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Nelson Guggino's Garden Is a Traffic Stopper

Nelson Guggino stands beneath a new trellis he built and planted with cucuzzi squash.

"You have to see my husband's garden," said Karen Guggino. So I did. Turned out I had already stopped before that to take a photo of his ruellias at the roadside and the gorgeous yellow 'Hula Girl' hibiscus at the next house which turns out to be Karen's mother's. Except for the mowing, Nelson Guggino takes care of both places and started that hibiscus from a cutting of his own.

Both Karen and Nelson are Florida natives. She grew up in the house where her mother still lives and he in Ybor City. "He does all the gardening," she says, but it is clear that she is a great admirer of his work, and there is no better motivation. She cooks with the herbs he grows in pots and both of them enjoy the butterflies, hummingbirds, and other birds that come to their garden.

"The hardest thing to grow is grass," Nelson says, and he is slowing replacing much of it with ornamental peanuts that take over, look good, need mowing seldom if every, and have yellow flowers that are edible.

He only started gardening seriously about eight years ago. Many of his plants were exhibition quality.

Can You Name This Flower?

One of his secrets, he says, is using Jungle Growth potting soil he gets from Lowe's. He mixes it with other soil about half and half in both containers and in-ground planting holes.

He has followed the rule of planting most things in groups for more visual impact and it works. He planted the shooting star Clerodendrum all along the back fence for a quick privacy hedge that is spectacular in early spring when it blooms and attractive the rest of the year with its dark red leaves. It also attracts bees, butterflies and birds.

Can You Name This Flower?

This vine with delicate orange and yellow flowers climbing Guggino's hibiscus is a surprise, and the butterflies love it. So far it has not seemed invasive and he plans to keep it. The dark green leaves are shaped somewhat like those of the tulip tree but smaller. If you have a name, please email me.



This golden dewdrop (Duranta) is trained as a tree and is equally lovely when covered with purple flowers or golden fruit (which is poisonous to humans).

Ruellias at the entrance are an eye catcher most of the year.
They like full sun and can be invasive.