Creating a Front Garden

Last winter and into spring, I decided to begin creating a front garden space to plant new perennials. When one older lady is doing this work herself, it takes time. I wanted to prepare the bed by killing the grass and weeds and adding some “good” dirt.

I bought the border bricks, which I put around a few other little gardens in the yard, and my son helped me move the bricks. I bought a load of dirt from a local landscape center and put that on top of my saved newspaper.

new garden
Getting the ground ready for a new garden

In New Hampshire this newspaper trick worked pretty well. Paper plus a layer of dirt kills the stuff underneath. I used to do it so it could sit over winter. But Florida growth is a different beast. For one thing it never really stops growing. There is no ice and snow to make it dormant. The newspaper and cardboard did help but some grass and lots of dollar weed came right up through everything.

Also grass here is not the slightest like northern grass. This grass is in vine form and it’s tough stuff. You don’t want to have to dig it up.

front garden area
The weeds are thriving

A strange tall weed began to grow and I let it. I still have no idea what it was. Once it got big, it had a few pretty little yellow flowers. Eventually the whole thing died and I pulled it out. Weeds can be interesting and beautiful.

Yellow flowers on tall weed
This weed had pretty little golden yellow flowers

All in all the work I did to remove the grass worked pretty well, but I still had a lot of stuff to pull up. The dollar weed is under control. The older part of the garden, as you can see below, is full of plants. My hydrangea looks pretty bad, but it’s alive. The blooming New Guinea impatiens are some of my favorites as they last a long time and brighten the yard for months. The red bromeliad was a Christmas gift from a friend.

Front garden with extension
Front garden Spring 2020

The new garden area, in the back on the photo above, contains only two crotons which I began from cuttings, and a spiky agave plant- at least I think that is what it is. I got it from a neighbor and haven’t been able to find a spot to plant it. Finally it’s “roots” were breaking the pot apart, so I stuck it here. But it will be in the way of the sprinkler head, so it might have to go. These things get huge!

Agave plant
New croton plant
The baby crotons are doing okay

My plan for this time of year was to buy some new plants for the front garden. I hadn’t decided for sure what plants, but a trip to Pells Nursery would have helped me decide. Now that everything is closed, thanks to the Coronavirus, and we have to stay home, I can’t very well shop for plants. So… change of plans.

I’m currently planning to plant some vegetable seeds I have saved in this empty garden space.

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.