Backyard Gardening: a non-vegetable post

My interest has always been with vegetable gardening, but in lull between the seasons I have started to enjoy what I simply refer to as non-vegetable gardening. After buying our first home I first started reading up on Florida friendly plants & Florida native plants.  I separate the two, because I was first confused by clever marketing & advertising by nurseries. There is a big difference between friendly & native.  For example, one day I pulled up a flowerbed full of non-native Florida plants & replaced it with what I thought was beautiful, native Florida Lantana.  Reading up on Florida native plants almost a year later I realized that I had planted the Florida friendly Lantana (camara) & not the Florida native Lantana (depressa) which is considered to be endangered.  Lantana camara grows so well in the wild that it is invasive to the native species. Bummer I know!  I have not pulled up the lantana yet but we have enjoyed more butterflies in our backyard since its arrival & now do more thorough research when replacing plants!

L. camara

My favorite native plant that we have introduced (or should I say reintroduced) into our backyard, is our little Florida privet or Florida swamp privet. It commonly grows in coastal hammocks, shrubs & thickets in central & south Florida. The Florida Keys even have their own species. Full grown they are anywhere from 10-15 ft. in height.  Our little privet is about no more than 4 ft. tall.  After having a troublesome start from what I believe to be lack of sun, it has been relocated & it doing wonderful again.  We’re looking forward to its pale yellow blooms & the bees it attracts in the spring as well as its tiny berries & the birds it attracts in the winter. 

Florida privets are drought & salt tolerant with evergreen foliage.

This article can’t be complete with mentioning my husband’s efforts to remove a ton of kudzu vines from the preserve that backs to our property.  I actually find it sad how the vine slowly suffocates the native trees & palms beneath it.  We watched a slow battle for more than a year…the vine dies back in the winter giving the plants a chance to rebound.  By summer they are suffocated & dying again.  My husband spent weekends in the woods cutting & digging at the kudzu. The only true way to remove the vine is to find the root system, or in our case root systems!

We have done many other things in our quest for a healthier backyard.  NWF certifications have lead to bird baths & more flower beds & therefore less grass.  Native lilies have been added, native ferns have been transplanted & more evasive plants have been removed.   We have future plans when the weather cools off & we can enjoy Florida yard work again.  Until then Happy Gardening…non-vegetable or vegetable, whichever you do!

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