As some of you may remember, if you read my article that appeared in the Miami Herald, I said that my next gardening project will be a meadow garden. Well, I purchased some meadow plants at last weekend's Spring Plant Sale, the ground is nice and wet from 3 1/2 inches of rain today, and I plan to start planting soon. Here are some of the plants I will be using:
Scutellaria havanensis (Havana scullcap) - 1 (may divide this)
Heliotropium polyphyllum (pineland heliotrope) - 2
Croton linearis (pineland croton) - 1 (a female so I can get seedlings)
Glandularia maritima (beach verbena) - 1
Sorghastrum secundum (lopsided Indiangrass) - 5
Schizachyrium rhizomatum (rhizomatus bluestem) - 3 large ones to be divided into many
I will also dig some divisions of my Pityopsis graminifolia (silkgrass) and some Crotalaria pumila that is growing in my palm and grass savannah. I just found a source of Eragrostis elliottii (Elliott's lovegrass) and plan on using lots of this shorter grass.
I have two planting beds in which I will be placing the plants. One is a circular shaped bed with a Guaiacum sanctum (lignum vitae) in the center. I want to plant mostly Elliott's lovegrass in this area. The other bed is larger and more amenable to have more variety of plants. I will take photos of each step of the planning and planting process and post the progress on this blog. My one fear is that of invading weeds, especially during our warm wet summers. I hope that my experiences will encourage others to make their own meadow gardens, replacing some of their lawns and providing butterfly plants to encourage and sustain our wildlife.
Speaking of sustaining wildlife, earlier this year I read the book "Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas Tallamy. I really enjoyed and learned a lot about the importance of using native plants within your landscape in order to provide food and shelter for a whole host of organisms (butterfles, birds, other insects, etc.) that are dependent on the native plants for their very survival. It is an amazing web of "life" that develops within a native ecosystem - plants are "controlled" by the insects to prevent overwhelming the habitat, while the birds and other predators feed on the native insects that are feeding (not destructively) on the native plants. It is perfection - the plants stay under control and so do the predators.
I did go hiking in the Everglades last weekend and saw lots of wildflowers in bloom. I drove down to Flamingo and walked to the shoreline of Florida Bay. The soft breezes and warm sunshine was a welcome relief to the long "cold" winter we had.
I then drove north and stopped at Mahogany Hammock. I parked my car along the road and enjoyed the vista of a "sea of grass" with cypress domes in the distance.
My next stop was Long Pine Key, one of the largest remaining pine rocklands in South Florida. I hiked along some of the "fire roads" which are used by ENP staff and researchers. The fragrance of pineland Acacia (Acacia pinetorum) wafted in the warm air, mixed with the wonderful aroma of crushed pine needles as I took my walk.
Asclepias longifolia with aphids
I am developing a keen interest in using native grasses in our home landscapes and could not help but see the beauty in the grasses which were growing in the middle of the unpaved roadway through the pines.
Perhaps it is difficult to see in this photo, but there are perfectly round specimens of muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) growing in the middle of the roadway. In late summer, early fall, these will have purple to pinkish inflorescences.
I enjoy hiking in natural places where I am inspired with ideas for landscaping in my own, "cultivated" world!
It has been an interesting winter to say the least! In my 37 years in South Florida, I've not experienced a winter so cool for so long. Many plants lost their leaves due to the extreme cold temperatures in January and have been in "hibernation mode" ever since. In the last few days, warmer temperatures and some warm showers are helping the sleeping trees and shrubs to wake up slowly and start producing new leaves.
Propagating for our plant sales has been almost totally collecting, cleaning, and planting seeds. This fall and winter I have been refrigerating some of our native grass seeds and wildflower species for a few weeks prior to planting. Refrigeration of seeds has proven to be helpful in getting good germination from some of our native species. Some of our native grasses grow into beautiful, round clumps.
I hope to do some hiking in the Everglades this weekend. Springtime in the glades prairies is a beautiful time with many plants in bloom and mosquitos still not bothersome.