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2011 March Linda's Garden

Brooksville is well known for it's beautiful displays of azaleas in the springtime. Azaleas perform best in areas with filtered sunlight. That is certainly true in my yard...I have a lot of azaleas planted around trees and when the spring rains came, the blooms burst out in a colorful abundance.

I have white, pink, dusky rose and mauve colored azaleas and they seem to like the live oak trees as their umbrellas of choice. I read the following:

Well-drained, organic soils with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5 are best suited for azaleas. Organic amendments and fertilization are usually necessary to modify Florida soils for proper azalea growth. Organic amendments, fertilizers, and pH-adjusting amendments should be incorporated into the planting bed or soil backfill during planting. Preparation of the entire planting area is best when a number of azaleas are being transplanted together. Organic amendments such as peat, compost or pine bark are beneficial in increasing water and nutrient retention, and lowering the soil pH. A soil test will determine the pH of your existing soil and provide a basis for fertilizer recommendations.

Well..I can tell you that I don't do anything with my azaleas. I don't treat the soil, I don't fertilize, I don't water...I seldom even prune them..yet they bloom like crazy. I don't have pine trees, just a lot of live oak, magnolia, white oak and maple.

I guess you could make the case that IF I DID fertilize, treat the soil and water my azaleas, I would probably have even more blooms...but I would say..."How many more do I need and at what price for supplies and labor?"

I feel happy with my level of flowers "gotten" for labor put out. But that's an individual determination that you'll have to make for yourself. I can tell you that the azaleas planted on the north side of my little workshop above...do far better than the azaleas on the south side.

The southside azaleas were planted at the same time as the northside shrubs..and the difference in size is quite obvious...if you compare the two photos above. The southside shrubs receive much more direct sunlight which I am assuming inhibits the growth more-so than the shrubs on the northside that receive less direct sunlight. But for my part, I wanted azaleas on both sides to balance out the look. Now most likely, I might be able to compensate for the lack of height on the southside shrubs by applying fertilizer and treating the soil.

I truly do feel quite happy with the level of bloom output...and I rarely do any maintenance on them. If I ever prune them, it's usually only on the azalea shrubs that line the front of our house.

Now throughout the several freezes we had in January and a couple were quite hard for Florida, below 30 degrees...my roses never froze out. They stayed green and rather healthy looking and are now blooming or about to bloom in March. The red rose on the right is almost ready to pop.

Before the freezes came, I had moved my bromeliads into my little greenhouse which is basically a screen-house covered with plastic and as you can see, they weathered the many freezes quite well and are in the process of throwing up blooms. I did not cover them or do anything special other than moving them to the greenhouse. They do not require a lot of water, just an occasional shower to wet their spears which collect and store the water until needed.

These two Gaura Butterfly loved plants had frozen off and I had given them up for dead. But our garden club had listened to a lecture given by Marie, a local plant lady, who had told us, "Hold off on pulling out those dead plants." Am I glad I did, because these two very dead looking plants have now sent up a whole thick bunch of new stems. That's two plants that I might have pulled out and tossed into the compost pile had I not listened to Marie's advice...where now I have two brand new bushes coming up that will provide lots of flowers for a new crop of butterflies.

The same holds true for my hydrangeas....I just bought the one on the right to add to the two blue hydrangeas I already have and that usually have frozen off for the past three years. The one on the left is growing back quite nicely and I have one more in about the same stage. With the new one on the right, I'll have three plants with plans to add more. Hydrangeas seem to grow quite well on the north side of my house. They only get a little sun in early morning and seem quite happy with that. I told my husband I was totally rethinking my gardening plan. I am going to concentrate mainly on plants that do not freeze or freeze and revive..or that I plant in containers and move to the greenhouse or indoors. I am not going to do what Marie said...and that is...Do you want to turn your yard into a Laundromat every winter? No more plant covers all over the place. It's time consuming and stressful worrying about...will it freeze...can I save it? And inevitably a cover would blow off or I would forget one night and lose the whole bunch. I'm just not going to do that anymore. I went back to the gardening drawing board.

Now.....Chrysanthemums. I love Chrysanthemums. I have three...maybe four plants. Chrysanthemums are broken into two basic groups, Garden Hardy and Exhibition. Garden hardy mums are new perennials capable of being wintered over in the ground in most northern latitudes. Exhibition varieties are not usually as sturdy. Garden hardies are defined by their ability to produce an abundance of small blooms with little if any mechanical assistance (i.e., staking) and withstanding wind and rain. Exhibition varieties on the other hand require staking, over-wintering in a relatively dry cool environment, sometimes with the addition of night lights. My plants are obviously Garden Hardy. They freeze off, but always grow back once spring rain and warm sun return...as you can see from the pictures above. Those are two of my Chrysanthemum plants and they are growing quite nicely. Now...I love my garden...but I am not one who faithfully fertilizes and treats the soil, as I said before. I will water with a hose during times of drought, but I do not to fuss too much with my garden. I want to love it...not stress over it.

The two plants above...the Agapanthus on the left and the Dianthus on the right weathered the freezes pretty well and the Agapanthus, of which I have maybe 6-8 plants are all showing new growth and the Dianthus is quite obviously blooming like crazy. I think it would benefit me to plant more dianthus to add blooms and color to my gardens...while not adding worry about losing them to freezes.

My Confederate Jasmine (on the left) froze off but is already throwing out new shoots and re-climbing it's arbor. I have many clumps of elephant ears and while they usually die off even in a light freeze, they always come back and they always throw out new babies. The mama plant above already has two new baby plants to its right. I dig them up and move them and over the years I have multiplied these plants until I have maybe 15-20 now. We have almost 3 acres of land, so I have lots of room to plant.

Oh....my Aztec Grass or some nurseries call it Lirope. I have the variegated above, the plain dark green and a smaller dwarf green variety. They all suffered under the freezes. but the good news for me is that they always grow back and as you can see from the photo above...they come back very hardy and quite fast. We are supposed to have cold weather tonight, possibly down to 32 degrees, but after this, I think it will be safe to trim back all the dead stuff so the new growth can have room to breathe. I have many of these plants...I would wager to say dozens and dozens...too many to cover against freezing, so it's a good thing for me they are weather hardy

Now the same thing as for the Aztec Grass applies to my Iris'. The one on the right is the one I call my Mama Iris. She's very large and she never freezes off. She sits behind the garage and likes it there. I have split this plant many times....many, many times. Indeed...when we moved up here from St Pete, this was one of four Iris plants I dug up and brought with me. I now have maybe 50-60 Iris plants, most of them propagated from this "Mama" Iris. I usually dig her up every 2-3 years and split off maybe 10 clumps and plant them elsewhere in my yard. In the near future, I will trim out her dead spires and maybe give her a little dash of miracle grow.

Now...the Iris plant on the left is a Giant iris and I forgot about it and it froze off. I had put the pot out to toss in the compost heap, but lo and behold, I noticed today that it was throwing up new growth. You can't give up too early on your dead-looking plants...you might be throwing away a gem.

So...you might ask me...what's this mess? Well...that's another story. I had wanted to clean out a large and unruly bed of canna lillies. I dug up the whole bed..took the best and hardiest plants and planted them in a new area that I wanted to use as a wall of flowers to hide the water pump and tank. This mess above was the rejected plants. I had tossed the root clumps into a heap and they were pretty dead-looking. Since I was not going to use them, I just let them freeze and would have tossed them into the compost pit. Much to my surprise, as I was doing my garden assessment this week. I found these "rejects" were not about to give up and die. As you can see, there are dozens of new canna lily shoots coming up all over the place. I dug up a whole bunch of them and took them to our Garden Club meeting and donated them to be raffled off to new homes....but I still have many more that I could farm out. I predict more donations at the next garden club meeting.

This is the new Canna Lilly bed that I planted to hide the lattice that hides the water tank. As you can see, the new bed had been hit by the freez, but it, too is already throwing up lots of new shoots. By summers end these plants will be 5 feet tall and will have ruffled flowers of yellow, gold and orange centers.

This is what the lillies look like in late July and Early August. They really are very pretty and add a lot of color to my garden. So for all my fellow Garden Club Members who took home some of my donated plants, this is what your Canna lillies will look like.

Crinum Lillies...I have lots of them. I plant, split them and replant them around trees...they seem to like the shaded areas. They sometimes freeze off, but not always. As you see from the photo above right, they are already growing quite large and when they bloom, they will have the white-tinged-with-pink flowers that you see in the photo above left. I also took a lot of these to the last Garden Club meeting and they also were raffled off to new homes.

My Rosemary plants never freeze and they will grow to 2-3 foot tall...almost like shrubs. They seems to like my yard and grow like weeds. Since they are a natural repellant for many pests, I plant lots of rosemary around my house. Now the little Stonecrop plant on the right....I thought it was dead and gone..yet today I found this little clump growing. Once again...you can't give up on those dead-looking plants too soon. They just might surprise you.

So that's my tour of Linda's Garden. I hope you found something useful and enjoyable on the tour. I end your tour with one of my favorite early morning views when the sun rises and streams through the forest with sunbeams galore in my front yard. I call it "God's love comes shining through." Seems like a fitting place to end.

Linda Westrich-Heine

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