Marion Cole has lived in Plant City for more than 20 years and enjoys the beauty of a quiet suburban lifestyle. Her love for plants began in North Florida as a child as she helped her parents and grandparents plant and maintain their beautiful flowers, fruit trees and vegetables.
She is both patient and adaptable and has mixed the townhome’s community plantings and her own to make a charming garden with a formal but very comfortable feeling.
Part of her success comes from the setting. While most corner lots are framed by an angle of two streets, this one is surrounded with a single street that curves around from one side of her house to the other. The excellent landscaping that came with it offers elegance and privacy.
A professional landscaping company hired by the association takes care of the lawns, sprinkler system, ground cover, trees and shrubs.
Marion keeps many of her personal plants in pots, mostly along the house, entrance way or doorway. She waters and prunes them herself. She also does a good bit of grooming in the rest of the yard. Once she starts, she says, she doesn’t want to stop.
By keeping plants in containers, she can move them around to make them happy. Marion fertilizes with Black Magic, Jungle Grow, ironite and other recommended fertilizers to keep her plants green and healthy.
Huge magnolia trees bloomed heavily this year just inside the wooden fence by the street. The trees stand in a thick ground cover of oyster plant, sometimes called Moses in a Boat, and rain lilies that grow wild and make a beautiful setting seen from the street. There is a central area of manicured, well-grown grass and all of the beds are neatly mulched. Large, red-leaved ti plants and variegated succulent stems of devil’s backbone give color year round. Near the kitchen bay window is a cluster of ruellias bloom with lavender flowers that give color to outdoors and inside.
Her own favorite plants line the walkway from the driveway to the gorgeous, etched-glass, front-entrance doors and best of all, a bench gives that special sense of not being seen but being able to see out. It has an almond bush planted in front of it, wonderfully fragrant most of the year, and a great nectar food for butterflies. A crinum lily was blooming the day I was there with a firework globe of more fragrant flowers.
Today’s pick is the foxtail or asparagus fern. Actually it’s not a fern at all because it produces seeds rather than spores and is a member of the lily family. It likes full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Its dense, small spiny leaves grow on upright stems. The roots become a mass of tubers that can crack a pot, so in containers they should be divided every two to three years.
Yellowish leaves will not turn green again, so cut them off. There are inconspicuous little white flowers in summer followed by BB-sized berries that turn from green to red. Don’t overwater this plant. It mixes well with succulents, like the round-leaved Sansevieria.
Now’s the time to tell you the majority of the monarchs started their migration to Mexico at the end of August. I could tell because the milkweed plants are growing leaves faster than the caterpillars are eating them now. Before that I had to cover some of mine to keep them from being eaten to death.
I’ve taken the cover off now. A few monarchs will stay through the winter. I’ve had six emerge recently. I haven’t seen any caterpillars for awhile, but I keep looking. There are still plenty of other butterflies around, especially the zebra longwings.
• The Tampa Bay Orchid Society meets Thursdayat Christ The King Church, McLaughlin Center, 821 S. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. The doors open at 6 p.m., and the meeting starts at 6:30. Antonio Toscano de Brito, curator of the Orchid Research Center at Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, will speak. There will be refreshments, plants for sale and a plant raffle.
The meeting is open to the public. For more information and directions, call (813) 839-4959 or visit tampabayorchidsociety.shutterfly.com.
• Lori Symington is opening her garden to the public this Saturday at 2317 Hamlin Court, Valrico, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. It’s full of color, flowers, vegetables and fruit. Her granddaughter Abbie will have some plants for sale. For directions or details, call (813) 352-1712.
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.