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Almost a year later...

Well, last March I planted my first Citrus tree and a late frost killed it. I replaced it with three more citrus trees (which I have been told is a totally normal thing to do) and soon followed it up with three Pygmy Date palms, thus started my interest in gardening/landscaping. Over this past year, I have asked many, many, many questions and have followed them up with even more questions. I have had the pleasure of viewing many of ya'lls gardens and picking ya'lls brains for insights while sometimes giving my own. I have, in various posts, given brief glimpses of plants in my yard, usually with a question following, but I have never really shown what the yard looks like in its entirety. Part of the reason for this is that I did not, and still do not, think of my yard as being show worthy. It has a lot of work left to be done to it and a lot of growth needed to fill it in. But in celebration of my Anniversary (it was about this time last year when I posted a similar 'tour' on my Facebook page for my family up north), I decided I would share with you folks who have been generous with your knowledge.

(Disclaimer: I thought about cleaning up the garden a bit, removing empty pots and such, but as I stepped outside into that baking sun, I figured, "I'll just let them see the 'real me'.")

First is the 'front yard'. Living in a mobile home park, my front yard is little more than a square of grass. You couldn't really call it a 'lawn', even if it was all grass, it's just too small. Even still, this is the area that 1) Everyone sees when they drive by and 2) The area I least like to spend my time in. My end goal for this area is a large 'bed' that needs little to no attention. No extra watering, no fertilizing, etc, with one exception: The rose bed. I've said it before and I'll probably say it time and again in the future: I am not a roses kind of guy. This was a house warming gift and to honor it, I have taken care of it as best as I can, within reason. I also decided to give it the 'Place of Honor' by having it front and center of my front yard. Working with this plant, I have learned the appeal that it can have on some people. I think, of all the plants I have worked with, Roses are the ones that give back what you give the most. In other words, the more work and attention you give roses, the better they look. That said, I really don't like spending so much time on one plant.

In the back, against the wall, there used to be two wooden boxes that were overflowing with trailing lantanas. But the sizes of the lantanas and the fact that the boxes were starting to rot forced me to change plans there. So I have been slowly changing this into more of an herb garden area. I know in my head how this will end up looking, but for right now, this project is actually on a back burner. I really need to paper and mulch this area, but I'm trying to find the best mulch to use up against the house... wood invites termites, rocks can stress plants (and invite termites) and I can't stand rubber.

Next is my daughter's Butterfly Garden. Sadly, this is probably the most complete bed I have, which is largely due to the fact that I was building it for her, not me. If it were 'my' bed, it would probably be only halfway complete. It started off with a nine Pentas plants (3 of each color, red, white, purple), a dwarf firebush and a coral honeysuckle vine (which is still small and hiding behind the firebush here... which in turn is hiding behind...). I then added seedlings of various wildflowers and... if this were a horse race the Tropical Salvias were out of the gate and halfway around the track before the other wildflowers knew the gate was open. The milkweed (which was recently pruned back) was good enough to find its sunlight and crawl its way over the salvia and be seen. But the others have been hiding down below all that foliage. I have learned my lesson for next year: Only 3-4 Salvias in a clump and call it good. As I have been slowly pruning back the salvia and even transplanting some (no really), other wildflowers have just started coming up. The Standing Cypress is getting larger and a yellow flower (a coreopsis or black-eyed susan I think) has gone to bloom. Sadly, I have not really seen any butterflies at her garden. There have been tons of bees and wasps pollinating the flowers, but no butterflies. Last night, while looking over this garden, I noticed that the Fennel has become a veritable Ladybug magnet. They are all over it hunting down aphids.

A brief shot of the north side of my house. Not much to see here. Just a few cold-hardy shrubs (Sweet Viburnums and Schillings Hollies) to 'anchor' future bed plans. Being that my house almost perfectly faces North, I get the fun challenge of finding plants that can survive the sun and heat of summer and the cold and shade of winter. I'm hoping that the Viburnums will provide me the 'roof' I need in a year or two to start a full-on shade garden on this side.

The 'back' steps on the north side of the house. I figured by putting elephant ears and sunflowers in this corner (the east side) I could have a place to use for hardening seedlings off to the sun. This is the tray of 9 Beautyberry plants that I was hardening off for the Inverness party. They got nailed by hard rains during TS Andrea and while they are still alive, they're not looking their best. I'm teeter-tottering on bringing them or not.

The northwest corner of my house. Last year about this time, this area was lush with pentas, elephant ears and gladioli. Since then, the elephant ears were hinting just how problematic they would be with so much room to grow, the gladioli turned out to be completely boring (for me) and the pentas got repeatedly killed by frosts until they finally gave up during that last frost in March. The only things to survive in this corner were the Mandarin, the one lonely gopher apple and some Purple Fountain Grass. This bed did extend into that bare patch under the bird feeders, but I was informed by the park owner that my 'property line' actually ended about 5 ft from my wall. The lot next to me is empty, but I figured I would reign in my bed 'just in case'. I started putting in the wooden posts as hose guides to keep my hose from dragging through the beds, but since then I have had the idea of replacing them with larger posts and giving the entire area a... not really nautical, but beach theme. The 'wooden bridge' is where my power line runs, so I won't be digging into that anytime soon!

A closer look at the same bed. This was my first mulched bed and I quickly learned I did not like the pine bark look, but "waste not, want not". In the back I have some 'blue' firespike plants that I picked up at a local Master Gardener sale. The two larger plants are the mother plants and the others are cuttings. I'm waiting for fall to come along so I can see just how 'blue' these turn out to be. In front of those is a Pawpaw plant. It's a rather nondescript twig of a plant, but the flowers were quite interesting before the frost killed them off and it is supposed to be the sole host plant of the Zebra Swallowtail, so I figured it was worth having a few. I have been sorely tempted to just fill out this bed with a bunch of annuals, but after the frost killed off so many plants, I am forcing myself to take it slow and make sure that what gets planted here will survive.

Still on the west side of my house. This side, the 'back' yard, is by far my favorite place to be. It is also where I tend to do most of my work, so please excuse the mess. Shortly after thinking I would go with a beach theme back here, I took some play sand that was taking up space and spread it around the bird bath. The bonus has been three fold: 1) The glaring white provides quite a bit of contrast to the rest of the area, 2) the kids and I can visit each morning and check which animal tracks have appeared in the sand, 3) the overflow keeps the sand moist in one area, which the insects like to use for drinking. I don't know who started the whole "moving water attracts birds" thing, but ever since I put in the pump, the birds have all but ignored this bath. Okay, not exactly true, tracks in the sand say otherwise, but it doesn't seem to be nearly as popular as it was before the pump. On the other side of the coin though, there have been NO mosquito larvae. The rum bottle fountain was a partial failure. It works, but water flow is very small. I either need to get a stronger pump or a larger glass drill bit.

My potting/nursery area. This is where cuttings tend come after being hardened off to the sun. Each of the plants along the trellis wall are in sunken pots, so they can be placed and removed as they get stronger and not be subjected to over-heated pots while they form roots.

Being that the west side is my favorite place, this is where I often sit and enjoy it. Not much is going on here. There are some Florida Privets behind the chairs that may some day provide some shade to this corner, but for now... Some day I need to mulch under my chairs so I don't have to keep mowing under them. Anyone want two Slash Pines? They've been waiting patiently for a home, but I just don't have the room for them.

The southwest corner of my yard. This bed was kind of a spur of the moment thing. As I mentioned at the beginning, I had purchased three Pygmy Dates... and then I planted them on the north side of my house. Exactly where they would not have been happy. So I moved them over to this area to hopefully make them happier through the winter and the bed just kind of filled in around them... and they still ended up getting nailed hard by the frosts. I lost one completely, one lost almost all its foliage but is coming back and a third, the one most exposed to the west winds, survived intact (and now resides in the pot next to the chairs in the above picture). Being that I am on a 'Exceptionally Draining' sandy hill, the chances of me having a wet area of my yard are slim, but if there is a moist area, this would be it, so this is where I am putting plants that need the most water. Most of the plants in this bed are young and on the small side. In theory, once they have grown a bit, this should fill in nicely. In theory.

My Passionvine (and grape) trellis. Last year, these where on the smaller trellis next to my potting area above. This year they are given more room to play. Also, last year my P. caerula (right) was a spindly little thing while the P. incarnata (middle) was dominating the trellis. This year the P. caerula is putting up a fight for trellis real estate. Yesterday I had a sensation of giddiness wash over me as the first Gulf Fritillary showed up, made a butterfly-line for the vines and started laying eggs. She then stuck around and sampled the Lantana depressa below the vines as well as a few other nectar plants and returned to the vines to lay more eggs. I have no clue what kind of grape vine is growing up the left side of the shed. Last year it barely put out any growth, but it seems to be doing better this year, however, from what I've read, it's going to be some years before it's big enough to bear fruit and by then, we may have moved on (hopefully).

Another angle on the SW corner bed and Passi trellis. I was hoping my blueberry bushes (Thanks Bamboo... jerk) would show up better in this shot, but I guess not.

My southern bed. It is a mixture of herbs and wildflowers as well as my wife's Crape Myrtle. Similarly to the SW corner bed, this started off as a place to hide cold sensitive plants from the winter winds and just kind of grew. As you can see (maybe), my parsley decided to go to flower and seed this spring and I was surprised to see how much it changed when it did this. It went from a small mound of round leaves to these massive stalks of thin leaves and hundreds of little yellow flowers. The bees have been loving this plant.

Lastly, this is where I've been making my first attempts at container gardening. The tomatoes were some great little producers, but ever since Andrea they have been in steady decline and I had to remove a lot of diseased growth yesterday. Not really visible in this image is a zucchini plant up under the key lime in back. It had a pretty big zucchini on it until I noticed yesterday that one end had started rotting out. I have a feeling having it against the house and near the rain barrel, this area might be too humid for it.

So there you go. A quick tour of the newb's garden. It bears noting that half, if not more, of the plants in these beds were started from seed or cuttings. I know things look sparse now, I know that there is a LOT of work left to do, but I keep looking at that 'end game' down the line and I keep feeling more and more optimistic as things take shape. And almost all of it is due to you folks and the help, information and/or insight you have given. Thank you.

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