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Chris Getz Has a Three Generation Garden

Christ Getz is proud of the shed they just finished with its potting area on one side.

Chris Getz is enjoying his first house and garden, though his knowledge and dedication surpass his years. He has been gardening "since I was a little kid. My Dad was a big gardener. I lived as a gypsy between then and now and did most of my gardening as bonsai so I could carry it around," he says. He grew up in Tampa and tries to keep his garden 100% organic.

He bought his place from Vince Pilz whose rose garden was featured several years ago (Vince Pilz' Rose Garden Gift). Vince Pilz has since died young of cancer, but Getz got to know him and to appreciate his contribution to the garden. "Before Vince it was owned by to older ladies who had also planted many wonderful plants before they died," says Getz.

There are three huge oak trees on this small property plus several small trees like the white orchid tree Pilz planted. So the shade has spread considerably and sunny spots are at a premium.

One of the ways Getz gets around the sun/shade problem is that he has his cactus and his orchids on elevated tables made of a wide stepping stone atop concrete blocks. These he moves around as needed until he finds the right places. There are at least six of these in his cactus garden. "Spring is awesome out here when all the cactus bloom," he says. By having them elevated, he can avoid them when watering, which he does mostly by hand.

"Vince told me there was a sprinkling system but to beware of it," he says. "I tried it and found he was right. It cost me $300 a month to water with it and only $70 to water by hand." He does this every day when it is not raining, dousing the plants that need it and passing over those that do not. "It give me the chance to look at everything."

He is often out of town with his work. His roommate, John Cross, waters in his absence, and if they are both gone, they have friends who fill in.

"I also take a large group of friends with me when I go to plant sales so they can help carry the pots," Getz says. John Cross built the trellis and gateway that now grace the garden and they just finished a colorful shed in the back corner with a potting area on one side.

The side garden includes a rich variety of roses, three kinds of blanket flower, wheat celosia, and native rattlesnake master with the white puffs.

The variety and the quality of the plants in this small, neat garden are amazing. "I read a book about Seminole medicine and have gathered many of the plants they mentioned," Getz says. Rattlesnake master is one he does not expect to use, but it is decorative and attracts bees, butterflies, birds and conversation. He has several unusual kinds of coneflowers and a vanilla grass that is poison but can be burned like incense or the aromatic leaves added to potpourri.

"The roses looked terrible last year at this time," Getz says. They no longer get the full sun they once did. "But I went to a rose garden in Prague and they had mounds of cow manure around the base of each bush. So I tried that, and it has really helped."

"We are right on the busy road here, and it is a mixed blessing. It can be noisy, but the foliage absorbs much of the noise. The passing cars provide a great deal of air circulation that really helps the cactus and the roses, especially in the summer," Getz says.

The beds are slightly raised and set off with neat edging. The paths are mostly mulched with pine needles that Getz buys by the bale from Kerby's. "Sometimes I go there and don't find many plants that I don't have, and other times I spend my whole paycheck," he says. He considers a truck essential.

All of his fertilizer is organic and he feeds everything once a month. Fish emulsion works well on his herbs but slows the bloom on his roses since it is mostly nitrogen.

His herb garden is remarkable. Lemon verbena, true tarragon, and feverfew were all still thriving in late July when they are usually gone for most gardeners. He had to move his orchids around quite a bit before he found the right place, but they are thriving now. His bonsai garden is beyond belief, worthy of a column of its own in the future. (See Nov. 2008, Bonsai Make a Big Impact in a Small Space)

The cactus garden is "awesome when they all bloom in the spring."

His orchid garden is contained on several of these elevated tables with impatiens growing below.