"Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. " ~Lindley Karstens

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The garden evolvement begins

This should have been my first posting, but with so many to include and so little time, I have been put it in the draft on and off for more than two weeks now.  The recent archtic blast just prompted me to write the two initial quick postings for the taste of blogging.  Anyway, I will use this posting to introduce my garden to you all, and record it as a baseline for the furture.

I am still a newbie as a gardener. Before I moved to my current house, I only tried to grow some flowers and vegetables in containers in my small back yard of my previous house. Not much experience gained from there.

I moved to the current house last summer.  While the front yard did have a nice established landscape area filled with tropical plants, the majority of my back yard is taken by a swimming pool and the paved ground. The grass around the swimming pool and paved area is the only space left for me to do the gardening.

The house is somewhat north and south direction, but with the back yard tilted to southwest, and the front yard more towards northeast.  Here are the "before" and "after" pictures showing my progress within this half year.

Without knowing I will create a blog my own someday, I found I don't have pictures to show the "before". I have to borrow some pictures when the house was on the market, so don't mind those patio furnitures since they are previous owner's :)  For the same reason, the "before" picture quality is not the best, but it is better than nothing.

Front Yard Before and After

Front Yard East Side Before

 Front Yard East Side After

I already included this "after" picture in my previous posting.  I put it here again just for the easy reference.

Since the east side of the front yard is the only area that already had mature landscaping when I first moved in, I did not make much change here.  The only thing I changed was replacing the angle wing begonia (white flowered bushes in the front of the "before" picture) with a sago plam.  The flower was very pretty, but all the foliages were covered with black/brown spots, which made the whole plant looked ugly.  My theory back then was that this plant was not in the right location.  So I simply just ripped it out (OUCH) and put the sago palm in.  Not until much later, I realized that I made my first (won't be the last one) stupid garden mistake!  If I knew better then, instead of killing it, I should have taken more cuttings, and potted them up in a more shaded area, so that they could live happily everafter.  Well, the life is not always the fairy tale, and I just have to learn from the lessons.  I DO miss those pretty white flowers!

Front Yard West Side Before

This part only had the original builder's bush with a small oak tree in the middle

Front Yard West Side After
Six pink pentas are put in the front.  I love they add the consistent color into this bed.  The center of the front is a mounding buttercup (Turnera ulmifolia), which have been blooming the yellow flowers for me for months.  Recently most of branches just died.  Fortunately, I see lots of free-sow seedings emerge around the mother plant.  So, very soon I will have lots of free plants to use around in my garden. 

Around the curved border, I put nine varigated liriope plants.  This inspiration comes from  Meems at Hoe and Shovel.  She uses this plant as the border all over her garden.  Two African Iris (fortnight lily) are planted at the each side of the oak tree.  I don't know when they will bloom for me. It was said that the flowers are 3 inch across, and are milky white with yellow markings on the three larger tepals.  I can not wait to see them in person!  Behind the fortnight lily, there are two Brazilian Red Hots, which are now hardly seen in the picture with only bare sticks.  The once beautiful foliages (pink red veriegated) were damaged during the recent freeze.

 Back Yard Before and After

Back Yard East Side Before

The above two pictures show the east side of the back yard.  The first one is the area closer to the patio, and the second is the area closer to the lake side. The whole east side only had three palm trees (I think they are queen palm trees) and hedge bushes to provide some privacy.  Between the patio and the bushes, there are about 4 feet wide of grass stripe ( my older son was nice enough to measure for me just for this posting).

Back Yard East Side After

Two things we did to this side of the yard. 
1) Removed one hedge bush at the lake end so we can have nicer lake view from the house. Then we removed the grass at that corner and created a small flower bed.  This is the flower bed looked like when it was just created.  The plants I put there were:  Allamanda, Bulbine, Pink Vinca, Agave, Agapanthus (behind the Allamanda).

Since then, I lost the Agapanthus probably because of the intensive sun in the summer, and/or the heavy rain we got for the period of last summer.  I think I will try to raise this flower bed a little higher since it is at the lower end of the slope of the garden.  I would love to show you a picture of today, but with the frost bites everywhere, I will spare you the ugliness.  Hope very soon, I can take another snapshot of this flower bed.

2) At the end that is close to the patio, I opened a small vegetible garden.  This probably is the only corner I can find in my yard that is somehow obscured but still gets some sun.  Not the ideal location for the vegetible, but you know I have to experiment it... You can see there are not much going on there now except two different kinds of lettuce begging for thinning, and some Chinese Celery roots I saved from the store-buy, hoping it will produce more fresh vegetibles for me :) , some chives and one flowering Thai Basil.  I have to admit I really did not put much efforts on this bed because I don't see vegetibles are extremely happy here.  Maybe I should quit, and just replace with right flower plants??

Backyard south and west side before

This picture shows the south (along the lake) and the east side of the back yard.  The east side had nothing except 8 feet wide grass stripe.  Neighbor has planted hedge bushes and coconut trees on their side of the fence.  The south side also only has 2 feet wide of grass stripe, and a small palm tree with three trunks (again, I don't know the name) at the corner.

Backyard south and west side after

The first flower bed I have ever opened in my garden is located at the south side, around that three-trunk palm tree.
The initial plants put there were: Pink Vinca, One Red Fountain Grass, two Mounding Lantanas, two Blue PorterWeeds, one Agapathus, some bulbines to fill the blank and sedum as the ground cover in the front.  Since then, I have made some adjustments.  Unfortunately, I did not take the picture when they were in their glorious peak, so I will settle on this one for now.

Later when I tried to find a sunniest spot for my "had to have" roses, I opened another small flower bed on the left (east) side of the above flower bed.  Here is how they look like together as of today.  Except the roses are still flowering, the pentas in front of Roses bush (for covering the bare stems of the roses), the diamond frost,  and the chartreuse colored potato vines were all damaged by the recent freeze.

The rest of the south side still remains as grass for me to explore later. I did put a garden statue there to add some interest. These two cute frogs are holding a pot with lavendar Vinca in the middle and sedum as the trailing plant on the side. This was a gift from one of my friends, who got the hint that I love anything related to the garden before coming to my house-warming party. LOL! It surely added the instant spark to my garden. I loved it since then! My plan is changing the flowers according to the season.
Also, on the paved patio area of the south side, I put three containers there so that that part of the yard does not look too empty. Oh, by the way, I love the container gardening as well.  I learned from the internet that basic "Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers" design for an interesting container combination. I think I will write a separate blog about the container gardening when I accumulate enough of combinations.

Now it comes to the biggest garden project we have taken on so far.   The flower bed we opened covers the whole length of the grass stripe at the west side, and with curved brick border.  The reason that we chose the brick border instead of black rubber border I used on other beds is that this side has the lowest level of the yard.  It easily gets flooded with even moderate rain.  I need a wall tall enough to raise the level of this flower bed. 

Here is how it looks like today viewed from the lake side.  This is the result we achieved after my husband and I visited Home Depot dozens of times, hauling 100 bags of compost and top soils and 80 pieces of bricks!  Ha, it sounds lots of achievement by saying all those numbers now!  With my engineering background, I found myself so used to using numbers to describe things.  So if it bores you readers, bear with me please.

Here is the view from the house side.
The following shows the breakdown of the different sections of this flower bed from the house side of the corder towards to the lake side.

This flower bed gets the most of the morning and the early afternoon sun.  In the summer, it might get longer hour of the sun than in the winter.  Also, the lake side gets more sun than the house side.  The neighbor's bushes and coconut trees along the fence also provide a little shade during the afternoon.  So when I chose the plants, I consider all those factors, and try to  include some full-sun to partial-sun, and some partial-sun to partial-shade plants.  They come from different sources, store-bought, cuttings, friends' back yard ... 

Here is a running list of the plants that I have put in this flower bed so far.

  • A small fern in the house side of the corner;
  • Four Bromeliad Neos in two groups;
  • Purple Queens;
  • Two Varigated Gingers (from my friend's yard, they are in a relative shaded area);
  • Two Devil's Backbone (a bargain from Lowes after the freeze since they have slight leaf damages);
  • Three Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade' (my coworker separated these three pups from their mother plant in his own yard and gave to me. );
  • Two Gloden Shrimp plants (behind Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade', along the fence);
  • Two Yellow Africican Iris (saw this from my friend's house, and just had to have it. Purchased from HD...);
  • Two pineapples I rooted from the grocery-bought pineapples' cutting.  One of my fun experiments;
  • Two Jatropha trees in pots (free seedlings from my friend's back yard.  Still not decided where I should plant them);
  • One dipladenia pink in pot.  I might leave it in the container, and nest it into other plants;
  • Another Bromeliad (name unknown) in pot (coming from the same coworker who gave me the Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade');
  • One rose bush at the lake side, where it gets most sun of this bed.
You can see I still have some space left here, which I saved for more spring flowers, or any new plants that I grab during those frequent nursery trips.

I know this will be a trial and error learning. I am not sure how it will look like after the plants mature (I might have not left enough space for them), or if they will be happy in their specific spots.  However, the unknows and surprises are always part of the gardening fun, right?

Wow, I think I need to stop here for now before I put anybody into sleep :)  If anybody is still reading this at this point, I appreciate your patience.  This is just something I know I want to do for myself, so that I can look back in the future and know how my garden looked like when all this evolvement began.  From now on, you will all see the progress I will make around my garden, both the failures and the successes will be recorded.

So please come back to check it out once a while, if this actually interests you a little.


  1. Wow! You've done a lot of work! I love, love, love that frog planter! And the bromeliads are gorgeous! Good job so far!

  2. Ami - I was interested in your post down to the very last word. I love the broms especially. Before and after is always both interesting and encouraging. I really enjoyed seeing how you combined things. Frogs are super cute. Thanks for an informative post.

  3. Ami...Your home is beautiful, and it looks like you're off to a good start with your landscaping. Just wanted to let you know that I listed you in my blogrolls at both Central Florida Gardener and Simply Susan. I look forward to seeing what else you do.

  4. Wow - You really know how to blog!
    Happy gardening!

  5. FloridaGirl, NanaK:

    Thank you for the encouraging words. Yes, I LOVE those two cuttie frogs very much, and the broms just turned to gorgeous organge in the sun.


    Thanks for the nices words about my home. Thank you for including my blog into the blogrolls of both of your blogs, and I also just left a comment in your new posting at Central Florida Gardener.


    Thank you for the compliments! Your numerous plants gifts are the ones that first got in my garden. They are thriving! Especially the bulbines are now propagating everywhere. You should come back to see someday.

  6. Ami,
    You have been a busy girl! I'm so glad you are enjoying your gardening projects and now we can enjoy them with you. Your home is beautiful... so Florida... East Coast.

    Sounds like you've put lots of hard work into those new beds. LOVE, LOVE the Aechmia Blanchettiana... I dug mine out of the ground and put in the garage that last weekend arctic blast. They are back out in the ground now soaking up the sunshine. Thank you for linking back to me. If not for all my borders of liriope the place would be completely brown!!!


  7. Meems: Always glad to see you leave a comment to my posting. Yes, I have been enjoying the garden projects. Even I don't have much garden space, but I see there are still lot more flower beds for me to open :) I still need to learn the garden design from you and all other experienced gardeners. Thanks for the nice words about my home. I hope I can make it even more beautiful with all the flowers, colors,....

  8. aloha ami,

    what a nice post and a very ambitious gardener you are from the very start. how wonderful you also have great views in the back to a waterway, i'm sure it must be interesting to be able to peek into other back yards everyday.

    btw, thanks for checking out my blog recently.


  9. Your garden looks great and you are doing a great job, I am looking forward to see your progress. Good luck

  10. I'm amazed at the amount of work you've done! And it's really pretty...nice job!!! And honestly, the frog container makes my day!

  11. What a lovely home you have, and you've done a wonderful job with your gardens and landscaping. I'd say you have a green thumb and your love and excitement for gardening shows through your blog. I look forward to visiting regularly just to see what you are doing next.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  12. Very enjoyable to see all of your posts!


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