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Easy Maintenance Is High Priority in Noethiger Garden

Tom and Barb Noethiger enjoy their waterside garden in Valrico.

Barb and Tom Noethiger of Valrico have a lovely small garden that backs up on a pond with a golf course across the water, far enough away that they seldom get golf balls or golfers in their yard. They also have some very wise rules.

"We don't do pots," says Tom. "They take too much watering. We are very careful to keep this easy to maintain."

They work together, usually on Saturday mornings. Barb does the planning and weeding, Tom the planting and pruning. He finds that 15 minutes trimming can result in an hour of picking up and hauling away. He also finds that filling two trash containers with refuse every week keeps this garden in good shape even over the summer. Tom also mows the grass and they have a monthly service that feed everything.

"We have a sprinkler system, but it is turned off for the summer. If it should get very dry, we would water manually, but we'd think about it carefully first," Tom says. If this wisdom would only spread throughout the land, it would go far to solve many of Florida's water problems and gardens would be better for it. Very few plants benefit from extra summer watering. And it is true about containers needing water more often.

"It's survival of the fittest here," says Barb. "We don't cover or carry in when frost comes. Whatever dies is replaced with something hardier."

They are both from western Pennsylvania and have lived in this home for 10 years. A large gray bolder from their home state sits in the dooryard, but they bought it here. Other large but flatter rocks border the beds. They look like two-man rocks, but Tom put them there himself. The good thing is that he can move them again if he decides to.

The Bird of Paradise had at least five flowers and the bottlebrush tree gives gentle shade.

He is careful to see that his wife does not work too hard.

Quite a few native plants also help this garden stay colorful and neat with a minimum of care. Stokes' aster has lovely lavender flowers. Several clumps of Coreopsis or tickseed are bright with yellow flowers. These are sometimes considered annuals but have come back and spread in this garden. There is also a Florida buttercup with bright yellow flowers, a sky flower with beautiful blue ones and meadow beauty that is a mound of pink.

Excellent clumps of ti plants grow in both of the narrow side gardens and red pentas draw butterflies. A fine clump of aloe has many stalks for orange and blue gray flowers and a clump of bird of Paradise has five flowers stalks in bloom, both quite impressive in their view against the water.

Along the shore, they have planted native grasses, and Tom has to weed carefully. "One time I got almost six months behind and the stuff that grows out of that pond could cover the whole garden," he says. He knows now to keep it in control, largely with the weed wacker.

"We've made mistakes over the years. We had a cactus garden for a time. That prickly pear was my worst mistake of all and it wasn't easy to get rid of," he says.

They find the wildlife very interesting and vice versa. "About once a week a big, brown soft shell turtle will come up and dig a big hole in the garden and perhaps a quarter of the time the turtle will fill it with eggs. But every time it does, we find the eggs dug up and eaten the next day," he says.

They suspect raccoons of the egg snitching, also of digging up everything they plant the first night. "I come out and replant it the next day, and after that they leave it alone," he says. "They even notice if we put down new mulch," says Barb.


This main bed between the pond and the pool includes native plants and gives year round color.