Hummingbirds are brightly colored birds that are always a wonder to see, and it's easy to attract them to your garden.
These remarkable creatures have striking plumage and a high-energy lifestyle. Three species of hummingbird live in Florida through much of the year, and another two can occasionally be seen here in the winter. The most commonly seen is the ruby-throated. This feathered jewel is only about three inches long and weighs as little as a penny.
Hummingbirds get their name from the sound their wings make while beating up to 200 times per second. One of these remarkable birds’ most amazing traits is their helicopter-like flying stunts. Not only can hummingbirds suspend their bodies in midair, they can also fly backwards, upwards, and even upside-down.
To support all their high-speed activity, hummingbirds need to consume large amounts of high-energy nectar. To attract hummingbirds to your garden, choose plants with brightly colored or tubular flowers, like hibiscus or the native coral honeysuckle. Hummingbirds prefer red, orange, and pink flowers, and use their long tongues to sip the nectar found within.
Hummingbirds nest spring through summer and need a lot of nectar during that time, so make sure you have numerous nectar plants available. You can also help meet their needs with a hummingbird feeder.
If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to Tuscany, you might enjoy a Mediterranean style garden.
Mediterranean gardens use a silvery-green palette and often include drought resistant plants like rosemary, juniper, and yucca. Lavender is also common, but it won’t grow well in Florida. Try Russian sage for a similar look. If you enjoy edible plants, try planting fig, citrus, persimmon, or oregano.
Many Mediterranean gardens are centered around beautiful courtyards, often with elaborate fountains. If these major design elements are out of your budget, try grouping plants in terra cotta pots around your patio and using a smaller fountain. This can give you the look of a fancier courtyard for a fraction of the price.
While gardeners often choose plants for their visual beauty, you may also want to think about plants that stimulate the other senses. In sensory gardens, plants and other design elements provide experiences for seeing, smelling, hearing, touching, and tasting.
Sensory gardens can be created in spaces of any size, including containers. Some are devoted specifically to one sense, while others focus on several senses.
Sensory gardens can serve many functions. They're used for teaching, socializing, and therapy. These gardens can be designed for specific users, such as children or the blind. Raised beds and wide pathways can make sensory gardens accessible to all.
Sensory gardens encourage interaction with plants, so interpretive signs and access to the plants are important. Choose plants that are people-friendly and use as few pesticides as possible.
Many gardens rely on our sense of sight to create enjoyment, but touch gardens allow visitors to explore the garden in a more tactile way.
Touch gardens include plants with contrasting textures, including soft and fuzzy or rough and spiky. Think about the velvety feel of a rose petal, or the smooth bark of a crapemyrtle. Some plants, like the Southern magnolia, offer different textures within one plant. Its leaves are slick and leathery on top, but fuzzy and soft underneath.
Touch gardens are especially enjoyable for kids and visually impaired people. Just be sure to place any spiny plants so that no one will accidentally bump into them.
For touch gardens that will receive lots of visitors, choose sturdy plants that can stand up to frequent handling.
Scent is one of the strongest human senses, and fragrance gardens can add a new dimension to your landscape.
With thoughtful planning and design, it's not hard to create a pleasant fragrance garden using the tangy scent of tea olive blooms, the heady perfume of gardenia flowers, or the resinous smell of pine needles. Many edible plants, such as tomato, citrus, and herbs, have strong scents that can be incorporated into your fragrance garden.
Some plants release their fragrance with the heat of the sun, while others emit a scent only when crushed. Some plants, like night-blooming jasmine, moon vine, and angel's trumpet, have a scent only at night.
You can easily create a garden devoted to fragrance, as Florida is blessed with hundreds of divinely-scented plants—the trouble will be choosing which ones you want to plant!
Notably Fragrant Plants on Gardening Solutions
Types of Gardens
Specific types of gardens can be born out of necessity, or a design theme can offer inspiration and guidance.
Container Gardening: An Introduction
Choosing a Container
Harvest as You Grow Container Gardening
Sometimes a landscape is defined by a need or requirement, such as a vegetable garden or an accessible garden. Or a homeowner may simply want a certain "look."
Many themes are culturally historic and very well defined, such as traditional Italian or Japanese gardens. They have been used for centuries in a particular culture and are easily identified.
Other themes are newer, less defined, and although they have identifiable characteristics, they tend to have several variations. For example, a minimalist garden can be different forms or types, including formal, informal, urban, tropical, or desert.
[Raised beds with seating]
Accessible gardens are designed to eliminate barriers, allowing people of all ages and abilities to come together to garden. They can help senior gardeners as well as younger people with limited mobility.
The pathways are wide enough for a wheelchair and often paved or made of crushed stone. Ramps with railings also make it easier for people to get around.
Many accessible gardens use raised beds or even table planters that are supported on legs, allowing people in wheelchairs to easily reach the plants. They also provide plenty of seating and shade canopies to create rest areas.
Creating a Raised Garden
You can construct a frame for your raised bed using bricks, concrete blocks, recycled plastic, or wood. You don't need to be handy, since many simple-to-use kits are available.
Most beds are three to four feet wide, but they can range from a few inches to a couple of feet deep. Fill them with your own custom soil mix to provide good growing conditions and help maximize your harvest.
If you want to raise your garden a little higher or provide room for a chair under the work surface, try a table garden, a raised-bed garden that places the soil level at tabletop height. Just be sure to use drought-tolerant plants with short roots, or build the table deeper at one end.
Adaptive Methods and Tools
Using a stool and knee pads can make gardening a little easier. Purchase materials in smaller packages that are lighter to carry, and use a garden cart, which is easier to handle than a wheelbarrow.
Work for shorter lengths of time and wear light, loosefitting clothes when it’s warm out. And don’t forget a hat and sunscreen.
Adaptive tools can help many people who enjoy gardening, but have difficulty due to arthritis, vision impairment, or other physical challenges. Shorter handles provide better leverage, extra thick handles can aid arthritic hands, and double-handled grips can be added in order to use both hands. Tools with trigger grips and rounded-out thumb rests are easier and more comfortable to hold.
Carry On Gardening (From the United Kingdom, but a wealth of information on adaptive gardening)
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalisis) a native shrub that attract pollinators and thrives in soggy soil.
Soggy areas of the yard can pose a challenge, but not if you choose the right plants. In nature, bogs are areas that have wet soil but typically no standing water.
A bog garden is an easy and Florida-friendly way to take advantage of a wet, sunny area in your landscape, such as a ditch, water runoff, or muddy area.
But you can build a bog garden in a fairly dry yard as well—a perfect opportunity to utilize your rain barrel! One way to make a bog garden is by lining a shallow hole with a perforated rubber material.
Fill the bog with a mix of sand and peat and locate it in an area that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight.
Plants for Your Bog Garden
Start by adding tall flowering plants like red hibiscus (also called swamp mallow), yellow cannas, or blue flag irises to give your bog garden vertical interest. Then use shorter plants like carnivorous pitcher plants and sundews to fill in the foreground.
Remember that most bog garden plants need six to eight hours of sun each day, and may need to be watered during dry spells.
It's also a good idea to plant the shorter plants on the south side of taller plants so that they won't get shaded out.
Florida has over 200 species of butterflies, some of which cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.
To attract these delicate creatures, your butterfly garden must provide food for both the adult butterflies and their caterpillars. Though many butterflies will drink nectar from a variety of flowering plants, their caterpillars are often limited as to which plants they can feed on.
Major Components of a Successful Butterfly Garden
[Butterflies on pentas]
Adult nectar sources: attract and nourish adult butterflies.
Larval host plants: attract ovipositing female butterflies, serve as a food source for developing larvae.
Shelter: vegetation that provides protection from temperature extremes, storms/rain, and predators as well as locations for roosting/sleeping.
Water source with fountain: allows for easy and consistent access to water for drinking and thermoregulation.
A wide assortment of flowers is better than having just a few kinds. Butterflies are attracted to brightly colored, simple flowers with good places to perch. To make sure that nectar is always available, choose your flowers so that something is always in bloom.
Provide a combination of adult nectar sources and larval host plants: attracts maximum variety of butterfly species; encourages butterflies to remain in your yard, reproduce, and build populations instead of just passing through; allows gardener to appreciate all life stages.
Incorporate native plants into the landscape whenever possible: most larval host plants are natives. They're adapted to the region, will produce a small but representative extension of the natural ecosystem, and can attract other wildlife.
Create horizontal and vertical heterogeneity: choosing plants that have different heights and growth habits creates numerous microclimates which in turn appeal to a greater diversity of butterfly species; provides shelter; creates levels/strata of feeding opportunities.
Aim for a consistent host plant and floral venue throughout the growing season: choose plants that have different blooming times; ensures that garden remains attractive and productive as long as possible; provides food for butterflies during periods of low natural availability.
Provide a number of different flower colors: different butterfly species are attracted to different flower colors so include yellow, orange, white, and blue flowers as well as reds, pinks, and purples.
Provide a mix of flower shapes: the feeding behavior and proboscis length of a butterfly dictate which flowers will be visited: long-tubed flowers, for example are typically more accessible to species with long probosces whereas many composites (daisy-like flowers) provide a feeding platform and easy nectar accessibility for smaller species.
Plant in shade as well as full sun: appeals to more butterfly species; many forest species prefer shadier locations.
Plant in groupings: are aesthetically pleasing; provide masses of color; are more apparent in landscape; allow larvae to locate additional food resources in event of shortage.
Choose appropriate plants for each location: understand each plan's basic water, light, and soil requirements so it will perform and grow to its maximum potential.
Select plants that are suitable for your landscape, and use pesticides carefully to avoid harming your butterfly guests and other beneficial insects.
Give new plants a good start: water and mulch new plantings to insure firm establishment.
Fertilize: a regular fertilizing regiment will produce maximum growth and flower production.
Avoid pesticide application when possible: all butterfly life history stages are very sensitive to pesticides; avoid Bacillus thuringiensis; when pest problem arises treat it locally; use beneficial insects/natural enemies.
Learn to identify the butterfly species in your garden: provides greater enjoyment; allows for gardener to "plant" for particular local species.
Benefits of Butterfly Gardening
The most obvious benefit of butterfly gardening is that it attracts wildlife, bringing butterflies and more into your garden for purposes of enjoyment, observation, study, and photography.
But there's another important reason: ecosystem/habitat conservation. A well-planned butterfly garden becomes a small, but representative sample of the surrounding habitat and as such provides a safe haven for butterflies and other wildlife to gather, seek shelter, acquire food and water, reproduce and build populations; do not underestimate the importance of even a small garden.
There are practical benefits as well:
Use of native plants: hardy and drought-tolerant, disease/pest resistant, adapted to region so perform better under local conditions.
Food for natural enemies: healthy butterfly populations attract and sustain healthy populations of beneficial insects/organisms as well as provide food for birds, lizards, mammals, etc. which in turn help control garden pests; most butterfly nectar sources also attract beneficial insects.
Plant diversity: less susceptible to pests/individual plants less apparent in landscape; large number of microclimates provide home/shelter for other insects including beneficials.
Scientific: keeping detailed logs on the butterfly species encountered, times, abundance can provide important and useful information on butterfly population numbers nationwide.
And don't discount the therapeutic benefits! Butterfly gardens provide soothing retreat from every day life. And if you use herbs to attract butterflies, you'll have the bonus of aromatherapy.