Then in August of 1992 Hurricane Andrew came and left. In it's wake were miles of destruction, devastation and parts of South Florida that were in complete desolation. Within the previous sentence was also my shade house, my entire collection and lots of hard work....just gone, all within a few hours. I had a few months before I had to be back at college, so our neighbor, also a collector, and myself decided to scout through the wreckage to see if we could find any of our plants. This adventure lead us to amassing a brand new collection of plants. We found plants among the wreckage though not our own. We found our local Home Depot was actually throwing everything in dumpsters, yippee for us (even their wooden pot benches from the garden center). People actually found us by word of mouth and literally gave us their orchids because they couldn't take care of them. And we also unfortunately we found them in abandoned homes.
Our house after Hurricane Andrew came through August 24, 1992
The top picture was after we did weeks of cleaning & clearing.
The bottom two pictures were the day after.
|My boyfriend (at that time) & I building my greenhouse (1989/90)|
& then after Hurricane Andrew made it into firewood (1992)
For conversation sake in this post, the plants will be native to Florida.
First, the best place I suggest you start is a field trip to visit some of the following.
While you are there take some pictures of the plants you like so you can look them up and/or talk to the guides/employees/rangers utilizing their vast knowledge as to what the plant species are.
- visit your federal, state and county parks to see what a natural habit in your area looks like and see what native plants are indigenous to your area;
- take a hike and/or bike through some local trails;
- visit botanical gardens like The Deerfield Beach Arboretum in west Deerfield Beach,
Flamingo Gardens in Davie,
Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale beach,
Miami Beach Botanical Garden on Miami Beach,
Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables,
Vizcaya Gardens in Coral Gables
Pinecrest Gardens in SE Miami,
The Kampong National Tropical Botanical Garden in Coconut Grove,
Ann Norton Sculpture Garden in West Palm Beach
Mounts in West Palm;
- take a walk around your neighborhood to see what grows well in your area; if you see a neighbor's yard you like, strike up a conversation with them to get their feedback and experience with what worked for them;
- visit native plant growers like Plant Creations in Homestead or Native Choice Nursery in Boynton Beach, Living Color in Davie and Nuturf in Pompano Beach;
Now that you have picked out a few natives you thought would be great for your yard, lets go to the internet. This is a good place to get acquainted with additional pictures of the plants, their names, their growing requirements, how big they grow and where you can purchase them. Please note, not all plant nurseries carry native plants so it's best to call first.
Try looking for some of the following:
- gardening blogs;
- try using websites like Plant Real Florida to find local native plant nurseries in your area;
- native plant societies like Florida Native Plant Society and their blog, or just google 'Florida native plant societies' and you will be sure to find a local chapter you can contact;
- your local university extension offices like the University of Florida and your county agricultural departments like Broward, even your city will have information like Coral Springs and Pompano Beach;
- look to books, magazines & websites to gain additional knowledge and inspiration;
- look for local gardening clubs like Boca Raton's, these are a great place to share information;
- also online forums like Dave's Garden Forum and Palm Talk are great places to learn from;
- talk to local landscapers with knowledge in natives and/or find inspiration from international landscape architects like Raymond Jungles;
Ok so we have educated ourselves on some natives we like, now it's time to get dirty. We have to find out where in your yard will these lovely plants go? A few questions will help us determine that. For an example let's use the wild coffee, so far we found out that it does best in filtered sun as an under story plant, can sustain short dry periods and prefers moist forest type soil but can be grown in different soil types such as alkaline, acidic, sandy, loamy, etc.
We also found out that it has added benefits for/to the environment. Wild coffee has berries that are staples to many birds and animals diet, many native butterflies like the zebra longwing butterfly drink the flower nectar and for you it is a very low maintenance plant, yippee.
We have already asked the question about the plants growth habit, "is this an aggressive growing plant?", "what is the maximum height and width this plants gets?", "does it drop it's leaves every year (deciduous plant)?", "is this the right place for this plant?". With which we learned that wild coffee is an incredibly easy plant to grow with it's dense round shape growing to about 7 ft high by 4-6 ft wide. It is an evergreen, meaning it does not drop it's leaves like deciduous plants do. Wild coffee's are a very tame multi-stemmed shrub that stay put where you plant them.
So back to the question "where in my yard do I put this native?" Through our small bit of research we know exactly where to plant the wild coffee...under the black ironwood tree along the perimeter of your property for a beautiful bright green low maintenance privacy hedge. See you did it, yippee!
To quote the amazing Ms. Martha Stewart "it's a good thing" to use as many native plants specific to your region as possible whether you live in South Florida or elsewhere. With a little bit of research, I am sure you can find some wonderful natives you will love. So now that you have the tools to find native plants for your area, get out there and start planting and sharing your knowledge!
Feel free to contact me with any questions and/or comments!
Happy Gardening and many best wishes,