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.
IF LOW MAINTENANCE IS YOUR GOAL, THEN YOU SHOULD CHOOSE PLANTS THAT DO WELL WITHOUT RECEIVING MUCH ATTENTION SUCH AS HIBISCUS OR FIREBUSH.
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.