Caladiums and Impatiens Flower Garden Under the Trees

When I bought my house nearly 2 years ago, there was a little flower garden under the trees out front.  I neglected it and it became overgrown very quickly.  I’m not inclined to work outside in the heat, but the other day I decided a quick fix was in order.  The garden is small, so the work would be minimal.  We had brick pavers leftover from the building of the patio, so I used them to create a new border to hold the additional dirt needed.

I’m not yet very good with my Florida plant names, but the ones with the colorful, pointed leaves are Caladium.  The link to Eden Brothers calls them “bulbs”.  Mine came out of a pot so didn’t look like bulbs to me.

The white leaves are called “Florida Moonlight”.  I don’t know the name of the pink-leafed one, but they add lots of interest in the yard.  They love heat and humidity, which explains why they do so well here.

 

Flower garden under the trees
Flower garden under the trees

Also in the background around the tree are the thin leaves of the Variegated Flax Lily.  I spent a lot of time removing lots of dead leaves from them.  Even without attention they continued to grow, so I would say they are very hardy plants.  Now that I have given them some attention, the lily is blooming.  Each plant has tiny white flowers on stalks among the leaves.

little white flowers
Little stalks of white flowers on the Varigated Lily

When I first moved in here I bought a bunch of New Guinea Impatiens and put them in the garden by the front door.   The brightly colored flowers add continuous color to the landscape.  It turned out those annuals lasted nearly a year. The very cold nights in January finally froze most of them. Because they did so well, I bought a few more to put under the tree.

New Guinea Impatien
New Guinea Impatien and Caladium leaves

University of Florida plants list for the shade.

The purple flowering plant which is now under the tree is still in the short fabric pot. It is a Mona Lavender Plectranthus. I bought it because it was pretty, and I especially love the deep green of the leaves.

Now that I am researching this plant, I have discovered it needs some shade and is a perennial in warm climates. It seems that I have chosen a good spot for it to grow under the tree.  I moved the fabric pot and did not dig up this plant.  The potted Mona Lavender is now part of the shade garden and no one can tell it’s in a pot!

short grow bag
Plectranthus, Mona Lavender

Because planting around the base of a tree can be difficult because of roots, fabric gardening pots can be super helpful.

shade garden
The purple flowering plant is in a fabric pot.

All my new plants were purchased at the Home Depot. I also bought more organic garden dirt, and added blood meal and black mulch.

In my part of central Florida, plants can be killed in winter.  When freezing temperatures are coming overnight I will have to cover all these plants to keep them from dying.

Plant Shrubs in Winter, Readying the Garden Beds

weed fabric
The black fabric beneath the mulch has to go!

Today I did something that I have waited a long time to do.  I began work on my flower garden beds.  I am finally in my new home!   The big move began way back in January, and has taken the whole year.    There is still more to move from storage, and all the boxes need to be unpacked, but having a chance to work in MY yard again is a wonderful feeling.

We have merged two households, and I went from a three story house (including the basement) to a single story, no basement and small attic. So finding space for everyone’s stuff is challenging. There is a GoodWill nearby which I will be visiting often in the months to come.

Last night we bought garden dirt – 4 bags – and this morning I added it to two gardens. These are gardens which already have plants in them and I plan to add flowering shrubs to brighten the landscape.  The raised vegetable gardens are coming soon (fingers crossed).

All three planting beds have black fabric in the bottom, which I hate, and have removed from two beds. I don’t mind pulling weeds, and if a garden is done correctly, the weeds shouldn’t be a huge problem. So first thing I did was pull up the plastic fabric that is used for weed control.

garden bed prep
Front Garden

The garden bed near the front door has one overgrown shrub – which I am pretty sure I used to know the name of – and it needs to be cut way back. If it wasn’t already so large, I would probably take it out completely.  The bushy perennial blocks the breeze from entering my front windows, not to mention it mostly blocks the view out the front!

Since I am still busy with the house, my focus will be on the gardens already in place. Amending the soil and adding nutrients was my focus this morning. I pulled the old mulch out of the way to put the bagged dirt down, then mixed in some blood meal.

azalea shrub
This Azalea needs some help.

I did the same thing to the little area containing a raggedy looking azalea bush. I may cut this thing back and see if it will fill in more.
My plan is to fill in these gardens as I find plants for them. I can’t dig through the black fabric, so it had to go. Since this yard is new to me, I have to watch it for sunny and shady spots and buy plants accordingly. The azalea needs light shade and usually does well under the trees. It also likes acidic soil, which also happens to create blue flowering hydrangeas! I may be able to add some blue-flowering hydrangeas to this garden area, which is an exciting prospect.
While reading my gardening book, I discovered this about Florida planting: *Plant SHRUBS in winter AND *Plant TREES and PALMS in summer. Now (almost November) is the time to begin planning my perennial gardens. After that, it’s on to building the raised vegetable garden beds.

My Perennial Shade Garden

Pictures of my shade garden perennials.

mouse ear hosta
Mouse Ear Hosta

My front yard has an upward sloping hill with tall hardwood trees. Once the leaves pop out in May most of my front yard is in constant shade. I love trees, and they are beautiful, but planting and growing anything beneath them is difficult.

I prefer to invest in perennials, since I am on a tight budget. Impatiens are the only annual I plant and they like the shade. Usually I can find cheap, multiple impatiens seedlings in tiny containers. It takes time to get them all planted, but once they are in the ground they grow nicely. My recent favorite is the variety with red and white striped flowers.

It took me one full summer to clear out beneath the trees. The following year I added astilbe, hosta, and bleeding heart perennials. Digging the ground where there are many tree roots is tough. I added some new loam at the base of the hill which helped with planting.

Honestly, the astilbe is my least favorite. It’s spindly and small, but I’ll see how it does this year. I don’t know much about it, but it’s not full and pretty like in the pictures I’ve seen. My guess is that the dirt is not suitable.

The Hosta plants always come back and fill out a bit more each summer.  I’m happy to find that they are all growing.  This past winter was a very bad one, and a few of my perennials seem to have died.  I had a big Pampas Grass plant that is totally gone.  Glad I got this picture last summer.

pampas grass
Pampas Grass Bloom

My favorite shade garden perennial is probably the bleeding heart. It seems so fragile. The bright green stems are soft and break easily. The little heart-shaped flowers dangle from thin branches and seem so delicate. Yet it survives the winter and is always one of the first plants to push up in spring.

Usually my lenton rose plants bloom first, but this year one of them took a long time to grow.  Like I mentioned, the winter was especially hard.

Mother’s Day Gift: Fuchsia Hanging Basket

Pink and white fuchsia hanging plant
My New Fuchsia Plant

Even though I bought this fuchsia plant myself, my kids are going to chip in and pay for it as a belated Mother’s Day gift.  As each holiday comes around my kids ask what I want and I can’t ever say I want anything.  “Take me out to eat” is what I usually say.  Not cooking is the best gift I can think of.

But I recently splurged on this new hanging basket.  I saw it on my gardening expedition to Wilton where the nursery had tons of them to choose from. Some had purple and pink flowers (love those too) and one type had long, white pointy flowers – very different. But I chose this huge, pink and white one.

The only problem is that it’s too cold outside to hang it so it’s inside on a little table. It will have a permanent home out front under the beech trees once we get some warm weather. May began with warmth, but suddenly we’ve had two nights of 30 degrees. In New England we can’t plan on warm weather until about June.

I also bought some small petunia and vinca plants to make my own hanging baskets, which I’ll be doing soon.