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!