How It All Started

"Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than emperors." -- Mary Cantwell



The house when we moved in.  The huge Australian pine is just off to the left bottom of this photo.  The two small trees on either side of the driveway are red Bottlebrushes.  These three trees are gone now.  Yay!  The palm trees stand on what was a weedy mound.


Of course, my husband would have been happy with the monoculture of lawn and small number of shrubs and trees we started out with.  But I wasn't satisfied.  I had never gardened growing up and had just lived in an apartment for three years without a single houseplant.  But I loved flowers, read Victoria and gardening magazines and envisioned lush English landscapes and tropical retreats for our new yard.  No boring rows of neatly clipped green for me - I wanted flowers and more flowers and to grow at least some of our own fruits and vegetables.  So with no training and a dearth of information on our unique Zone 10 South Florida conditions, I jumped in with both feet... 

...In small areas.  In the back yard, where no one would see my mistakes.  I began with pots of herbs and after adding good dirt to the sandbox (5' x 5', situated against the back fence), some flowers and vegetables.  A small teepee in a pot produced tomatillos and cherry tomatoes, which my husband loved to snack on.  Then came a few annuals, many raised from seed, to brighten the only existing beds, barely 1' wide against the screened-in back porch.  The previous owner had grown roses there and took them with her when she left, leaving bare sandy spaces.  I rejoiced in my triumphs and took loads of pictures of diminutive flowers. 

The back patio early on.  A trellis of Confederate jasmine is on the far right.

I tried out the swing in the back yard, only to find it shifted every time I swung back and forth - rats!  So we took the swings off and kept the posts (6 1/2'h x 10'w and made of pressure-treated  4" x 4" posts, one on each side and one on top) for an arbor. 

Back yard before anything was planted.  The swingset is barely visible here 2/3 up in the photo with the crosspost on top.

A few years in - looking toward the south...

...and toward the north.  The orange tree over the chair had borne about 3 fruits since it was planted, and was cut down at the age of about 16 years.  Sometimes you have to give it up.

Things looked so nice that after two years my husband wondered why I didn't do something in front, where my efforts could be seen and appreciated.  (He hates working outside, so aside from his pruning the hibiscus hedge plus a big one between the front windows and cutting dead fronds from the Queen Palms, the garden was my domain.)  Little did he know what the future would bring! 

A friend's mother was replacing her beloved hybrid tea roses with something lower-maintenance and asked if I would take them. Bonus!  I went to her house with a bunch of plastic grocery bags, practically ripped the roses (about ten) out of the ground, and brought them home.  We cut a small L-shaped bed in the lawn in full sun where the sidewalk and driveway met and planted our new charges.  They were none the worse for their rough treatment and looked great by themselves and thickly mulched for a couple of years. 

The first rose bed in front, and the first attempt at planting the mound (far right).

But I was restless and this bliss could not last.  I measured the entire property and drew it out for a landscape architect friend to give me suggestions, which I then completely ignored - we just weren't on the same plane.  Using the base diagram, I drew endless plans, discarding most for lack of practicality. 

I began expanding the rose bed and adding other plants.  The roses themselves started to decline because they didn't like company, being hybrid teas, but I just planted more, learning quickly that they needed to be grafted and that older varieties like to grow with other plants.  In the meantime, I came up with workable, pleasing (to me anyway) designs.  And spent a lot of money on mistakes. 

That first rose bed became the Rose and Perennial Court... 


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