Tag Archives: daylilies

Blank Slate Yard – Part 1: the Front Yard

Front Yard Cropped - shrubs named

The photo above is of our yard before we did anything to it. A couple of months ago, I received an e-mail from a local realtor telling me how beautiful our front yard is. Of course, I was appreciative, but I was also surprised because I still see it as not so nice. The pine straw mulch has faded to a dull gray/brown, and needs to be fluffed or replinished. The day lilies bloomed very little this year. The marigolds went to seed and died when I fell behind on deadheading them. The tulip ginger is blooming, but the leaves are covered with brown spots. The bougainvillea by our front door was beautiful all spring, then was attacked by caterpillars – again. Only one of my SunPatiens survived the heat last summer AND the freeze last February. Need I go on?

The One Lonely Impatien


This is that one huge, beautiful, but very lonely impatien in our front flower bed.

When we moved into this new home, it had the typical high-maintenance builder’s landscape “package” in the front yard, as shown above, and absolutely nothing but grass in the back and side yards. My job was to take the front from builder’s landscape to a more interesting, yet low-maintenance front yard; and to take the back yard from a blank slate to a lush garden, and fast. The photo above shows most of our front yard.

The only option we had regarding landscaping when we bought this house was to say we did not want a particular type of tree out front. We said no magnolia and no Bradford Pear. Although magnolia trees are beautiful, and smell heavenly, they are extremely messy, dropping their large leathery leaves year-round. They also grow quite large, creating a dense shade which prohibits grass and many other things from growing underneath. One mature magnolia would fill our entire front yard. Here’s a photo of a sweet magnolia blossom from our former neighborhood.

Magnolia Blossom - mlm c@

Here’s a painting I did of a magnolia with more open blossoms. In this photo, it’s still on the easel, awaiting the finishing touches. It’s now framed and hanging in our home.

Magnolia Painting unsigned - mlm c@

Back to Those Trees We Didn’t Want

The Bradford Pears I mentioned — the ornamental, non-fruit-producing pear trees — are beautiful when they bloom, but they stink terribly while blooming. The larger they are, the stronger the scent, and the farther it carries. Because of their limb structure (very acute angles) they are prone to losing limbs in high winds, which we have quite often here.

So, what we got was a baby live oak that had been pruned to the shape of a Christmas tree, and a crepe myrtle that had been pruned down to the size of a shrub. Because the live oak’s branches began about 4-5 feet above the ground, it looked like a Christmas tree on a stick. We began calling it our Christmas Tree Popsicle.

Mature Live Oak

Live Oak - mlm c @

Live oak trees also drop their leaves year-round, and grow far, larger than any magnolia ever thought about growing. Granted, they grow slowly, but the lots in this retirement community are quite small. A mature live oak would someday fill our entire lot, and hang out over the roof of our home plus that of our neighbors. It would eventually need to be removed, so we gave it away while it was still small enough to be dug up and transplanted easily. It was replaced with a Sylvester Palm that my husband chose. It was a good choice, as its size is much more appropriate to the size of the yard. It already provides some shade from the afternoon sun to part of our front yard.

Crepe Myrtle in Full Bloom

My Pink Myrtles - mlm c @

Knowing the crepe myrtle would grow quite large, and would someday partly block the garage entrance, and scrape the car going in and out of the garage, I had it moved out near the street. In its new location, we can see and enjoy its flowers from our front windows. As you can see in this photo, it is in full bloom now. When this bloom cycle has finished, I will cut off the spent blooms in order to get a 2nd bloom cycle  on it.

Our Front Entrance

Front Entrance - mlm c@

This is the front walk that was lined with holly bushes. After moving the hollies, I added more interesting and colorful foliage for a more welcoming front entrance to our home. In the left foreground, just out of the picture are some calla lilies, one of my favorite flowers. The asparagus fern laying on the walk has been removed because it is so very invasive. As soon as it is cool enough to work in the yard again, I will replace it with a variegated ginger that I have in a pot. That should be some time in the next 4 – 6 weeks.  The next task is having more pine straw mulch delivered.

For a Small Yard, the Shrubs installed by the builder Weren’t Much Better than the trees


Loropetalum - mlm c

The shrubs were a mix of loropetalum, holly, virbinum, and junipers. All but the hollies would require constant pruning, and eventually they would, too.

I do love the loropetalum for its unique year-round color:  Dark green and purple leaves that turn a to autumn colors in the fall. In the spring, when viewed from a distance, a loropetalum in full bloom can easily be mistaken for an azalea. Unfortunately, it will grow to be about 12 x 12, far too large for this yard.

I moved some of the loropetalum and hollies to the side of the house and backyard, and gave away all the others. Unfortunately, the loropetalum outgrew the area on the side, too, and need to be removed. I had junipers in North Carolina and Colorado, so I did not want them in Florida among my tropical plants, so I gave away all the junipers. I couldn’t find anyone who wanted the virbinum, because they grow so very large.

I staked one of the two loropetalum left in the front yard, and braided the slender main branches in an attempt to train it to become a small ornamental tree. For a while, it looked really nice. Then came strong winds. Those winds whipped that tree/shrub in all directions so badly that the vinyl-coated metal support rod snapped, and my little tree fell. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea, after all.


Flower Buds on Vibirnum - mlm c

These are the tiny spring flower buds of virbinum. This is one of only two I kept. It is on the rear property line, and is now about 15 feet tall. The problem is not the height so much as it is the width. Virbinum grows to be almost as wide as it is tall. In these very small yards, that doesn’t work very well. I already need to trim the side that hangs over the property line into my good friends’ back yard.

We want to play golf, swim, develop new recipes, and enjoy new friendships, not manage high-maintenance landscapes. Some of our neighbors kept all the high-maintenance shrubs installed by the builders. They simply have the shrubs sheared off into unnatural shapes:  flat on top, little boxes, or little balls. That’s just not for me.

I have replaced all the shrubs that, eventually, would have completely hidden our home from view with Encore azaleas, caladiums, daylilies, coleus, waxed begonias, elephant ears, bougainvillea, tulip ginger, variegated agave, and lantana. Among them we installed three Queen Palms. The Sylvester mentioned above, and the Queens were our anniversary presents to each other in 2013.

Just writing this post shows me how very much work I still have to do. You think I can convince my hubby to help? Nah, probably not. He hates yard work. Says I must be sick because I love it so much. Stay tuned for more of Part I as I continue this work in progress and, have more photos of the yard itself. Part II will be the back yard, and Part III both side yards.

What are Some Sun-Loving Flowers to Plant Here in Zone 9-A?

At a neighborhood gathering, Ginger T. described her problems with planting flowers in her new yard, saying that soon after being planted, they died. She wants bright, colorful flowers in her yard, and asked what to do, and what flowers will do well here.

Gerbera Daisy

Pink Gerbera - mlm c@

Gerbera Daisy, often mis-pronounced as “Gerber” Daisy, is one of my favorite perennials. It is available in many beautiful colors. I have them in red and yellow. This photo I took in the florist section of my local grocery store a few years ago. When we put our former home on the market, I blew this photo up to 8 x 10, framed it, and put it on the wall. Most of our paintings, and my artwork were already on the walls in our new home.

Tulip Ginger

Another perennial I recommend for this area (and not just because of my friend’s name) is a variety of ginger called Siam Tulip (Curcuma alismatifolia).  Below are some photos of those in my yard. This is NOT an edible type of the popular plant.

Ginger - Siam Tulip 2 MMP2

These beauties multiply like crazy, making them an excellent investment in your landscape. Last summer I bought 5 pots of these; there were 3 plants in each pot, which I planted without dividing. Now each of those has multiplied into clumps of about a dozen. This fall I plan to divide them and spread them across a larger area of my garden.

Ginger - Siam Tulip 1 MMP2

Recently, I needed a last minute centerpiece for a casual birthday dinner party. Last minute because I forgot to arrange for one. I cut some of these beautiful flowers and a few pieces of white vinca, put them into a small crystal bowl, and voila, a lovely centerpiece that drew lots of comments. That was on August 29, and that arrangement was still beautiful on September 3. The vinca still looks as if it had just been cut.

Ginger - Siam Tulip Bouquet


Another long-blooming and sun tolerant flower that I highly recommend is lantana, a member of the verbena family. It is drought-tolerant and comes in many colors, both solid and variegated.

Lantana is sold with flowers at garden centers everywhere, but I think of it as a flowering shrub. This is because it can grow to about 3-4 feet wide and about 2 feet tall, but mostly because its stems become woody.

This pink and yellow one grows in our front yard. In the backyard, I have a red-orange-yellow variety. As you can see, the leaves are a beautiful deep green that add depth and texture to the garden even when between blooming cycles.

Lantana - mlm c @

I snapped this photo of purple lantana at Colony Plaza shopping center recently. It will need a haircut soon. Unfortunately, the grounds crews rush by with gas-powered shears and chop it off into little box-shapes. This plant grows too large for some of the small spaces they have planted it around most of the shopping areas here.

Lantana - purple

If you live in Florida or any tropical area, be sure to get your lantana from a nursery or garden center, as Florida has a wild lantana that is very invasive. Lantana from a garden center is NOT invasive. Instead, it will grow into a spreading mound. Mine has grown from about 6 inches across to about 2 and 1/2 feet across, and about 18 inches high. If lantana spreads to cover an area larger than you want, it can be clipped back. Please resist the urge to shear it off all at once. Instead, clip individual stems, preferably at a joint. To maintain the natural appearance of the overall plant, clip some stems shorter than others.


Some annual bedding plants I recommended to Ginger were petunias, vinca (shown here), and marigolds, as these prefer full sun. These are normally thought of as annuals, but here in central Florida, petunias often survive our mild winters. My waxed begonias survived the winter here and even in North Carolina (Zone 7), but they did not survive the summer sun here. They need protection from harsh afternoon sun. Last summer mealybugs killed my hot pink vinca, so I don’t know whether it would have survived the winter or not. So far, this year, the vinca in the photo is still going strong. We’ll see how it “weathers” the winter.

Vinca - Hot Pink2 - mlm c @


One of many perennials that love the sun, but also do well in partial shade, is the daylily. Here are two of mine.

Orange Double - mlm c @

Yellow with Bud - mlm c@

Perennials are a bit more expensive but multiply each year.  My daylilies never completely died down here in Florida or in Alabama (Zone 7).  Because they multiply rapidly, daylilies, like most perennials, are a good investment, unlike most annuals which will need to be replaced year after year — unless they re-seed themselves, of course. As far north as Charoltte, North Carolina, my lantana had to be cut back each fall and heavily mulched, but it returned every spring. Here, it survived even our colder than average winter last season (2014-15).

The sun is intense, not only here in central Florida (Zone 9-A), but throughout the South. If you have no shade in your yard, or if the place where you want to put your flowers is in the sun,  it is best to plant those flowers in the late afternoon or even just before dark. This is because the planting process is traumatic for the plant. Planting them when the sun is not bearing down on them gives them time to adjust to their new home, and to recuperate overnight. They will need special attention and frequent watering until they become established. After that, water them only when they are not getting enough rain.