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Gardens Keep Changing

Kathryn Castillo holds the Dancing Lady orchid still on the cloudy, windy morning just before the wonderful rains came.

No two gardens are exactly alike. No one garden is ever exactly alike twice, although the basic size, shape and personality remain. I have seen and written about Kathryn Castillo's garden through the years and it is always a pleasant surprise to visit it again. It is also reassuring to seen how she gets things done that she could never do herself.

She has many friends who are glad to help. "If I didn't have such good friends, I'd be living in an apartment by now," Kathryn says. "But the best thing in the world was getting rid of all the grass." The wide paths throughout the yard are covered with mulch, mostly leaves, though there are some other kinds of mulch, bark chips and such, in the beds.

There is no crowding in this garden even though it is small. Of course, the frost has eliminated crowding for most of us at the moment.

Kathryn retired from her job at the court house early in 2001 and became a Master Garden in the class of that fall. For several years, she was in charge of the plant clinics at first the Brandon and then the Bloomingdale libraries, where many of you may have met her.

When last I wrote about her, she had turned a hot tub on her large back porch into a water garden. That had its day, was duly enjoyed, but has gone now, along with all of the water features outside. "They were too much work," she says now. Our ideas about such things also change with the years.

She also had the huge bougainvillea on the one side of the house removed because it took too much pruning. "I love bougainvillea," she says, "but not in my yard." She did buy a new one that is supposed to be thornless and she plans to keep it in a container.

Knockout roses "are the best plants ever," Kathryn says and she has planted nearly a dozen around her garden. They are still small but already blooming.

Her friend Barbara Sherman helped her drill holes in the bottom of a huge tub that looks like cast iron but is really a heavy plastic to change it from a water garden to a container for Knockout roses. "Those are the best plants ever," Kathryn says. "She has nearly a dozen spread around her garden. Some are still small but are already blooming nicely.

Another friend, Rita Lichtenwalten, has long been on call for helping as needed. "She comes perhaps once a month and brings her electric tools that I don't have," says Kathryn. "I had plenty of damage from the frost. I just couldn't stand to look at it." So she was the first and only, so far, to have recovered enough for a photo shoot, which we wound up doing in a great hurry just before that lovely day-long rain we had last week.

Kathryn has more focal points in her small yard than one would expect to live in harmony, but they do. Every turn shows something special, from the stone burro among the purple queen and St. Francis by the little pump in the front to some fantastic statues in the back. Some focal points are very subtle like the old rocking chair almost covered with blooming confederate jasmine by the front fence and the Blessed Bee the Garden sign with one large and one smaller bee. When you look closer, you see it is leaning against an old milk can. This is a garden where you have to keep looking closer or you'll miss something. I had to move the Florida Friendly Yard sign so it would show in the photo and like mine, it is getting a little faded, but still stands for water saving and good environmental methods being used here.

Some of the statues, a gift from her son, look like they'd be right at home in an art gallery. Others, like the statue of the Blessed Mother Mary and the color tile picture of Mary appearing at Fatima attest to Kathryn's strong faith and use of the garden as a sanctuary for the soul and a place of prayer. Others are just for fun.

She has a rain barrel from a rain barrel workshop at the extension office.

I almost missed the blooming Dancing Lady orchid hanging from the honeybell tree. While tall oaks surround this property, the only trees within it are citrus: orange, tangerine, lemon, Duncan and Ruby Red grapefruit.

Our Lady of Fatima is enthroned and surrounded by a variegated confederate jasmine. She brought these tiles from Portugal when she visited there, put them together herself on a waterproof board, and had them framed in Brandon.