For 17 years before she retired and moved to Florida in 2004, Carol worked in the local extension office as a secretary for both the agriculture agent and 4-H agent and found herself seeking out solutions for homeowners’ horticulture questions that fell between them. She became the horticultural coordinator, and as she taught, she learned much more. She started the first Master Gardener Program in that county.
Her garden in Sun City Center has color and interest all over and year round. She likes pink and has great clumps of Red Sisters ti plants at the entrance, the finest Panama rose I’ve seen in Florida and a pink powder puff bush, along with Podocarpus and Pittosporum.
In the side yard there is a river birch, leafless now. This doesn’t have the white bark associated with northern birches but reddish, brown bark peeling off in papery pieces and adding interest throughout the year. There are very few of these trees this far south.
The back garden includes neat beds with stone edging. Several containers were filled with flowers, foliage and herbs. She waters from her rain barrels or with a hose most of the time and feeds with Osmocote or 10-10-10.
Carol likes being outdoors, enjoying the peace and watching her plants grow and bloom.
Her queen’s wreath was just beginning to unfold its pendulous stems of lavender flowers that look much like wisteria. They don’t have the scent but are just as abundant.
Among her other favorites are the daylilies in the spring and caladiums in the summer.
Carol has three large EarthBoxes where she grows tomatoes and peppers before and after frost threatening time. She is still eating some of them. She also has grown turnips, onions, green beans, lettuce and mustard. Her favorite tomato is the Tasti Lee, developed by the University of Florida research center in Balm, which tastes like the ones she raised in Ohio.
She designed – and her husband Bob built – the bottle tree in their back garden. She found the bottles at various thrift sales. Her brother built the bluebird house that sits on top of it. They have had bluebirds start to build, but sparrows moved in instead.
For cold nights she brings most of the containers close up to the house and covers them as needed. Like many of us, she covers less and less as we grow older and pray more.
Carol has been a member of the Elegant Garden Club of Sun City for several years and works hard with all the rest to spread the love of gardening and help the community. You can meet her and Teri Brockway, who was featured last week, and many other great gardeners at the club’s upcoming Florida Friendly Workshop.
Today’s pick is the Panama rose, an evergreen shrub with fragrant rose-colored clusters that look much like pentas. It blooms from December until March, if it doesn’t get too cold. I have one that survived the two cold winters a few years back, but it doesn’t look nearly as good as the ones I saw in Sun City Center.
The shrub needs need sun to partial shade and plenty of room. It roots easily from soft or hardwood cuttings. I’m going to start some and keep them in a container so I can move them rather than have them crowded.
Now’s the time to tell you that Washington Court House wasn’t far from where I grew up. My father used to take me and his horses to the fair there. So Carol and I bonded quickly. Extension offices were as important to me in my youth as they are now, but they were much smaller and simpler then. Ours in Ohio had two or three tiny rooms above the post office.
The Elegant Garden Club of Sun City Center will present a Florida-Friendly Gardening Workshop from 8:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 at Community Hall, 1910 S. Pebble Beach Blvd. S. in Sun City Center. Speakers will be provided by the Hillsborough County Extension Service and there will be vendors and plant sales. Refreshments will be available. Admission is free but pre-registration is requested for the workshops. To register or for more information, call (813) 633-9767.
Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, freelance writer and author of 11 gardening books who can be reached at [email protected] Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.