By Cynthia “Meems” Glover
Unlike the majority of the country, gardens in this region don’t take a winter nap. Accordingly, the plants we choose for our year-round gardens are expected to endure through every element the seasons throw their way. Though each year is different, this turned out to be a stellar year for gardening in Central Florida.
A mild winter launched my garden in the right direction. It sustained no significant damage from the few night hours when our temperatures rested close to the freezing point. I’ve concentrated my attention in past years on creating a cold-hardy garden. I installed structural plants and shrubs that don’t freeze such as Walter’s viburnum (Viburnum obovatum), coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) and pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana). When my flowering perennials and tropical plants remain unharmed, they are positioned for optimal growth for the rest of the year.
The warmer-than-usual season prompted me to start making additional planting beds by late January. I tried something new, anticipating our summer rainy season. In lieu of ground-level beds I mounded up each new planting space by piling a mixture of compost and potting soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches. The method of raising the entire bed allowed for excellent drainage and proved successful by keeping the plants from drowning once heavy rains ensued.
I’ve learned to enthusiastically greet the onset of our steamy, wet summer season. It’s not that I relish the sweltering humidity! But I do welcome the steady rainfall that refreshes my garden following our dry spring. Caladium, Stromanthe, shell ginger, coleus, begonia and walking iris number among the plants that require abundant rainfall to thrive in the midst of summer’s stressful heat.
Summer typically signals the end of planting projects and a hiatus to air-conditioned spaces. It’s not when we think about dividing and transferring plants. This year I decided to withstand the summer heat. I divided and transplanted giant liriope (Liriope muscari), African Iris (Dietes iridioides), Fakahatchee grass (Tripsacum dactyloides) and flax lily (Dianella tasmanica variegata) to fill in some gaps around the garden. It was worth the extra effort. I didn’t have to drag hoses around to properly establish the new starts. Transplants and persistent rain saved me money and time this summer.
Taking a look back at my garden through the seasons is both humbling and encouraging. Gardens reflect each gardener’s determination and inspiration to learn and grow as the garden grows. Author Alfred Austin said it like this: “Show me your garden, and I shall tell you what you are.”