Rock, water, weeding.

The sustained 90+ temps are taking it out of the yard.  We’re on watering restrictions here in central Florida, so you are only allowed to water by hand, except on your allotted  day.  I didn’t plan very well, and ended up dragging a 100′ hose around the yard to get to all my trees.  Just how much does a 100′ hose weigh, full of water?  That’s a rhetorical, I don’t actually want to know, because then I wouldn’t be foolish enough to try it again.  Luckily, tomorrow is my watering day.  I’m pretty happy that all of the stuff I put in so far is thriving.  After this hot summer, they will all be able to fend for themselves and the long hose of summer can be retired.

Can we talk about how awful landscape cloth is?  I have spent hours trying to clean out the front flower bed.  It is a horrible mix of red concrete rocks, ancient landscape cloth, and weeds.  The cloth has been there so long that a layer of soil has formed on top of it, and the weeds have grown through.  The nice family that owned this house previously loved the red landscape rocks, and they form a border around the entire house.  The rocks, not the family.  I play fast and loose with my pronouns.  Chemicals being a no-no around here – Roundup being one of the reasons I think the pollinators are struggling- I wouldn’t be able to maintain a rock border even if I liked it.  Which I don’t.  So I’m just putting ground cover in among the rocks, and letting them duel it out.  But first I have to get the landscape cloth out.  My goal is to get just a couple feet done each day.  Some days I walk up to the bed and just turn back around.  Can I interest anyone in a few dump truck loads of red rock?


Monday am

Got the third plumbago put in this morning.  Have to do the yard work before 9 am.  After that I become self-basting and cook like a turkey.  Nice to see an approving customer on the blooms right away.  The picture is not great, but he did keep me company for about 15 minutes while I was watering and digging. There’s a storm rolling in, but in summer you never know if it will actually rain on you, or just mutter and grumble as it passes by.  Rain on Mondays just seems so appropriate somehow.


Thursday am

Finally got the front flower beds ready for mulching.  Coonties and plumeria, both Florida natives.  The coonties are fairly slow growing, but the plumeria will fill in with a nice shiny green.  These two beds are the first steps to getting the lawn out and plants in. I have never understood the desire to have a vast expanse of green with nothing in it.  Unless you’re a golfer, I guess.  Before and after:


The Texas sage looks happy after the rain showers we got yesterday.


The fountain grass bed is also ready for mulching.  I guess I better get myself motivated.  It’s just so hot.


My back porch is becoming my indoor jungle.

Pete keeps the grass from getting too long.  He’s a great help.


Today is brought to you by the letter B

In honor of Binky, my best friend, today is all about the letter B.

Birds. The usual customers are bellied up at the sunflower bar. Tufted titmouses – (titmice?), chickadees, cardinals, wrens, blue jays, doves and bluebirds.  I love the way the bluebirds perch up on the shepherd’s crooks, swoop down to grab a cricket or a worm, and then pop right back up to perch on the metal hook again. This morning there were three of them just working the yard over. No sandhill cranes this morning, but I did put fresh water in their drinking bowl for when they show up.

Birdfeeders. Two are empty and two are getting there. The food lasts much longer now that I’ve put the feeders close to the screened-in porch. The squirrels are staying away more. Not completely, but at least the feeders aren’t getting emptied in a day like they were when they were farther out in the yard.

Bees. And lots of other little flying creatures. Wasps, skippers – which I think are actually butterflies. And dragonflies. The helicopter of the flying insect world.

Black snake. A gorgeous specimen about as thick as my index finger was cruising through the azalea bushes just outside the porch, hunting for slow lizards I imagine. At one point he stretched himself out on a sunny branch and just flexed for me, showing off like he was a body builder at Venice Beach. After an appropriate amount of admiration, he went on his way, sliding silently through the sunny leaves.

Butterflies. I have a bed of milkweed that has self-seeded and I’m just letting it have its way there. There were all colors of butterflies checking them out this morning – orange, brown, yellow, white, and one with flashes of blue that I think was a swallowtail, but I didn’t want to disturb it by getting too close.

Bunnies. We have a family that has moved into our azalea bush. It’s really more of a condo than a bush. There are at least three cardinal nests in there. I like to think that the bunnies finally saved up enough money to move into a place where each of their kids could have their own room. I put terra cotta saucers out with water, so now they can brag to the other bunny families that they have a water view.

Blooms. The pink crepe myrtles are finally blooming. They are much later than the other myrtles in the yard. Maybe they are creeping myrtles instead. The pentas are a nice, deep red that show up beautifully against the bright green of the grass. Plumbago and salvias are also doing well, and I’m glad to say that the fire spikes in the front bed have finally started showing their color. It’s taken them awhile to decide to bloom. The geraniums I bought for 25 cents on the clearance rack at Walmart are blooming in the front flower pot. I had no idea what color they’d be, or even if they were all the same. There’s something inside me that cannot resist a 25 cent mystery plant. It’s not a problem, though. I can quit whenever I want. Honest.

Bad dogs. I was noticing a terrible smell of poo this morning. It seemed to occur whenever Gracie was near me. She must have found some delicious poop to roll in while we were out walking in the yard. She got a thorough scrubbing with Dawn before she was allowed back in the house. Dawn doesn’t just cut the grease, it removes the poo as well. I don’t know why they don’t use that as a tag line.

Blowsy cat tails. Ok, I’m stretching the ‘b’ thing with this one, but I do love the pink cat tails of the fountain grass. I think of it as my hello kitty grass. The bed is big enough so that if mama deer has to leave any more babies in our yard we have room for triplets. (Last fall one deer mama left a baby beside the cherry tree in the early am while she went shopping for groceries. Around lunchtime she returned, picked up her kid, and they trotted back off to the woods. We’re deer daycare.) I like to think the deer will trot by, see the bed of fountain grass, and make a mental note that it looks like a safe place for babies to nap.

Brew. Ron made the coffee this morning. There is something so nice about coming inside after our morning constitutional to find the house smelling of coffee already brewing. I enjoyed a large cup of it outside in the shade, and wished I had my buddy Binky to shoot the bull with. I guess this blog will have to do.


It’s ok to give in. Sometimes.

I gave in to my furry overlords this morning. I had planned to weed the worst of the flower beds, and maybe repot a few stragglers. I stood there, sweating and contemplating what needed the most work when I realized I was alone. I am never alone in my yard. I have two constant companions, Gracie and Pete. No matter if it’s raining, or windy, or late in the evening, if I venture outside, so, too, go my faithful compadres. But not this morning. Here I was, all full of good intentions and work gloves on, ready to jump into the wilderness of weeds that was supposed to be a flower bed. I scanned the entire back yard, but I didn’t see either of them. Gracie is hard to find sometimes since she’s almost completely black. If she lays down in the shade she can do a pretty excellent job of disappearing into the dark. Until she pants. And then I can track the hot pink of her tongue in her doggie smile. She wasn’t in the any of the shade that I could see. And normally Pete is directly underfoot, hoping for a mole to show up, and sometimes getting on his hind legs and pawing my thigh. He doesn’t like for his paws to get too wet, so it’s acceptable for me to carry him when he says so.

Worried, I was afraid they may have gone into the neighbors yard where I knew there was a family of bunnies living under one of the larger azalea bushes. Then I spotted movement inside the back porch. Both Gracie and Pete were sitting outside the sliding glass door, waiting to go inside. I called to them, but they both just sat there, looking at me, patiently waiting for their human to figure out it was time to open the damn door and let them back into the air conditioning. The thermometer on the wall of the house said it was only 82, but it did feel much hotter in the sun. And I wasn’t wearing a fur coat.

So I gave in to the fur masters. I opened the door and they strolled in, glad that their human was finally figuring stuff out. They had hope for me yet.

New leaves from a dead plant

I pick up scraps of plants. Sometimes from other yards, when I’m out with the dog. Sometimes they are parts that have fallen off of my own plants and they look like tiny bedraggled pieces of string with no life in them. But I pick them up. I take them with me. And somewhere I find a spare pot with some dirt in it, drop the poor orphan in, and wait and see. I often forget what I’ve done, and am surprised when I find something green in amongst the spare pots.


It always amazes me. Something so tiny and lifeless and dry and dirty and apparently dead can harbor the tiniest spark inside it, sometimes for years. And when the time is right, when sun and water and season combine to give it just the right nudge, a new leaf appears.

I feel like that lately. I’ve sprung a new leaf from a very old hidden root inside myself. When I was young I wrote all the time. Everything from plays to songs to short stories to some really awful poetry. But I wrote. Every day. I didn’t aspire to be a writer, I just wrote because I like putting thoughts out there into the universe and seeing what other thoughts they attract and develop and grow into.

One day someone made a very offhand comment about my writing. A comment that I’m quite sure they don’t remember at all. And it’s not their fault that I allowed that thought to sere my soul and my desire to write. “I tried to write, too,” she said. “But everything that can be said has been said. There’s nothing new to write.” And I thought oh, my, god, she’s right. Who am I to write? I am nothing new. I have no stories to tell. And the little plant that was happily rooting and spreading new leaves and searching for sunlight got ripped out of its pot and tossed on the compost heap. Left for dead. Not forgotten, but looked at as a failed project.

And years passed. Sometimes I’d sprinkle a little water on the tiny forgotten sprig. Sometimes I’d move it around to another pot. But I neglected it terribly. And tried not to think about how much I loved that plant and how it made me feel to tend to it.

But I am a gardener. Life bursts into bloom all around me in the yard. Every season new colors and leaves and textures and shapes spring into being. And I realized something. Every plant is different. They may be the same type. Same color. Same age. But they’re different. Each blooms individually. Each one has its own story. Without even realizing how happy it would make me, I went and found that tiny old sad root of an idea, that I could write my own ideas and stories, and I put it in a blog pot and watered it. And here it is, springing tiny new leaves. And now when I get up I have something I look forward to. I have thoughts and ideas just tumbling around in my head wanting to get out of the dark and into the light. I feel a sense of pleasure to get up and get going, and get those words out onto the page.

Too hot

Heat index says it feels like 94 outside at 9:30 am.  Add to that being a middle age female who occasionally bursts into flame herself, and you have a highly combustible situation. Good thing we have a pool.

And a random thought… Why is it when you carry a full cup of coffee that if you don’t look at it you’re fine, but if you do look at it you spill?  For every action there is an equal and opposite spill action, I guess.

A couple pics of the wildlife enjoying the flora this am.  Sorry the butterfly pic is so blurry.  He refused to hold still.

The messy gardener strikes again

Some gardeners spend their time pruning boxwoods to just the right delicate shape.  They know the names, latin and common, of all of their gorgeous blooms. Their gardens are crafted, and structured, and thoughtful.  The beautiful blogs and pictures of devoted gardeners give me hours of pleasure and entertainment to peruse and discuss.  I enjoy and admire these garden creations immensely.

I, however, am what could be called a random gardener.  Sure, I have some beds I’ve laid out.  And there is a sort of master plan for the back yard.  Recently I discovered that several milkweed had self-seeded in amongst my empty pot discard area. (Yes, I save everything plant related. I might need it later.) I was happy rather than dismayed.   Oh, look, I thought, more native plants that have fought their way in and are blooming happily.  I figure if they want to live with me, I’ll make room for them.

When the birds drop the sunflower seeds and I get random sunflowers in amongst the flower beds, I pull the weeds from around the flowers, and let them have their way.  The acre of empty grass we bought a year ago is filling up with tiny spots of color and texture and movement.  The wildlife is slowly discovering the offerings of coral honeysuckle for the hummingbirds, the pentas and milkweed for the butterflies, and the trees and shrubs I’ve added for the birds to make their homes.  I like a little messiness in the garden.


In a vase on Monday, with memories


In the winter of 1995 I had just turned 30 and was in the middle of a terribly bitter divorce. (All the more bitter because we had absolutely nothing to fight over. We were both poor as dirt.) I was waking up alone in a house I couldn’t afford, going to a job with people that didn’t like me, and looking at a life ahead of me that was just not worth it. Then during one nasty winter storm, a little gray cat showed up on my back porch. She was rail thin, and obviously feral, not wanting to get close to me, but so desperate to survive that she was willing to take a risk on the blonde lady in the house. So I put out food for her, and in a while was able to coax her into the house to eat and drink. At some point she became my cat, not just a feral cat, and I had acquired a long-term friend.

I was working at Kings Dominion that summer in the bakery, (one of my 3 jobs I was working to try and get out of divorce debt,) going in at 5 am with several large black ladies who laughed at just about anything I said, and all of whom called me Boo. I’m not sure why. “Go get me a ladle, Boo.” “We need more butter, Boo.” I had been called much worse. And it seemed like they liked me, so I took Boo to be a term of endearment. And so the little grey cat with one weird orange spot on her side became Boo. And then BooBoo. She was shy, but sweet, and stayed skinny until I had to leave her with my parents for a month while I went to Florida to find an apartment and a job. When I came back, BooBoo appeared to have doubled in size. I asked my mother what happened. She said, “She always seemed hungry, so I just left the cat food bag open for her to eat when she wanted.” I imagine BooBoo spent that entire month with her head contentedly buried in Purina Cat Chow.

She came with me and my menagerie from Virginia to Florida at the end of that summer when I moved from a house I couldn’t afford and a life I hated, to a garage apartment that was less than 800 sq feet, no job, and a much lighter spirit. BooBoo loved that apartment. She loved living up high above the garage, looking through the trees, and lounging in the hot Florida sunshine. So did I. The space between the garage and the main house was a large dirt square. My landlord and best friend Chris would take the hose and make a set of holes in the dirt, and inevitably BooBoo would take the bait. She couldn’t stand not to. So she would creep up, as much as a 15 lb cat could creep, lay on her stomach and stick her paw as far as she could down the hole. Curious, she’d move from hole to hole, ever hopeful, and entertaining Chris and I for several cups of coffee in the morning. She loved to be brushed, too. BooBoo I mean, not Chris. I don’t know about Chris. But we could take a hairbrush and tap it on the concrete floor of the porch, and BooBoo would drop her search for hidden creatures and come waddling across to us, stropping and purring in her chirpy way.

When I finally moved into a house in Lakeland, out of the garage apartment, and several states later, (that’s another story), I had a large plumbago bush in the back yard. It was sprawly, cool and shadowy underneath, and BooBoo loved it. She would spend all day under there, only coming out when I called the kitties to come eat. Slowly, carefully, the dusty plumbago covered furry creature would emerge, and shake herself off. Most of the spring and summer she would have some small piece of plumbago stuck to her somewhere. Her ears, or her back, but most often her butt. I guess it was hard for the overly plump puss to clean back there. So she became plumbago butt. Everybody gets known for something in this world, I guess. There are worse names than plumbago butt.   So these flowers are in her memory, and her chirpy, waddling, pill-hating self. I miss her.


Sunday morning

Had some visitors this morning.  They were very vocal, or I wouldn’t have caught them outside getting a drink from a birdbath. Mama and Daddy crane have the red and white heads, and the baby is just grey all over, and still a bit unsteady on his very long legs.  I read that the baby is out of the nest and following the parents within 24 hours of hatching.  Take that millennials.


I’m pretty sure these are the same two adult Sand Hill cranes that have been visiting us periodically since December, before the baby was born.  I think they are on the endangered animal list. Mama crane (the slightly smaller adult – I’m just assuming.  I know nothing about birds,) has an extra knuckle on her left leg.  She may have had an injury at one time.  They had a snack of some of the seeds spilled under the bird feeders as well.  Sometimes when it’s really hot they take a nap in the shade of the large oak tree. I love them.  The baby is so goofy.  He runs off kilter, and tosses grass in the air, and just jumps up and flaps his wings like a wild thing for no apparent reason.  He’s adorable.  I think of him as Kramer from the Seinfeld show.

And here’s my morning crew.  The cat, who obviously thinks I don’t know he’s contemplating sticking his nose in my coffee and then sneezing snot into it, and the dog, who because she has a black fur coat is not a fan of the heat.  I should also give credit to Chris Chadwell for the coffee cup.  I ‘borrowed’ it from her 20+ years ago when I lived in her garage.  Thanks, Binky. : )

Friday morning


Fridays are good days.  Pay day, for one.  And looking forward to a trip to Bradenton tomorrow.  I like to go back to remind myself how awful the traffic is, especially in the summer when Anna Maria island is packed.

Did the rounds this morning.  Have to run the sprinklers. Everything is looking a bit tired from the heat.  I sympathize.

Crepe myrtle is looking good.  And the new bed of fountain grass I put in is going to survive, I think.  My in-laws and husband looked it over when I first put it in.   “Why did you plant dead grass?” they asked me.  No faith, these people.


Saw where the gopher tortoise has been snacking on the pentas again.  I’m glad I put in eight plants, enough for the both of us.

Before the tortoise:


After the tortoise:


I guess the blooms are tasty.  We see two tortoises fairly often. The larger one has been named Sheldon, and the slightly smaller one is Michelle.  I am not responsible for terrible puns.  Blame the husband.

Found a new branch on a plant I bought for 99 cents at Walmart in the clearance section.  It’s a Florida native called Golden Dewdrop. The blooms are purple, but then it gets little gold berries on them. They look a bit like yellow raisins. Gotta figure out where to put the little fella.


I do love the clearance rack in garden centers. Makes me feel slightly less guilty about how many plants I buy.

Here’s a shot of the most treasured item in our house.  If this is lost, everything must come to a halt until it is found.  When it goes in the pool, there is much keening, gnashing of teeth and wailing until it is retrieved.


IMG_0504 (1)

And here is who ‘helps’ me every morning.


Happy Friday.

July in Florida

It’s hot.  Even getting up at 6:30 to do some weeding it’s already scorching.  I view our summer like folks up north view winter.  You adjust your lifestyle to fit the weather.  They stay inside in Jan. and Feb.  I stay inside July and August.  Or I try to.  But the rain every afternoon makes weeds jump up with happiness. So for an hour or two each morning the three of us (dog, cat and myself) tackle one flowerbed or another, usually while holding a cup of coffee in one hand. (I don’t let them drink coffee. But the cat is pretty sly.)

One of my earliest memories is walking around the yard with my mother while she had her first cup of coffee.  I can picture her in her bathrobe, sometimes with curlers in her hair, casually bending down to deadhead some roses, or pull out some weeds.  It’s a memory that makes me very happy.  When I go to visit her now, with her in her 80’s, we still try to make a trip around the yard together, even if she has to take the chairlift to get down the stairs.

There’s something about light through leaves that just lures me outside.  Early morning sunshine makes my husband pull the pillows over his head in protest, but it fills me with ideas about where to dig, and what to plant, and how much mulch I can fit in the back of the car.

My little acre

This blog is an attempt to document the changes I’m making to our yard.  We bought the house in July of 2016.  The house was surrounded by an eye-high hedge of azaleas and other shrubs, making it look like the house was squatting down, and peeking over the edge of the bushes.  We have a beautiful pool enclosed with an aluminum roof at the back, and from inside that porch all you could see were azaleas.  Ugh.  I wanted to be able to see the deer, gopher tortoises, armadillos, and even a stray coyote occasionally.  (Not so much the armadillo – we encouraged her to relocate.)  As an avid lawn hater, I was also anxious to start replacing the acre of plain grass with lovely color and texture, and lure in the bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and all the other critters out there.



My plan was to add a butterfly garden in the corner beside the pool.  It is a nice sunny area hidden from the street where I can experiment with plants and colors and textures without feeling guilty about how wild and wooly it is compared to the rest of the yard.

I feel bad for my yard guy.  He took on mowing for me when it was an almost completely empty expanse of lawn.  Like the frog in slowly heating water, I’ve added flower bed after flower bed, tree after tree, and border after border, slowly acclimating him to the chaos that is my preferred gardening style.

In spite of the protests from husband, in-laws and even a couple neighbors I whacked the hell out of the all the azaleas and shrubs around the pool.


Here’s what it looked like from inside when we bought it, and a shot from inside the porch after I had my whack attack.

And I’m really glad I did cut it back, or I wouldn’t have been able to see these guys come for a visit.


Random garden thoughts

Once I plant it, I don’t want to have to do anything other than enjoy it.  I use as many native plants as possible.  Once they’re established they are almost completely no-maintenance.  Plus the birds and bees love them.

Native plants:  first year they sleep, next year they creep, third year they leap.  This is the first year for putting all of this in, so whenever someone comes to look at what I’m planting I find myself saying “just wait until a few years from now – this will be gorgeous.”

A crab apple tree, a mayhaw tree, and some leyland cypress and red cedars across the back of the lot.  In a couple of years these will look great.

Why do they insist on putting the word ‘weed’ into so many native plant names? Milkweed.  Porterweed.  It doesn’t help me sell the concept of native planting to others.