JERRY AND KAREN HUMPHREY, VALRICO
Q: Describe your garden.
Answer: Our garden is a certified Florida wildlife habitat with oak trees and landscaped areas mixed with paths, a pond, a play fort, swings, benches, tables, statues, bird feeders and bird baths. We have had a variety of birds, butterflies and animals visit our backyard. We have more than 30 different species of plants, such as heathers, pentas, lantana, azaleas, crotons, caladiums, ligustrum, ferns, etc. We try for a harmonious landscape and wildlife environment. Selecting hardy native plants helps them survive the extreme elements of our Florida weather, like a lily among thorns.
Q: How long have you been gardening?
Answer: We started gardening 40 years ago after our house was built. We chose to do our own landscaping. We started out including vegetables while leaving most of the lot in a natural state. Over time we discontinued the vegetable gardening.
Q: From whom (or what) have you learned the most as a gardener?
Answer: We learned most as gardeners from the businesses where we bought our plants. Plus we learned a lot through trial and error. We have learned to pay close attention to the planting information provided with the plants being sold.
Q: What are your go-to plants?
Answer: Our go-to plants include pentas, lantana, heather, aztec grass, flax lily, hummingbird bush, azaleas and ferns.
Q: What was your biggest gardening mistake?
Answer: Our biggest gardening mistake was selecting a house lot with too many trees. A proper amount of sunlight is necessary to enjoy a successful garden and lawn. For our lawn, we have St. Augustine Floratam sod in the sunny areas and Seville in the shaded areas. We have learned to locate plants and sod under trees for those needing shade and in open areas for those needing sunlight.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face in your garden?
Answer: Some of the challenges we face in our garden include dealing with mosquitos, too much shade, intrusive vines and weeds. Over time we thinned out trees as needed for more sunlight. We use plastic under many of the plants in order to control the weeds. A garden that is clear of vines and weeds is like icing on a cake. And yes, weeding does require time and effort. However, it can provide an excellent time for meditation. Mulching also helps to reduce weeds and retain moisture for the plants, and it gives a finish to the garden areas.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for your fellow gardeners?
Answer: Be patient and consistent. Gardening is a continuing process that takes time and effort. Spend more time in your garden. Being a good steward of the land, for wildlife and people, can be fulfilling and a blessing. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of “The Yearling” and “Cross Creek,” wrote: “I do not know how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to.”
Have you ever been so proud of your garden that you wished you had some way to show it off? We’re looking for readers’ photos and growing tips for our “How Does Your Garden Grow?” feature in Baylife. It doesn’t matter if you have a small container garden or a long-established landscape; we want to hear about it. Just answer the questions above and email them along with a couple of jpgs of your garden to Baylife@tampatrib.com. Or mail your answers and photos to Baylife, The Tampa Tribune, 202 S. Parker St., Tampa, FL 33606. Please include a phone number and/or email (not for publication).