Gar­den­ing 911

RSWLiving - - Department­s - BY ALEX CROS­BIE

In the Sun­shine State, gar­den­ing is a very pop­u­lar hobby. Un­for­tu­nately, for many of us in South­west Florida, plan­ning and main­tain­ing a gar­den is not as sim­ple a task as one would think. Luck­ily, the Col­lier County Ex­ten­sion, af­fil­i­ated with the Univer­sity of Florida, has a Florida Gar­den Cen­ter, also known as the Ex­ten­sion Of­fice Gar­dens. Here res­i­dents can learn how to de­sign a gar­den well suited for the area’s soil and cli­mate.

Hav­ing a healthy gar­den that flour­ishes year-round is all about putting the right plants in the right places. “You should first de­ter­mine what type of gar­den you want,” says Is­abel Way, master gar­dener at the Ex­ten­sion Of­fice Gar­dens. She goes on to list a cou­ple of op­tions such as “a gar­den that pro­vides lots of color or a but­ter­fly gar­den.”

You also need to de­cide on how much time you want to put into main­tain­ing your gar­den. The more time you spend work­ing in your gar­den, the more op­tions you will have in terms of what types of plants to in­cor­po­rate. While there are plenty of beau­ti­ful low main­te­nance plants, higher main­te­nance plants such as the fairy rose, daylily and ber­ge­nia tend to be more aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing and may have longer bloom­ing pe­ri­ods.

How­ever, if low main­te­nance is your goal, then you should choose plants that do well without re­ceiv­ing much at­ten­tion such as hi­bis­cus or firebush.

Earle Wil­son, an en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies stu­dent at Florida Gulf Coast Univer­sity, sug­gests do­ing a site anal­y­sis. He says, “It’s im­por­tant to know what kind of yard you’re deal­ing with.” Gar­den­ers should check to see if their yard has rich or sandy soil. The best way to do this is to take a walk through your yard. If there is any soil ex­posed, take note as to whether it seems dark and damp, mean­ing it’s a rich soil, or light and dry, an in­di­ca­tion that it is sandy. You may have to do some dig­ging, lit­er­ally.

“This will make a dif­fer­ence on what types of plants you should se­lect,” he points out. “A sandy yard for ex­am­ple, will thrive with plants that do well in that type of soil, such as the Florida coon­tie, hi­bis­cus or bougainvil­lea.”

Whether you need some in­spi­ra­tion to get out the shovel and start plant­ing or you just want some good old-fash­ioned gar­den­ing ad­vice, a trip to the Col­lier County Ex­ten­sion’s Florida Gar­den Cen­ter is one of the best places to learn all there is to know about gar­den­ing in South­west Florida.


Alex Cros­bie is a South­west Florida res­i­dent and grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of South Florida where she re­ceived her Bach­e­lor of Arts in Cre­ative Writ­ing.

From top: Hi­bis­cus grows as a large shrub or small tree and can be planted in the spring, sum­mer or fall; the Florida coon­tie is a cy­cad that does well in dry ar­eas and re­quires very lit­tle main­te­nance once es­tab­lished.

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