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Re-Landscaping Natural Elegance

Judy Marks has been getting the garden ready for the visitors after their youngest daughter's wedding. The storms made it much harder, but both she and husband Gordon wouldn't think of moving anywhere else or of living without trees.

Starting last June, Judy Marks began to plan for their garden to be at its best when the youngest of their five daughters got married this June.

"I wrote down what was blooming last year in June, but after our cooler spring, the bloom times are different this year," she says. Florida does that. Still, writing things down does help planning.

Gordon and Judy Marks had their Valrico home built on 5 acres of land in 1982, and she has surrounded it with gardens and woodlands ever since.

They don't try to garden the whole area. Instead they enjoy the trees and shrubs in natural areas that have so far given them privacy. "We feel like we live way out in the country," says Gordon. Judy is hoping that feeling will survive a development on the next property, and she is very glad of the sycamores, now large, that they planted along their boundary.

Nasty visitors called Francis and Jeanne also made the garden different this year. The storms took down four large trees that had screened the home from the road way and shaded Judy's bromeliad bed.

Judy Marks pauses on the nasturtium-lined path that goes by her vegetable garden. This peace lily was one of several purchased for another daughter's wedding 10 years ago.

"We had lighting in the tree tops and I sure miss them. They left a huge hole that we have filled in with five 'East Palatka' hollies. The fescue beneath them will soon fade with the summer," she says. "We had to put in the grass because the machinery had left all that bare ground. I feel like we are re-landscaping, and I'm sure other people are feeling the same."

Fallen branches have left much of the rest of the garden with less dense shade as well.

The additional sunshine after the storms had passed has kept Judy Marks transplanting, starting with the bromeliads. The large peace lilies that they bought for another daughter's wedding ten years ago are blooming abundantly, but with the coming of hot weather the leaves are showing slight signs of sunburn. If the rains come soon, it will help.

The Marks driveway is not paved, a bonus for the planet since all the rain that falls on it can sink right back into the aquifer. "Now and then it gets a few low places and Gordon gets out the tractor and moves a little dirt around," Marks says.

Another good thing they do for the planet is a bit of edible landscaping. "I stick in a few fruit trees wherever I can," she says. A lychee at the back corner of the house reminds her of the one her father had on Davis Island where she grew up. She also likes it because it is "such a pretty tree and nice screening at the right level" but hopes is will bear more fruit as it ages. She has another one started in the front yard and two kumquats that give her fruit to make Christmas jelly every year.

This bromeliad bed in the front yard was three times as large before four other trees were taken by the storms and she had to replant.

In the back yard she also has a vegetable garden that would be beautiful even without the edging of nasturtiums along the path. It includes a row of pineapples she started from tops and there are 13 fruits ripening this spring. "I find that the side shoots will give a second and third fruit but those will be smaller," she says.

For the summer her vegetables include a row of black-eyed peas that she is presently harvesting, another row to take over when this one stops, and a row of okra that she has already started picking. It will continue to produce until cold weather returns. She just took out the collards and all of the green beans except some pole beans.

Much of the immediate yard area is woodland that they let Nature maintain. There is fine St. Augustine turf around the oval bed in the center of the circle drive in front, and it is colorful all year with gerbera daisies, begonias, and false heather beneath young crape myrtle trees that are pruned high and will bloom in the summer.

The foundation planting has a formal feeling in spite of the natural setting and gives the two-story house a feeling of elegance. Two large gardenias bloom on either side of the door and fill the front stoop with their fragrance. Pink torenias bloom beneath them and blue ones are grouped at the corner of the house. Judy Marks makes the most of mass plantings and this also adds to the elegance.

The entryway planting includes this colorful bed of gerbera daisies, false heather, and begonias beneath crape myrtles in the center of the circle drive and mostly symmetrical planting around the door.