"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

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Garden -- One Year Later

Time really flies!   By the end of this month, we have been living in our current house for one whole year.  Almost immediately after we moved in, I started planning, digging and planting my garden from almost scratch.

This would be a perfect time for this gardener to look back what have been changed over one year period, and what plants have worked well and what did not in their location.

** This post is majorly for my own record keeping, so it is quite long.  I won't blame you if you don't make it to the end :)  Hope at least the pictures are interesting to look... **

Before we moved in, the only landscape this house had is in the east side of the front yard, to which I only made some small changes.   Here is how it looks like today.

You can see my front patio and the left side of the walk way  are over-crowded with lots of containers.  That is because this is the only partial shade area that I can find for my Orchids, Begonias, Bird's Nest fern, shade loving Bromeliads, Persian Shield, Mona lavenders, and some house plants.  One of my fall/winter projects on my list is opening one shade/partial shade flower bed on the side of my house, so that I can move some of these plants there, and make the front patio more inviting :)

Here is from another direction.  The crotons (Mammey) became bare sticks after the devastating cold weather early this year, but now their colorful foliage is coming back.  The red Ixora behind the crotons are all showing the buds, so very soon this front bed will look very cheerful!

I did not change much in this area except planting some bromeliads, bulbines in the very front rock area.  I also replaced a white begonia bush (not performing well then) with the sago palm.  Now I think this might not a good change since the Sago palm could grow bigger over the years, and then it would block the front view to the house.  Hmmm, maybe a move is in the order before it is too late? 

This is the west side of the front yard.  It had some bushes that came with the original builder landscape around a small oak tree.  I removed all the bushes, opened and planted this bed from the scratch.

The two African Iris were doing fine, and now are almost done flowering. Blue/Purple verbenas obviously love their location in the center of the front border.

I am not very satisfied with this bed since the back of this bed is at a lower point, get flooded whenever we have a heavy pouring.  So, I may raise the level more.  Three ground orchids I put here are not thriving.  I think they might not like the afternoon sun this area got since other ground orchids in a more shaded corner in the back yard looked much better.  The two Brazil Red Hots were frozen to the ground in the past winter, and they are now bouncing back, but not quick enough.

Now please follow me to the back yard...

Our back yard is most taken by the swimming pool and the paved area around the pool.   There are 2 to 4 feet wide stripe of grass land within the fence around the back yard.    Along with the side of the house, all these stripes are pretty much all land that I can play with for my garden.

Here are two pictures that show how the backyard looked like when the house was on the market for sale early last year.

Backyard before #1 (March 2009)

Backyard before #2 (March 2009)

This is the southeast corner of the backyard today... 

Compared to the "Before" #1 picture,  I removed two ficus hedges from this corner (borrowed some muscle power from my husband) to open up the lake view more, and then created this corner bed last year. Then I changed this corner again in March.
Backyard southeast corner in May  2010

Major plants in this corner are: Jatropha tree (left side of the picture), three different kinds of Agaves, bulbines, purple queens, lantanas, Allamanda, marigolds and Celosia. These are all sun loving plants, and are doing fine in this location. Especially bulbines and agaves requires almost no care at all. Allamanda (the bush like plant on the left side of the picture) is recovering very well from the ground after the freeze, very soon their yellow flowers will bright this corner even more.

Overall I am quite happy with this corner.  When the plants grow to their mature sizes, I might need to move some plants out of this corner, but I think the combination of bulbine and agaves is working great so far.

As of the south side of the backyard, it had nothing but a lone Christmas palm (see "before" picture #2).  Around that Christmas palm, I opened my very first flower bed right after we moved in.  This takes about one third of the whole length of the south stripe.

This is the flower bed looked in May this year...

Backyard south bed in May 2010

This bed again is in a full sun area.  The plants go there are:  two rose bushes, diamond frost, pentas, Mealycup Sage (blue flower), sedum (ground cover), pink vinca, two purple fountain grasses, two blue porterweed, two lantanas, some bromeliad under the tree, one agapanthus, and some annuals. 

You can see since this was my first flower bed, I bought most of plants in pair.  And with no experience at all, I planted them quite closely since the young plants looked so small :)  Now they are all cowded, especially the lantanas in front of the purple fountain grass and porterweed can not get much air circulation, and developed some black spots on the leaves ( I post the problem in this post).  I may need to remove one porterweed, and/or move the lantanas to some other more opened area.

Now here comes the biggest bed I have opened, and my most work goes into this bed as well! 

This bed is on the west side of the backyard, which had absolutely nothing except the grass before.  The following three pictures are how it looked like in May this year.

Backyard west bed  in May 2010

Backyard west bed in May 2010
Backyard west bed in May 2010

Wow, how did I manage to stuff so much into this bed so quickly?!  I just remembered that I visited the nurseries at least once or twice each weekend since last year Novemember, and brought more and more plants home. Then I saw some plants posted by my fellow garden bloggers, and I just had to have them!  Almost all those plants I managed to find a spot in this bed, and then moved them around so frequently afterward.  I remember Kimberly at Garden in Paradise once claimed herself as a "professional plants relocator" in one of comments she left on my post.  I guess I can borrow that title as well! 

Most of my location consideration for the plants are by their favorable light condition, not the color.  As the result, the color scheme is not that in harmony in my opinion.  When I open more flower beds, I might have that luxury to do more color coordination since I will have more space to move them around :)

The end of this bed that closes to the lake is the "Rose corner" since it gets most of the sun, and the end that closes to the house is the "Bromeliad corner" which only gets some morning sun.

Since this bed is on the west side, and the neighbour's hedges and the coconut trees provide some shade in the afternoon, and the most of the sun the plants got are the morning and middle day sun.  I found majority of the plants are loving this micro environment.  For the same reason, the plants got some protection when the prolonged freeze weather hit South Florida in this past winter.

Here are more pictures this same flower bed looked like this month.  Compared to the ones in May, it is less colorful since the deep pink snapdragons in front of the Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) were gone, and the bright red/pink geraniums are also done the flowering. 

Backyard west bed in June 2010

Backyard west bed in June 2010

Backyard west bed in June 2010

Backyard west bed in June 2010

Backyard west bed in June 2010

With the white Angel's Trumpet flowering in the middle, and the White Christmas caladiums leaves, it gives the cooling factor to this bed, very suitable for the summer of the hot hot South Florida.  I found myself like this June color better than the May color in this bed. What is your opinion?

In case you are interested to know the detail plant list of this bed.  Here are the major plants from the sunny area ( rose corner) to the partial share area (bromeliad corner).  I did not list some small plants I temporarily tucked in.

Six rose bushes (all hybrid tea rose) in the Rose corner.
One dipladenia pink
One porterweed
Two Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
Rudbeckia 'Tiger Eye Gold' (newly added this month)
Three Agapanthus africanus (Relocated here from the front yard)
One red and one pink Geraniums
Ornamental Sweet Potato 'Margarita' with chartreuse leaves
Three Devil's Backbone
Three Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade'
One Angel's Trumpet
Two Gloden Shrimp plants (behind Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade', along the fence);
Two Hibiscus bushes
Two Yellow Africican Iris
Two pineapples I rooted from the grocery-bought pineapples' cutting. One of my fun experiments;
Three Variegated shell gingers ( I am sure I need to move some out of this bed in the future when they grow bigger)
Pink Vincas
Three Ground Orchids (Spathoglottis)
Three Kalanchoe
About 15 bromeliads in the Bromeliad corner.

I hope I have not bored all you to this point.  I promise I am almost done with this post!

When I was writing this post, I realized that I have done quite a lot in the past year, and to be honest the result is better than what I expected.  I thought I just experiment with the gardening a little when all this started, never expected to this extent.  Within this past year,  I have surely experienced all the excitement, joys, disappointment and sorrows that a typical gardener, especially a new gardener would have experienced. 

A BIG "THANK YOU" to all of you who have read, commented my posts, provided help and supported me along the way.  I am glad that I started this blog half year ago, and which got me to know so many wonderful gardener friends out there.  I am sure that I will keep recording my garden progress on this blog and share with all of you! 

While all these flower beds are not complete yet (will they ever be?), more garden projects are on my mind for the fall and winter time...  Can not wait to materialize them! 

Stay tuned and thanks for reading :)

Oh, the last but certainly not the least.  Today is the Farther's Day.  I want to say "Thank you and Happy Farther's Day" to my kids' dad, my dear husband!  Thank you for the constant moral and muscle support you have given to me this past year on my gardening projects!  Thank you for never complaining about my frequent trips to the nurseries and all those extra time I spent in the garden!!!

And, Happy Farther's Day to all of the farthers who happen to read this post!


  1. Hello Ami - 'evolvement' certainly is a good choice for your blog title as your garden has come such a long way in just one year - so many wonderful plantings! I can't wait to see what happens over the next twelve months :)

  2. Wonderful transformation ... your garden is looking so good after all your hard work. I love all the planting combinations ... love the colours and the different foliage varieties. You've done a great job.

    Just an aside ... I wouldn't worry too much about the cycad. I've got two in my own garden and they are such slow growers that it would take many, many years before yours would be big enough to block the view of the garden bed.

  3. I think you have done a fabulous job in one year Ami and there is so much to hold the viewers eye as they look along your border with such interesting textures and foliage shapes along with the colourful blooms.

    have you considered taking away some more of your grass and maybe make your borders a little wider - I'm sure its quite a little awkward cutting such a small strip of lawn ........

    Ami you also have such a lovely view from your pool and your front garden looks ever so pretty.

    From another one of those plant relocators :) Rosie.... thats 3 of us now

  4. Oh Ami, you have added so much beauty with your gardens. I read every single word and examined every single photo. It was a most enjoyable post to read. Taking time to place your plants in the right growing conditions has really paid off for you. The layering effect you have in all your beds sets off each plant to its best advantage. The pool area has such a great view of the lake and now is surrounded by gorgeous blooms and colorful foliage. Love, love, love the west bed with the Aechmeas. Those are stunning in their coloration. You have done a fine job in a short time. But, as you say, there are already more projects in your head for the future. I can't wait to read all about them.

  5. Ami, You have done a beautiful job with your Florida Friendly Plants enjoying the tropical setting and the breezes you get. You are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Ami ~ You have done wonderfully. It is always great to see pictures to see the progression of what the garden artist has created. I love all the colors and different foliage that you have. Just think of what your gardens will look like next year. Keep up the great work you are doing. It is obvious that you love your gardens.

    Have a nice Sunday.


  7. Wow!!!! You have done ALOT! And it all lokks beautiful.Love the way you combinations came out.Don't ya love it when it all comes together?
    Kudos to you!

  8. Gippslandgardener: Yes, recording my garden evolvement was what inspired me to start this blog. I am very exciting for the next twelve months too!

    Bernie: Thanks for the sweet words! Glad to know about cycad. The reason about the placement of the cycad worried me is that I saw one cycad grows quite tall in one of my friends garden, maybe that was many years' result now I think.

    Rosie: Thanks for your kind comments! Glad that you join the "plant relocators club"! LOL Sometimes I move the same plant two days in a row!!! Yes, just last weekend, I was talking about removing more grass to make the flower bed wide. I am sure I will do that eventually since I know I will run out of the garden space quickly, and like you said, cutting the lawn for that small strip is not easy for hubby!

  9. NanaK: Glad that you find my post interesting to read :) I also feel those three Aechmeas really set the foundation to the west bed, and as matter of the fact, those are the very first plants I put into that bed, and after that, I have been kind of planting around them :) The rose corner in this bed is not doing very well since the weather heats up. Although that was kind of what I knew would happen, I am still a little disappointed. Well, maybe this is a good opportunity for me to switch those hybrid tea roses to some that you are growing. Just need to find a place where sells those roses...

    Rick: Thanks for stopping by and leaving the nice comments. When I research what to put into the new flower bed, I constantly refer to Florida Friendly Plants site that you contributed. Thanks for the great info!

  10. Flowerlady: Thanks! While I certainly can not claim myself as garden "artist", I do consider myself is doing some experimental painting on a blank canvas. That was fun to experiment! I am still working on my color combinations. I hope with opening more flower bed, I can have more space to not only place the plants in their favorable condition, but also with the good color combination with their surroundings.

    Chris: Thanks for such sweet words! I always enjoyed your posts as well. Your garden and all other gardens I have visited via the blog world certainly have given me so much inspirations when I was creating my own garden.

    And, YES! It is always wonderful when see certain combination works great in the garden!

  11. Ami, absolutely nothing boring about your progress report! You've done such a GREAT job! The transformation is beautiful. I love the varieties and colors...especially the brom corner. REALLY nice, Ami!!!

  12. Kimberly: Thanks! I also have read the transformation you have done for your garden, which is very beautiful and tropical!

    I remembered that you also had a blank canvas when you moved into your house, so you must have experienced the same as I am going through. Building a garden from the scratch is hard working, but also exciting!

    PS: Hope you don't mind me borrowing your "professional plants relocator" title! :)

  13. It's looking wonderful Ami. I love your plant choices in the beds. It creates a lush enviroment around the pool. Just lovely :-)

  14. Ami, I have looked at all your garden pictures. All your efforts have paid well. The garden beds look very interesting and pretty. Your plantings make such a big difference. My eye caught especially the Aechmea orangeade combined with the ornamental sweet potatoes chartreuse. Both colours are unusual, very well placed together. I think you have done so well and I guess you planted many favourites. There is an nice array of leafy and flowering plants which makes the garden interesting and a plants woman's garden.

  15. oh my gosh - it is just gorgeous!!! Too bad you don't have before photos, but I can tell you've done a LOT. I LOVE the west bed, especially the orange strappy foliage. It's stunning. I am also taken aback by your backyard. Life looks good in your parts!! Do you sit out back a lot?? I love it.

  16. Jayne: Thank you! My goal is converting all the grass strips around the pool into the flower bed, we will see how it will turn out :)

    Titania: Thanks for the nice words. I agree Aechmea orangeade and the chartreuse color of the ornamental sweet potatoes chartreuse combined quite nicely. I really did not plant them together on purpose, but it just turns out a nice choice. I am loving it too! :)

    Wendy: Actually I do have two "before" pictures of the backyard in the post. I don't blame you for not seeing those since I also often skip something when my eyes are caught by something more colorful and pretty. Those two "before" pictures are certainly not eye-catching! lol

    To answer your question, I actually not sit out a lot, especially not in the summer! Mosquito and extreme heat is just not something I enjoy. I am only outside when I work in the garden, nowadays will be in the morning or after sun down. I rather stay under the AC most of the time. Before I started my gardening passion, I even don't consider myself a outdoor person! Strange, huh?

  17. Wow..Love all your plants.
    Truly its so beautiful backyard you have.
    Is that a river by the background.
    Wow - what a view.
    Thanks for sharing.

  18. Hi Ami, how i love the looks of your area! Your plants are healthy, your house is very beautiful and i like most the river near your house. For me that is like heaven! If i were you i might become depressed when the winter comes and those plants will be affected. Your tender loving care shows in them. I remember you saying earlier that you are just learning to garden, but now they look fabulous and who will say you are a beginner!!!

    You are like Autumn Belle who is also celebrating one year, but not in the garden but in blogging.

  19. Happy Home Anniversary, Ami and Family! I really cannot believe the transformation in just 12 months! I've lived in my house many more years, and i t has been much slower progress in the garden.

    Anyway, I think your garden looks so much better with plants and flowers instead of all that boring grass. My favorite look is those bromeliads! Love them!

  20. Ami,
    just catching up with blogs while on holiday and i had to comment on your post. How lovely your garden is looking! What an accomplishment in just one year, congratulations and thanks for sharing! I also agreed that instead of removing some plants i would just remove some grass as they grow bigger.

  21. James: Yes, that is a river or sometimes we call it a “lake” here :) I do love the view in the backyard, one of the reasons that we bought the house, only I did not think I will become crazy about gardening, so that the garden space is limited :(

    Andrea: Thanks! Most of plants in my garden should make through our mild winter fine, at least that is what I have hoped for. Yes, I just started learning gardening one year ago, together with my garden :) I am learning a lot along the way, also with the help of lots of friends from this blogger world.

  22. FG: Converting that boring grass into something pretty is the major factor that drives me quickly on my garden progress. I am kind of pleased with the result of this year, even with lots of things that could be better. I am also excited for the more projects I want to tackle in the near future.

    AfricanAussie: Welcome back! Hope you had great time in US with your daughter. I am sure you are very busy with catching up blogs, so I feel honored that you think you “had to comment” on my post :) Thanks for the sweet words. I am sure removing more grass is on my to-do list for the future garden projects.

  23. Looks beautiful, Ami! You have some pretty combinations around your pool and I love the front bed that you did from scratch...pretty colors.

  24. Dear Ami,
    What a fun a accomplished year you've experienced. And thank you for sharing it so well with us in photos and detail. Your garden has transformed in remarkable ways. Your beds are well placed and the combinations are suitable for the sunlight conditions and they are very pleasing and peaceful to look at. You have a beautiful home and your gardens add to the serene feel next to the water in the back. Just lovely!!!

    Can't wait to see all the other plans you have for fall and winter. Gardening is an ongoing, progressive, living dynamic that surely never ends. :-)

  25. Wow! Wow!Wow! Outstanding job! The front porch looks very inviting to me. The transformation of the pool area is wonderful! Actually, I love all your beds. Colorful, cheerful gardens. You desrve a medal Ami!

  26. aloha ami,

    thank you for taking us on a wonderful tour of your home and garden...i love the tall hedge in the back yard making a nice green for all your showier tropical garden and the raised beds makes it even more spectacular, what a great change you have made, it looks like tropical florida!

  27. Amy: Thanks! It was fun to create the beds from the scratch, I got to choose the plants I really like, and the shopping for the plants was especially fun experience :)

  28. Meems, Thanks! You certainly know the fun involved with a creating new bed with your first-hand experience :) Lots of plants placement were not done from the beginning, I had to do lots moving to make it right. You are so right about the dynamic aspect of the gardening!!!

    Tatyana: Wow, getting three "Wow"s from you really means something to me! LOL. Thanks for the generous words!
    Glad that you liked my flower beds, learning gardening has been a fun experience for me!

    Noel: Those tall hedge belong to our neighbour. Except they provide some afternoon shade for my flowerbed, I really did not think about it background effect if you have not mentioned it. Yes, it really provides some green lush background for my plants, doesn't it? Creating a tropical florida garden is my goal for my garden, glad that you think I am on the right track :) Thanks!


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