STEP 1: Contemplating how I wanted to spend my time — outdoors and active — I realized it could happen right in my own yard!
STEP 2: I wanted to be a good steward for the environment and be smarter in my daily use of time and money.
STEP 3: Wildflowers were a topic of conversation. Florida DOT was being commended for creating meadows along roadways, mowing less and saving money. I believed I could too! The connection between native wildflowers and birds and bees became clear. NATIVE wildflowers create beauty and save money + they attract birds and butterflies (pollinators). Most importantly, native wildflowers provide pollinators with food and shelter! Now I am really intrigued to learn more! Bees are in the news. Birds are too! I CAN help!
STEP 4: Through trial and error, I realized I needed a new source for plants in my yard. The plants sold by big box stores are not appropriate for the temperatures and amount of rainfall in Region 9 (wasted $$$). I joined the local chapter of FNPS, Florida Native Plant Society. Of their 33 chapters, two are in Lake County and the closest one to me, in South Lake County, is Passionflower. The North Lake Chapter is Beautyberry Chapter, in Eustis. The FNPS website has links to the local chapters and a ton of information and resources.
STEP 5: So many resources is a mixed blessing. First, I needed a professional design and a source of native plants. Living in Groveland is a huge advantage. Green Isle Gardens is a short drive. They have designers and NATIVE inventory, grown right there. Numerous trips to wander their rows and rows of wildflowers, grasses, shrubs and wildflowers helped a lot. Together we agreed on a design for an HOA controlled residential yard. Creating well-defined beds and a modest swatch of turf in the front yard. ALL turf was eliminated along each side of the house and in the back.
PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS: When I purchased my home in 2013, it was identical to the other 109 houses in the subdivision, with irrigated, manicured lawns on all sides of each house, loropetalum hedges, and three palm trees. The site, located within the South-Central Florida Ridge, is predominantly Candler sand. The site is level and the house front orients directly east. The initial design, site prep and installation was done by Marc Godts of Green Isle Gardens, February – March 2014.
DESIGN CONCEPT: The corner lot has high visibility so it was important to “fit in” with the neighborhood, not stand out as an oddity. Only small trees were added to the homesite. Mature longleaf pines, just across the street, fulfilled the needs of larger birds. Mulched pathways between beds and around the house creates easy access.
Initially 398 plants / 39 species were installed:
Now there are 584 plants / 62 species installed:
In addition to Florida native plants, the sunny southside is home to edibles: peach, plum, fig, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, avocado, moringa and a few seasonal vegetable plants.
SUMMARY OF MAINTENANCE
During that first summer of 2014 hand-watering and dragging hoses was daily. Weeding in the second summer was almost daily. As time passed, the weeds lessened, the birds and butterflies increased. Gopher tortoises created burrows. The benefits of self-seeding by wildflowers and grasses was being enjoyed.
In the fall and winter there is an abundance of seeds for birds provided by trees: Chickasaw Plum, Wild Lime, Firebush Yaupon Holly and Beautyberry. Love Grass and the beautiful Muhly Grasses provide seeds and shelter.
Although the landscape was not intended to be educational, it has turned out to have a casual educational benefit. The large easy-to-read plant ID markers (repurposed ice cream lids) have informed neighbors and provided an opportunity to share the benefits of native plants. Extra copies of FNPS and FANN publications are offered to neighbors and their children. Young ones are very observant and have many questions. Keeping a supply of potted dune sunflowers on-hand allows sharing in the hope of stirring interest within the community
The benefit of weeding by hand, being up close and personal, is the discovery of beneficial insects and emerging plants, aka volunteers. The most prolific, and shareable, volunteers are dune sunflower, coreopsis, bee balm and spiderwort. Scorpion tail and rouge plants too – preferring to snuggle up together creating an eyecatching white and red display.
I am pleased to report ALL goals were met or exceeded. Only 10% of the turf remains. Beds expanded, as did the West “slope” at the property line. Added here were plants provided via division and self-seeding or the generosity of fellow FNPS members. We share stories and actual plants often!
I describe the yard in the beginning of the year as “Winter Beautiful.” In Spring, it will be “Wonderfully Wild”, Summer “Full of Surprises” and Fall “Easy Going and Attractive”. I consider this another GREAT benefit. The habitat is ever-changing.
INTERESTED IN “SEEING” this Yard:
Since my yard received the FNPS Residential Landscape Design Award in 2021, it is featured in one of the Lunch and Learn segments produced by Valerie Anderson and available on the FNPS website.
FNPS Residential Landscape Design Award in 2021
PAMELA ADAMS, 1001 SANDHILL STREET, GROVELAND, FL