I doubt that I’m the only person who has moved to Florida from ‘up north’, who immediately wanted to celebrate this new tropical life we were going to live by planting tropical plants. Except the clerk at the local nursery broke my bubble when he told me that this isn’t a ‘tropical climate.’ How can it not be tropical, it’s Florida?
He told me this because I told him I wanted to take out the past-their-prime evergreen shrubs that came with this house. The ones you didn’t have to do a single thing to and they just sat there and stayed green. Well, not healthy and thriving, but mostly green. No, I took them out and planted a couple of lovely bougainvillea topiaries, braided trunks with a topknot of beautiful purple flowers. That it had with killer thorns wasn’t readily apparent. A cold winter destroyed them down to the soil, and they came back as a shrub, with it’s thorns prominently displayed. And they aren’t as pretty as they should be since they are under the overhang of the roof and don’t get enough rain, or sunshine. Not the right plant or the right location. But they do produce flowers, and long fronds that you take your life in your hands when you try to tame them. I was at the vet with the cat one day and the vet asked, with a degree of horror, if the cat had caused the scratches I had up my forearms. For the first and only time I was happy to say that I was attacked by the bougainvillea.
Next I selected a charming purple flower called Mexican petunia, and planted it as soon as I got it home. Then I looked it up on the internet and discovered that it’s on Florida’s Most Invasive Species list. I don’t have a green thumb, but I am a ‘green’ gardener, with no experience to ever think of a plant as invasive. So confining that plant to the area I intended to have it has proven to be a challenge. But you can’t kill it, I can attest to that. And it’s very pretty, and still readily available at Lowe’s and Home Depot even though it’s invasive.
I was thinking about hummingbirds when I made my next gardening faux pas. I read that they prefer red, tubular, flowers, and I read the list of suggested flowers but hadn’t bought any yet. Then I saw a neighbor trimming up a shrub that was loaded with lots of red flowers and stopped to talk with her. She had taken some of them from an adjacent empty lot, she said, and they had done very well. But they spread, so she was digging up the ‘pups,’ and she said I was welcome to take some. Never once did I imagine myself digging up pups of my own, but trust me I have. And have I ever seen a hummingbird? Nope, not a one.
Then there is the dwarf crepe myrtle that I planted in the wrong place. Just ask the patio guys who had to unload the pavers out front and bring them around back by wheelbarrow.
So what can you learn from my experience? The short answer to that is to never do what I do. With the constant rain we’ve had this summer everything has grown and the yard looks like the jungle is taking over, so I have hired someone to see if he can tame it. The problem is that the rain hasn’t stopped long enough for him to come over and check the yard to give me a price, and so it grows and grows. The last time I had to hire someone to tame the yard they asked when the next time my ‘lawn guy’ was coming. I told them, “I’m my lawn guy”. I’m not sure but I think they rolled their eyes.