If you haven’t already guessed by scrolling through my Instagram feed, I am a crazy plant lady. Outdoors I have planted hydrangeas (that are not looking too good) and roses. Indoors I have not one or two but four (4) fiddle leaf figs.
Naturally I’ve been itching for Spring to arrive so that I can get outdoors and make my yard look beautiful. But don’t be fooled. I am not the outdoorsy type. The heat and humidity and I do not get along, much less the vicious”noseeums” and mosquitos. I do this simply because I love looking a gorgeous gardens and I hope to have my very own rose and hydrangea arrangements this summer.
If you’re wondering what noseeums are, be glad you don’t know. These vicious small flies, at times microscopic, viciously tear your skin when they bite. I don’t know why they do it, but they’re like miniature zombies.
After one full season of living in Jacksonville, and a year of landscaping adventures under my belt, I’ve learned a few things. One, things grow better when they’re fed and pruned. I almost threw out this azalea bush because it didn’t bloom last year. It grew buds, but none of them opened and they just dried up as the leaves grew in.
I did a little bit of research and learned that azaleas love acidic soil. (P.S. Save yourself the trouble and do not bother with these types of soil pH meters. They don’t work, not even when I dunked it in vinegar! I might try this soil kit later this year or bring soil samples to the city for analysis.) So I added this organic acidic fertilizer in the fall. Miraculously the once twiggy and bare bush filled out with leaves. Another thing I learned: cement in sidewalks, driveaways and the foundation of your home leaches lime, which raises the pH of your soil (making it basic). That’s the total opposite of what azaleas, evergreens and hollies need. So I also purchased organic soil acidifier to lower the pH of the soil in my flowerbeds. I can’t tell you the wonders it did for my azaleas, holly and junipers.
This adorable little boy punks me out numerous times per day. Where I think he’s needing to go out to relieve himself, he’s just really wanting to go out and chase lizards in the yard. Sneaky sneaky.
In a total leap of faith, I ordered and planted 100 Sir Winston Churchill narcissus bulbs last fall from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. I did a lot of research on what spring bulbs grew this far South, but these were mentioned among other daffodils that do well here. I feared the worst, that they didn’t get enough cold during an unusually mild winter for Florida. But, lo and behold, some of them were popping through the mulch. Only a handful have peeked through with 6 inches of leaf growth. Most of them are just now peeking through so hopefully I’ll have a gorgeous display of spring flowers soon!
My little saucer magnolia budding up for a show.
Explosion of azalea blooms.
My podocarpus hedge. Once it grows in it will provide a nice backdrop to my “secret garden” of English roses.
Another thing I learned: trees need to be fertilized, too. These scrub oaks at the edge of our property rarely received any water from our sprinklers last year, but this year we’re using more of our irrigation zones to hopefully grow more grass in the backyard. On a whim, because the tree on the right has always looked like it was one day away from becoming firewood, I bought and applied Bayer Tree and Shrub Protect and Feed fertilizer and insect control. I got the smaller size just to see how it worked, and it was only enough for one tree so I picked the sicker of the two trees. Can you believe the difference in one month? The treated tree on the right was in worse shape than the untreated tree on the left. I bought another bottle and fed the untreated tree, using what was left over for the Italian cypresses Chip likes. I plan on buying another one for the shrubs in the flower beds. This feeds and treats them for insects for 12 months, so I think it’s a really good deal! Since this worked so well, I plan on using their insect, disease and mite control formula after the summer on my crepe myrtles, which suffered from white flies and mildew last September.
Ah, last but not least is my Zephirine Drouhin rose. I ordered it as a bare root rose, my first time ever tending to roses, from Wayside Gardens. I planted the rose “sticks” and bare roots (really that’s what they are) and within a week, the little leaf buds grew and multiplied. Less than a month later, I have blooms. Crazy! Not pictured is a bare root Rose Eden, or as it’s formally known in Europe, Pierre de Ronsard with its own trellis. I also planted the David Austen Alnwick Rose on the northern exposure of my house. While it has leafed out, there are no buds and some of the leaves look a little yellow. I really hope it will survive the mostly shady area because you can’t transplant a rose unless it’s dormant, so they say.