Tropical Border

When we first moved to Florida we were coming from the harshness of the Colorado climate where we had lived for two years.  I was so excited to get back to the lushness of the South-East and intrigued by the prospect of growing tropical plants in this balmy Florida climate.  Fast forward to my first winter which was unexpectedly cold and was my rather abrupt introduction to the fact that Central Florida often has an identity crisis in terms of its climate.  Is it seasonal like its neighbors to the north or tropical, as experienced by its friends to the south? …….It is both.  It is also anyone’s guess as to which identity it will reveal come winter.  My first winter here ended in dismay as my newly bought tropical plants were cut to the ground over night by heavy freezes.  Since that time I have learned to rely on a mixture of plantings to extend color throughout the year, some tender, some not, and if we get a bad winter I see it now as an opportunity to edit plantings and also as a way to control the rampant growth that some of these more tropical plants are known for.



Although I dot tender plants around the garden, most of them end up in a big border which runs along the edge of my back garden.  It is the first thing I see as I step out of the study onto the back patio and look over the lawn.



It is also the first thing you see as you come around the back from the little courtyard.


A lot of people on Instagram ask me about the walls and the bench.  The ground slopes naturally into the woods behind and so it made sense to have some walls built to level the ground and to provide a planting area.  The walls are just a regular field stone – nothing special but they remind me so much of the Cotswold stone walls I grew up with in England.    Some of them have plant fossils too which are so fascinating …





I love running my hand over these and wondering what they were – a fern maybe or a sea plant?

I am encouraging plants to spill down over these walls.


Blue Daze Evolvulus – one of my favorite plants….


…..and yellow Lantana


….and of course the orange reed stem orchid or Epidendrum is another.  I know I have shown this plant before, but it is hard to ignore.  It is very noticeable!  It started as two fairly small clumps and it has grown to be a magnificent backdrop for the bench.  It is such an easy plant and in fact is much happier if I ignore it completely, although it is one plant that will get a frost blanket in winter whether it likes it or not!  Each little flower is quite insignificant but en masse it is stunning.




A closer look reveals miniature orchid flowers within each spray.


It hardly needs saying that orange predominates in this bed!  Yellow features too and there are varying shades of green from foliage as well has deep purples and reds.  Yellow comes in the form of two big clumps of Canna Lily.




Lovely Thryallis is also in here with its dainty little flowers.  By autumn this will be a big shrub and completely covered in yellow and in the winter it gets cut hard back to keep it in check.



Other yellows come in the form of various daylilies just beginning to open…




and the yellow on the leaves of a thin leaved Croton…




The yellow and orange mix so well with the dark greens and purples of foliage.


Hawaiian Ti plant, Clerodendrum and the spiky leaves of a dwarf Crinum Lily “Sangria”are all mixed in here and require little care apart from a good water now and then if it is not provided from above!




The bench used to be just a weathered grey until one day I decided to paint it!  The color is a Benjamin Moore historical color – Wythe Blue and is that perfect blue/green/grey shade that changes with the light.



Even this little Anole lizard is adding a splash of orange….!


Right at the end of the border before it curves around towards the waterfall and stream is a large planting of Hamelia or Firebush.  This is very cold sensitive for me but will always spring back from its roots to make a large statement again and it is covered in orange tubular flowers much favored by hummingbirds.



….and right on cue the hummingbird shows up…!


As I’m usually shooting on AP mode I didn’t have time to adjust my shutter speed so it’s not always easy to capture that perfect shot of one.

As May comes to a close the temperatures are on the rise here so I will be seeking patches of shade!

-Kate xx

34 thoughts on “Tropical Border

  1. Great shot of the hummingbird! I love all your tropical plants, and the rock wall is the perfect accent to the plants, as well as your bench. How fantastic that you have fossils in your stone! I have always been something of a rock collector, and I love fossils. I once had some nice specimens, until my dear hubby threw them down a ravine when he was cleaning out the basement prior to our move to our current home. He did not realize they were my prized fossils!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Deb! Very kind of you 🙂 Oh goodness I can’t imagine some of my prized specimens ending up at the bottom of a ravine…I think I might have been tempted to send him down there rock hunting!!!


      1. Yes, Kate, I had the same thought about sending my hubby down the ravine. I would have done it, but unfortunately the house had sold by then and the new people moved in immediately after we moved. I did not discover the loss until I was unpacking at the new house. To this day I like to think some lucky child has discovered the fossils while exploring.

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  2. Kate, how lovely your Tropical border is! What good is living in Florida if you can’t grow some of those exotic plants outside? I’m so glad you are able to enjoy those colorful species right in your own backyard! Thanks for showing us this exotic display! -Beth

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  3. Good morning Kate ~ I do live in the more tropical part of FL and have a lot of these same plants that you have. Your tropical bed looks fantastic. You certainly have a green thumb!

    Love your stone wall and the fossils are wonderful.

    Thank you once again for sharing your lovely gardens. They are a joy to visit via the web.


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  4. always a treat to see the bright and vibrant colours in your garden, Kate, which contrast so well with that muted colour on your bench (now famous on instagram!). I also adore those plant fossils which are lovely artwork – what an interesting find! I hope you manage to find a few shady spots to enjoy in your garden as the temperature rises …

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    1. Thank you so much Ann! I was so nervous about painting that bench too 😉 Shade is a lovely thing in my garden and by late morning I am always searching out those spots!


    1. Thank you so much Heather! It was the funniest thing because I often see them but I never have my camera. That day however I just spun around and there it was!

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  5. Your garden is sooo beautiful! I love the big palm trees– I seriously have never seen one in real life LOL! I love the tropical feel of the garden. That is really cool that there is an actual plant fossil in your stone wall! Those orchids are beautiful– I wish plants like that could survive our weather LOL. I didn’t realize you lived in Colorado before– that was always a place I would consider moving to because I love the mountains!

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    1. Aww! Thank you so much – you are always so kind. Yes we have lived in different states since moving here..(many years ago!) North Carolina was my favorite and Colorado was a bit of a challenge for me because it was SO cold and it could be 75 degrees one day and then snow the next. It was beautiful in summer though! I know you love winter sports so I can see why you would consider moving there – the hiking is amazing too! Two years of shoveling snow in May and I was done!! Haha!

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  6. Hi Kate, your border is just beautiful and how great that it’s the first thing you see when you step outdoors. The orange orchid gives such a cheery look to the whole border without taking away from your other beauties. It looks like a great spot to sit a spell and enjoy what you’ve created. _Janice

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  7. I do love the hot, bright colours of your tropical border and the way you have included a little bit of cool blue and mauve here and there as contrast. The Anole and Humming Bird add to the atmosphere so beautifully! The fossils in the stones you’ve used for the walls are so delicate! I would be really excited to have those in my garden. So nice to see your beautiful garden again.

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    1. Thank you so much Clare! I do enjoy the different wildlife we have here and I was very excited to see those fossils when they were doing the stonework. I am not a fossil expert so I wish I knew what they were. I always appreciate your lovely comments.

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  8. Chère Kate, Je suis absolument désolée de ne pas avoir eu le temps de poster plus tôt un commentaire à la suite de ce si bel et intéressant article ! Je suis impardonable car c’est un tel bonheur de découvrir tous les aspects de ton jardin, les floraisons, les couleurs et … leurs hôtes exotiques (je suis époustouflée par ce si beau lézard et par le colibri !).
    Tu as un réel talent de coloriste et j’admire les associations de jaunes et d’oranges si toniques, joyeuses et réussies !
    Je suis fascinée par les empreintes de végétaux fossilisées ! Quel beau détail qui prend tout son sens dans un jardin ! Et ce que je trouve à la fois drôle et émouvant, c’est que ces “fleurs” vieilles de plusieurs milliers d’années “renaissent” dans ton jardin. Elles ne pouvaient trouver meilleur endroit !
    Magnifique article et photos !!!
    Merci chère Kate pour cette promenade et ces instants de bonheur !
    Virginie XX

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so sweet Virginie! I always love reading your lovely and very kind comments. You never need to apologize about leaving comments – life gets so incredibly busy and it is hard to stay on top of things – I am just delighted that you visit and that you enjoyed a little piece of my garden. Hope all is well with you, that work is not too annoying and that you will have some time to enjoy summer chez vous! xx


  9. Hi Kate! I got your message on my blog. Grr…just wishing something would work properly! Everything goes along great for a while. until it doesn’t (ha-ha). _Janice

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janice! Hope you get this reply!! I am so sorry to hear that you have been having issues – I’m still trying to get my photos uploaded again after my crash so I really sympathize as it just takes so much time. Just so you know – I tried to leave a comment through my wordpress id but I don’t think blogspot likes WP so it just spammed it I think. I then tried just through a url but it wouldn’t go through either. I was able to leave a comment through anonymous but that took a few attempts before it gave me a box to click to prove I wasn’t a robot. If for some reason it appears that I haven’t commented on a post of yours please believe me that I have read and have certainly enjoyed it. I hate to think that people might think I was ignoring them and it seems that leaving comments is the one thing that people have trouble with regarding blogs. Hope you can get it all resolved!
      – Kate xxx


  10. Too bad I missed your lovely post for so long! It seems ages since it was May 😉 given the changes of weather since then. I will bear in mind your experiences with tropicals and the occasional freeze! My Hamelia is planted just against the house wall, which I expected to shelter it from the kind of temperatures we had last winter; but it did suffer quite a bit of dieback — from which, I’m happy to say, it has recovered well. Your shot with the hummingbird is wonderful; I find them sooo hard to photograph, given their tendency to hide among the leaves and flowers 🙂 Ours seem noticeably camera shy! Your bed sloping up into woodlands is beautiful, and I’ve always loved fieldstone – and with fossil plants, too…! Seems perfect in a garden!

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    1. Hi Amy! Thank you so much! My hamelia is very tender too. Our winters have been mild the last two but any hint of frost and it will die right back. Thank you also for your lovely compliment on the hummingbird photo. I have tried a few times setting the camera up on the tripod to do a series of shots but the hummers don’t show up and I am left standing on the lawn wilting in the humidity!! oh well!


  11. Hello! So excited to see the epidendrum; they are so beautiful. I have several in containers because I don’t know how to plant them properly. I am in St. Augustine,FL and we do get freezes occasionally. Full sun? Soil requirements? Please share some advice. Would truly appreciate it.

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    1. Hello Jean! Thank you so much for stopping by. I’m glad you like the Epidendrum too. It has been a wonderful easy care plant for me here. I have mine in full sun and they are in amended Florida soil – i.e sand (!) with added compost. I think the trick is with them to give good drainage. As you can see mine are in a raised bed and tumble down over a wall so they stay on the drier side. I just fertilize this bed twice a year with a general organic fertilizer and give them no other attention other than that. I have actually found that the less I fuss with them the better. As to colder weather I think they would definitely burn or die back if we perhaps got into the 20’s. Mine have survived a very light frost but anything colder I have covered them up with a big frost sheet. Hope this helps and you are successful with yours. xx


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