of my more unusual natives).

I tend to prefer landscapes with structure and design, and I found plenty to like on the North Pinellas tour, like this inviting natural path in a Clearwater back yard lined with firebush, beautyberry, tropical sage and ironweed.

I was also captivated by the charming seating area at this home, framed by an arbor bursting with coral honeysuckle, a favorite nectar source of hummingbirds.
Water features were present at almost all the homes. I loved this waterfall cascading down to a quiet pool bordered by ferns, salvias and other overhanging plants that give it a lush, tropical feel.
Or this large, beautyberry-fringed pond at a Safety Harbor home.
At the tour stop in Oldsmar, I admired the way the owners blended the natural vegetation -- pines and palmettoes -- with unusual natives like Lizard's tail and even exotics like crinum lilies and orchids. The landscape islands were bisected by a beautiful, curving brick walkway.
Who wouldn't want to sit here and just enjoy the scenery?
Or wander down the brick walkways and explore some more?
Yard art aficionado that I am, you know I honed right in on these whimsical little slippers planted with lovely native wood violets.
I don't think my own yard will ever be entirely native -- there are just so many wonderful non-native but Florida-adapted choices available -- but I love mixing the natives into my garden. They can't be beat for toughness and resilience, and our native butterflies and birds often prefer or even require them. As time goes on, I am bringing more natives, especially wildflowers like this dotted horsemint, into my landscape, joining the tropical sage, scorpion tail, mistflowers and narrow-leaved sunflowers in my Bay-Friendly plant palette.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Fruits of our Labor

Labor Day is the perfect time for all of us to put down the trowels and shovels, grab an ultra-cold glass of iced tea, take a comfy seat on our porches and patios, and just admire the fruits of our labor -- our beautiful gardens. 

In the Bay-Friendly Landscape, the lushness of summer is still evident. Our yard has grown dramatically this year, thanks to abundant rain. We have not provided any supplemental water in at least two months. My primary chore this summer has been pruning, and pruning, and pruning again. 

Butterflies and moths continue to visit, although their numbers are now tapering off. Sulphurs are the most abundant now, and their caterpillars are keeping the cassias nicely in check.

Sulphur caterpillar munching cassia
Recently, we have been serenaded in the evenings by an extremely loud cicada orchestra. I was lucky enough to see one of these gigantic, pop-eyed insects on the ground, presumably right after emerging as an adult in its winged state. But not lucky enough to have my camera with me, unfortunately. 

Can anyone identify this moth -- perhaps a duskywing? It was feeding on the native mistflowers.

The lovely carefree caladiums are still going strong, their happy faces lining our front walkway by the funny antique sink that we use as a bird bath. 

Fall is showing its colors already, in the festive purple beads draping the beautyberries, in the first feathery pink plumes on the muhly grass, and in the berries popping out on the East Palatka hollies. 

As if they are running out of time,the chaste tree is sending up a furious shower of violet blossoms, and the majestic beauty hawthorne is putting out an unexpected second bloom. 

Everywhere, things are happening, growing, changing. 

But I'm just going to sit here for a while, quietly, and do nothing. It is Labor Day, after all.