I live in a wonderful small town on the coast of Florida and have plenty of access to the beaches and Indian River. I am a proud Christian. I have great son & I married my best friend over 35 years ago. We have 2 cats. I have been in the landscape business for over 30 years and own a small Gardening Service called Botanical Concepts, providing design, installation and maintenance service for niche gardens. I am the author of the fictional cozy mysteries and a writing blog (www.VictoriaLKWilliams.blog). I love to read, walk, garden, watch good movies, enjoy nature and love chocolate and a good cup of coffee!! Did I say I like chocolate?
Did you know that I’m not only a gardener but also a writer? I write cozy mysteries; all set in South Florida and all with characters who love to garden!
I find I do most of my writing either in the garden or from my office looking out into my garden.
The garden is the perfect place to plot. Often you are working on your own, doing tasks that allow your imagination to wander. That’s how it all started for me. I was tending a secluded garden and started wondering what if a crime were to take place in or around a beautiful garden?
My thought raced. There were so many weapons at hand: shovels, shears, poisonous plants, pesticides and small garden statuary. But my thoughts weren’t all dark. The garden is the perfect place for secret meetings, clues to be planted and maybe even a romance to bloom.
If you would like to find out more about my mysteries or sign up for my newsletter, visit my website. Starting in August, the newsletter will feature an extra item called Garden Secrets. You will get a password from the newsletter to have access to these blog posts here in the Gossip from the Southern Gardener blog. Here is the link: www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com
In the last few blog posts, I’ve been talking about rejuvenating an older garden. We’ve looked at some of the items you need to consider before pulling out the first plant. We’ve also talked about what changes in your landscape when you rejuvenate, or maybe a new landscape is a better fit for your needs.
Now all of your homework is done and you’ve decided to go ahead and give new life to an old landscape. So, let’s discuss some of the methods you can use to create the landscape you can love again.
The easiest, most cost effective way to rejuvenate your garden is often the most over looked: CLEAN IT UP! It sounds so simple, but giving your beds the care they need will also improve the appearance. Trim and shape your shrubs, clean out the old plant debris, feed with proper fertilizer and make sure all the plants are getting the irrigation they should get to grow and thrive.
Pick the oldest, overgrown, unattractive plants and start replacing. You can use the same plants, or take this opportunity to try something new.
Add color and interest. Pick a plant with unusual texture, add a patch of annual color, add a flowering shrub where you had a non-flowering one.
Change your bed line. Add a curve to a straight bed. Widen the bed to include a close-by tree (this will make mowing easier too),
Create interest within the planting bed. A fountain, statuary, container filled with color, a chair to relax in. If your area is big enough, consider a pathway to allow you to meander through the greenery.
Add hardscaping. This could be a section of gravel, a small seating area with pavers, a stone rockery or raised planting area, a concrete bench or a swing .
Add landscape lighting. Focus on the larger plants, or an special plant you want to draw attention to. If you’ve created a pathway or added a seating area, add ground lighting.
We’ve been busy working our magic
in the garden, but I haven’t forgotten about this subject that we started.
In the first part of this series, we asked why to rejuvenate
your garden. Now we’re going to briefly go over a few consideration you need to
think about before proceeding. You may
find a few items overlap. That’s okay, it
just proves how important each point is.
Ready? Alright then, here we go…
1. Before you can make any changes, it is going to be important to know WHY you’re making them. In
other words—what are your landscape goals? Are you trying to refresh your old
landscape? Or create an entirely different
look? Does your landscape need to serve a
more functional purpose?
2. What role do you want the plants in your landscape to achieve? Hide a view, provide
shade, define your property line?
3. Is your current landscape
meeting your landscape goals? Is the hedgerow
along the property line still a thick, lush
wall of greenery? Has the tree grown enough to provide you with cooling shade,
or is it at the point where there is too much shade, and you can’t get anything to grow
4. Has your purpose for the planting changed over the years? For example, the shorter shrubbery you planted may now need to be replaced with taller plants because a new building has gone up next door that you don’t want to see.
5. Has the growth of the plants or the needs of your yard usage changed the access to the area you want
to do new plantings? Have the larger
trees in the area grown so much that you will be adding new plants into a mass
of roots from that tree?
6. Will making any changes to your landscape interfere with the relationship you have with your neighbor? Talking neighborly over the fence can quickly change if you remove a large tree that was the shading sitting area your neighbor enjoyed.
7. What is your landscape budget? Have you even made one? When you do, be sure to include
all aspects of the renovations: plants,
materials, and labor.
8. Do you plan on doing the
work yourself or hiring a professional landscaper? You need to know what your
physical limitations are—don’t forget, landscaping is physical labor!
It is essential, no critical, that you have at the very least, given these items some thought and planning. You may find that you need to do this work in phases. Be sure to ask for help from your local garden center when you’re ready to start any planting.
In the next series of blogs, I am going to address a problem
many homeowners eventually face. How do you deal with an older landscape?
Down here in the south, things grow fast. There is no
dormant, or cold period, to moderate the growth. Yes, there are changes to the
pace of growth during different seasons, but few plants will actually drop
their leaves and go dormant for 3-4 months of the year. Because of this, the
average life span of the landscape is accelerated.
In south Florida, it is safe to say this life span is 12-15 years for most
foundation plantings, hedging, and mass planting. Trees grow larger at a much
faster rate, often leaving only trunks to look at from the eaves of the home to
the ground. Those graceful palm fronds are now above the roof line. This dramatically
changes the look of the landscape from what it was when first planted.
This also puts the homeowner in the position of needing to
relandscape. But do you rip everything out and start from scratch, or do you
rejuvenate your existing landscape?
Before you make this decision, there are a few things you
need to consider.
1. What are your landscape goals? Are you looking for a new
look, or merely to improve on your existing landscape? Do you need to change a
viewpoint, traffic pattern or maybe add a piece
2. Do you have a budget for the work to be done? Bear in mind that removal of some larger established
plants will eat into that budget.
3. Does your existing landscape serve a purpose other than beautifying
your home? Are you screening something from view, defining your property lines or
trying to cut down on the noise from nearby traffic?
4. Does your landscape create “good neighbor vibes”?Do you
and your neighbor both benefit from the existing
plants? Take into consideration if relandscaping will cause a strain on your
relationship with your neighbor.
5. How accessible is the area in question? This may be an essential factor if any equipment is necessary
to do the job.
6. Is your current landscape achieving goals a new landscape may not be able to do until it is established? For instance; is a large tree
providing shade that a new tree would take years to offer.
7. Are you looking to hire a professional landscaper or do
the work yourself?
You should be able to answer these questions before you proceed with any further with your landscape plans. In the next post, I will discuss the pros and cons of rejuvenating your landscape ~vs. ~ completely re-landscaping your area.
Container Gardening can be so much more than
just putting pretty flowers in a container.
Using the same design aspect that you would use with in-ground
landscaping, you can create vistas for your enjoyment while you are outside.
With the placement of pots in the right place you can build framing for visual blockage of unwanted views, traffic pattern
and flow, accent existing landscaping, and add interest to patio furniture
Be sure to take into consideration the style of the area that
you’re going to be placing these pots in. Is the color of the container going
to be crucial? Will it be something to give it a little extra punch to the
design area? You need to determine if you looking for containers that are
highly decorative or more standard such as Clay.
Container gardening doesn’t stop with just putting your pots in
the right location. Once you place the container, it’s crucial that you pick the
correct plants to go in them. The most important factor to take into
consideration when choosing your plants is the environment they are going to be
planted in. Is it windy location? Does it receive full sun or partial sun? Are
the plans going to be planted in an area that will be hard to maintain? If so
you might want to use more durable plants.
Another thing to consider the fact that you might have animals
or children. This would mean you would want to watch for poisonous plants or
thorny plants. Also, plants that are fragile may
not handle the rough and tumble play of those same kids and their pets.
The plant materials that you use will play the most significant part of your container design.
Add in the use of herbs and flowers for a charming
accent or even to repel unwanted past such as mosquitoes The third thing that
you would want to take into consideration is your decorating style. Are you a
traditional stylist or a little bit more bohemian? What is the overall effect
that you’re going for? Are you trying to be conservative and a little bit
old-fashioned, or are you working for
tropical effect with palms and exotic
It is essential that you
should have a good understanding of the
answers of all these questions before you even set foot into the nursery
looking for plants. If you’re lost asked for help and if you don’t feel you’re
getting the right help from the people in the store that you’re at, ask for
professional to come out to your site and work up a plan that will best meet
your needs. You have to live with the results of what you plant, and you want to be happy. So be sure to ask
lots of questions and be willing to make changes if your ideas and plans don’t
But regardless if you are designing your own container gardens,
or getting help from a professional
gardener, the most important thing to remember is…
With the start of a new year, I thought it might be prudent to get back to some basics of gardening. It can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start in your gardening adventure. So, let’s start at the beginning!
The ABC’s of Gardening.
Teaching a novice to have a successful experience in gardening
can be as easy as teaching a child their
ABC’s. Regardless of whether the gardening experience will be for a
few houseplants, a container garden, a large courtyard garden or even your
entire landscape; these three principles apply to all. And if you follow them, you have a
successful gardening experience. Let me explain more…
A is Anticipation.
When you walk into your garden, look around you before you do
anything. Anticipate what your garden needs are.
Do you have some wilting plants? Watering is an issue here.
Are the leaves yellow and pale? Maybe you need to
consider a fertilizer application.
Do you see webbing or curling leaves? It could be a have an
insect problem that needs your attention.
Looking around your garden before you start can give you an idea of what jobs lie ahead of you. This can
also help you be prepared and have all of the essential tools that you’ll need
to get your job done thoroughly and
B it’s for
There has to be a balance between what you want the plant to do
and what the plant is physically capable of doing. You need to know what your
plant’s needs are; does it need a highlight,
low water, or good air circulation. Placing plants in a location that doesn’t
provide what they need, is the surest avenue for poor growing results.
C is for
It is essential to be
consistent with your maintenance methods
when you’re dealing with plants. A good example is this; if you water to your
houseplants every Saturday afternoon, then you should do it each and every
Saturday afternoon. It might even be a good idea to keep a log of your
gardening activities, to be clear on what you have done and still need to do.
The plants will adapt to the way they are treated, but if
there’s too much time between maintenance the plants get confused and they
don’t know whether they should be stressed out or whether they are in a regular pattern. Consistency should also be for
your fertilizing methods, your cleaning process, and your pruning techniques.
Waiting until a plant is in need of something may not be the best way to be
consistent in your gardening habits.
Be proactive; anticipate,
balance, and be consistent for a successful gardening experience!
Of course, there are a lot more steps to a successful garden, but if you can start with these three basic steps, then you will enjoy your time with the plants and gardening all that much more.
For more gardening information, check out our book. Or visit our website
I thought for the next few blogs I would show you examples of container plantings for your garden that I’ve designed in the past and they have been successful. Now that we are in full swing of the fall season selections of plants is bountiful time to let your imagination run.
A couple of housekeeping tips before we begin…
1. Have a plan before you begin. Know what pots you’re going to fill in where you’re going to place those pots this will give you an idea of the number of plants you will need and the type. You will need to determine whether you are planting in the sun or shade, in a windy or protected area, and in height traffic area.
2. Plan for the fresh soil and fertilizer you may need to plant the plants successfully.
3. Have all of the work around the area where you were going to plant done ahead of time do not want to have to trample those beautiful, freshly planted pots in order to trim behind them.
Now you’re ready to begin.
Some start with the plant’s, others with the containers. I am the container first person. For me finding the perfect container is the baseline for starting your garden. Often the container will tell you by its shape and color what type of flowers are going to look best planted in it. If you’re using your own existing pots, step one is done for you. If you are starting’s from scratch, take the time to wander through the garden center to look for the container that meets your needs. There are some gorgeous containers in all different types of materials available to plant in. And don’t be afraid to try the unusual. Your garden personality will reflect your taste.
Ready? Great! Below you will find 3 different planters designed for the shade garden.
This planter is a bowl shape ceramic in an unusual color of a purple/brown mix. The plants used are Alocasia Poly (center) Fern (Boston type) and New Guinea Impatiens.
This container is a whitewashed french clay. The planter receives no direct light, so I mixed foliage and bromeliads to give a lush, colorful appearance. Plants used are Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), Anthurium, Guzmania Bromeliad, Neoregelia Bromeliad, and Ivy.
This planter is a washed stone. Plants used are Hawaiian Ti Plant, Coleus, New Guinea Impatiens, trailing Licorice and old-fashioned Impatiens.
The calendar says it’s here, the excitement in the air says it’s here, the decorations and stores say it’s here. All over there are signs; all proclaiming fall has arrived.
Although it might still be in the high 80s, there is a definite change in the air. The evenings are a little bit cooler; which is great for plant growth. And because of that, the nurseries are starting to fill up.
Although the plants are still small, you can go to the nurseries now and find benches upon benches of beautiful flowers just waiting to be potted into your containers or into your planting beds.
For those coming down from the north to spend the winter here, it’s a welcome sign. They left fall colors and empty planting beds when they pulled out of their driveway. Now they can start over and plant beautiful flowers in the South. Or have someone like me do it.
But, before you start planting, a couple of maintenance items need your attention first.
1. Put your pots into position. Make sure they have no cracks or chips. There’s nothing worse than getting a plant planted and finding out there’s a crack running down the side of the pot, and you need to start over. Now is a good time to decide if you want to add or subtract containers. Maybe you want to upgrade: take that old clay pot with a few too many chips and slimy algae growing up the side of it, and replace it with a pretty decorative ceramic. There’s a wide variety available from hand-painted to glazed.
2. Now your pots are in place. Is there was any soil left over from last year? Check it thoroughly for insects, turn it over to decide whether you can reuse it. Or could you add some fresh soil to what is left? Usually, you can get a couple years out of a good potting soil by just replenishing as needed. If the soil is no longer usable, get rid of it and put in fresh soil. You can add fertilizer to your soil or wetting agents to help the plants hold water. If you’re going to use a wetting agent, I advise caution. During the winter months, when it gets cooler, you don’t want the plants holding water.
3. I think it’s a good idea to have a plan before you go to the garden center. Know how many pots are being filled, the colors you want to use, and whether the location of the pots is in sun or shade.
4. If you’re detail oriented, figure out exactly what how many plants you need and what type of plants you want to put in your pots before you even walk out the door to the garden center. If you’re more impulsive, like me, or would rather be creative on the spot all you will need is to have an idea of how many plants your pots will support, and then let your imagination take over when you reach the nursery.
6. Don’t be afraid to combine colors and plants. But, a good idea is to keep plants that like to be kept wet together and plants prefer to be dry together. Mixing the two together is sure to lead to problems down the road.
Okay, now you’re organized. You know how many pots you have to fill or garden space you have to plant in. You have an idea of the colors you want to use, the number of plants you’re going to need and the varieties of flowers you want to incorporate. Your first trip should also include purchasing any new pots, soil, and soil additives that you’re going to need to do the job. You’re ready to go. Grab your keys, your cup of coffee, and your list.
Be sure to get an early start to the garden center. Don’t forget it’s still hot out there: you don’t want to be wandering around the garden center in the hot sun. Happy planting!
Waiting for the kids, waiting in line, waiting for your orders, waiting for your spouse. Waiting for the seasons to change!
Up north, the summer is winding down and fall is working its way down from the artic. There is an anticipation of change; the weather, the leaves, the daylight; it’s clear there is a new season about to begin.
But down here in the south, we are waiting…for cool weather-you know below 90! For hurricane season to be over, for the tourist to start to arrive. And for the fall/winter plants to be ready.
Right now, the summer flowers are at, or past, their peak of perfection and starting to look a bit sad. It’s too hot to plant fall annuals-even if they were available. They won’t be ready for weeks.
It would be easy to sit back and just wait for the planting season to arrive. Yet if you do, there is a good chance it will sneak up on you and then you’ll be scrambling to get your plants and beautify your garden for your winter guests.
So, why not use this lull between seasons to do some planning and preparations?
Brouse your way through the stack of gardening magazines you’ve accumulated, spend hours drooling over the pictures posted on Pinterest and let your imagination run. Take the time to make a diagram of your plantings. Start a list of the new plants you want to try. Look over pictures of your past plantings. (We just published a Container Garden Recipe book for keeping track of your container plantings-this would work great for planning and recording your results!)
This is a great time to inventory your tools. Throw away the shovel with the crack in the handle, match up pairs of gloves, sharpen your shovels, trowels, and pruners. Order that new tool you wanted last year: you know, the one you went to buy it–only to find it was sold out.
Think about rearranging your outdoor living space. Move the chairs to a different location, create a new traffic flow with a different placement of your containers or add a pathway to a new statue or urn. Let your creative side go wild. Afterall there is still time to tame your design.
A word of warning: don’t be too anxious to plant your fall flowers. Just because the stores may be carrying Chrysanthemums, doesn’t mean it is the right time to plant them in your yard. Some plants will not do well in the high heat of late summer.
So be patient- it won’t be long and you’ll be able to plant your annual impatiens!
Do you have a favorite tree?
I don’t mean in a general sense, “I like Hibiscus Trees.” No, is there a particular tree you would be lost without?
Growing up, my grandparents had a beautiful Weeping Willow in the front corner of their yard. The branches wept to the ground, and this provided the perfect place for my cousins and me to gather. It was our own private little clubhouse. We were out of view (we thought) of the adults and could spend hours there. The shade from the branches kept us cool in the heat of the summer, and when the wind blew off the lake, the branches would sway and dance. My grandparents had a large yard with many trees and shrubs, but it is this tree I remember the most.
Today, I must admit my favorite tree isn’t all that attractive. It technically isn’t even a tree, but I would be lost without it. This old Wax Myrtle sits outside my office window. The branches are twisted and uneven from damage over the years by the tropical storms. We trimmed it and thinned it out after 2 consecutive Hurricanes (Jean & Frances) and to be honest, we weren’t sure it would survive. But it did. The trunks have thickened over the years and seem strong enough to take on the next storm. We constantly have to trim the sucker growth that threatens to make our tree back into a very large bush, but it’s worth it.
My Wax Myrtle may not be as attractive as the Oak tree in the front yard, but it makes up for it with all the benefits it provides. This tree is home to so many animals, or at least it’s a resting spot. I can look out the window at any time and find a squirrel or two looking back at me. The birds love to rest in the branches, and their songs call my cats to sit on the desk and watch.
There have been a few surprises in this tree as well. The first night that I saw the mother possum hanging upside down looking in at me at 1:00am remains a vivid memory. And more than once, I’ve watched the baby raccoons climb up the twisted trunks to look around our yard. The lizards have their own travel path up and down the trunk, racing quickly along on their missions.
The more practical side of the tree is the blessed shade it provides, blocking the late afternoon sun coming out of the west. And it is a perfect spot for my orchids to hang from. Come November and December, the tree becomes beautiful with the help of the orchids as they open their blooms to show their glory.
So, tell me, what is your favorite tree? Is it part of your past, or a feature in your own yard?