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Peace and Tranquility

Layers of color come from groups of the same plants, each with its own space, but several groups filling the view from a distance.

Bob and Judy Harris don't have much extra time for gardening. Both have full time jobs and give a great deal of time to their church, St. Francis of Assisi in Seffner. Yet they have a colorful and lovely garden on their 3/4 of an acre on a quiet cul de sac street.

Bob Harris is the chief gardener in the family. One of the secrets of his success comes directly from his lack of time. "I use the Kerby's fertilizer faithfully and supplement weekly - or every other week with Miracle Gro, the new bottles that you don't even have to mix," he says. It takes about one and a half bottles to do his yard if he hurries and he uses the regular formula, not the bloom booster.

Harris has wisely planted most of his plants in groups of several of one kind and color for better visual impact.

"I aim for a lot of color and think in layers," he says. I plant with the view from the house or the street in mind and from that angle, you see several beds of different colors and heights in one view."

Three poinsettias that are inconspicuous now will grow up much taller than the ixoras that bloom across the front. When the poinsettias start to bloom, he prunes the ixoras back and the color scheme changes for the Christmas season when they have the nativity scene on the lawn.

The lawn, by the way, is a solid dark green velvet. "That comes from using Scott's Bonus S," Harris says. Both the front and back are on a sprinkler system. The many hanging baskets need hand watering, as a rule once a week for plain water and another time with the fertilizer solution since they are in some shade.

When the Harris family moved here in '88, there were three small oak trees in the backyard and two on the side. These are now large and well pruned for a high canopy so there is plenty of light and air beneath. (Harris uses Robert Smith Tree Service: 763-2931.) They have also added a southern magnolia and a golden rain tree in the front and both are now large, and a tree of gold that had bloomed abundantly in the back.

This windmill is a focal point in the back garden and the chairs under the orange tree another favorite resting place. Note the excellent lawn and the many bird feeders.

"I like the tree of gold because it blooms when not much else does," Harris says. They also have a Valencia orange from which they make juice as late as August, a navel orange, and a young pink seedless grapefruit. Sitting areas, a trellis, a wishing well, and a windmill add interest and focal points to the views.

Statues of St. Francis, the Blessed Mother Mary, St. Anthony, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy Family are each surrounded by special plants. Several are among the flowers just beyond the pool where they are in view also from the rocking chairs on the patio.

Bob Harris is one gardener who often sits in his garden to read his Bible. "God and I get to talk a lot out here. A garden has much to teach us, the importance of pruning, the vine and the branches..."

Many bird feeders bring cardinals, blue jays, a woodpecker, and other birds. Some of the feeders hang out in the open with baffles on top to keep away the squirrels. The squirrels eat the seed that fall to the ground. He keeps the birdseed handy in a plastic container inside the wishing well with a stone on top so no creatures can get it open. In some of the feeders he puts out unsalted peanuts (people kind) he gets on sale from Walgreens. A recent band of goldfinches enjoyed pecking at the peanuts. He also has birdbaths that provide water and many plants that attract butterflies.

Most of his gardening skills are self taught from experience. "You learn a lot over the years. I've had some failures but many more successes." He has learned very well.

Bob often sits in his garden to read his Bible. Statues of heavenly friends are in view here and in mind often as the Harrises rest in rocking chairs or swim in the pool.

Each plant in the Harris garden has room to grow. Everything is super neat.
I came home and worked harder to get mine at least a little closer to that ideal.