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by Monica Brandies


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Open Garden Time Again

The cassias are always the star of the November garden, covered with blankets of bloom.

Everyone is invited to come and walk through my garden on Saturday, Nov. 1 and/or Nov.15, from 10 am until 1 pm at my home, 1508 Burning Tree Lane, in north Brandon. Come and bring a car or a bus full of friends.

This event has become an obsession that keeps me weeding all year long. I can't seem to stop. People do come from many parts of the state since the invitation is published in Florida Gardening Magazine. This year the head of Alumni Activities from Temple University said she would come.

These are the two events with which my grown children help every year (my birthday present). They will have name tags and I am pretty sure that at least Phil, Mike, Gretchen, Catherine, and Teresa, born 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th, and 9th will be on hand to help you. Catherine will have her new baby Hannah here. One of my favorite visitors told me last year that my best crop was my children. I heartily agree.

Many of the gardens that have been featured in this column are more beautiful, neater, have many of the same plants and they look better there. But each garden is unique and mine, with all its faults, is my own little world where I can change things or chop things, add or subtract, mostly to suit myself.

I do admit that I now favor things that will look good in November. I even managed, by constant pruning, to keep the dwarf poinciana, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, from blooming too soon, also from growing tall enough to compete with the floss silk tree, Chorisia speciosa, in back. One year they were both very prominent from the head of the driveway and a very bad color combination.

My husband has a say so about the garden if he wants, but mostly he just wants me to clear the driveway and the paths from the door and not to work too hard. He recently cleared the mailbox on his own, but the garden is mostly mine and the golfing is his.

The millet is lovely in leaf and seedpod color and should soon bring doves back to the garden.

We had the tree trimmers come again last winter and the starfruit tree and the mulberry were two that they removed. I love sweet starfruit, Averrhoa carambola, but my tree produced only sour ones and most of them just rotted on the ground. Now that ground is growing green beans, millet, cucuzzi and cosmos. The tree is trying to come back, and I could let it and graft a sweet starfruit onto it, but for now I like the open area.

The mulberry, Malus species, just got too big too quick. It is determined to come back with mulberry vigor and I will have some free cuttings for anyone who has room. It did give wonderful fruit, long and lucious, but it needs a bigger patch of sunshine than I have to give it.

Since we took out the starfruit, we can really appreciate the floss silk tree, and it has flourished with the added room and sunshine. I'm hoping it will still be blooming, at least a bit for Nov. 1.

Close around the house I have several really lovely and unusual plants give me by Bill Streit and Donna O'Toole before they moved to Panama, including an ant plant, a hoya with convoluted leaves, one with flowers like tiny lime green parachutes, and many new kinds of bromeliads.. There is no way I can help but think of them every day.

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I brought seed of millet home from my visit to Ira McEachern's garden in July and planted it right away. It came up but stayed small for most of the summer, then suddenly shot up with rich brown seedpods, six of them at last count. My son-in-law, Tony Covine, assures me that millet will soon bring doves in my garden again, but I haven't seen them yet.

There is a cardinal that keeps pecking on Teresa's window and who fits in very well in her little red garden. He has also comes to the carport and pecks at the mirrors of our cars.

Don't bother with snippers or trowels this time. I'm going to have free plants dug and cuttings clipped already!

The floss silk tree bloomed abundantly in October and should still have a bit of color Nov. 1.

Everything beneath, including this orange tree, has been decorated for weeks with pink flowers.

  • Bring a pencil and small notebook when you come to write down names of plants you may want to get or to avoid, combinations you like, etc. Also bring a camera if you want. Wear casual clothes and comfortable shoes.
  • Watch your step, especially in the back, because there are both roots and vines that could trip you.
  • Be sure and get some mint tea or lemon grass tea, serve yourself on the shelf by the front door. And if you sign in, and grab a nametag, I may remember your name. If not, remind me of where we met before so we won't waste any good talking time wondering.
  • Last year one wise lady brought a bucket with wet sand or some medium in the bottom to keep her cuttings fresh until she got home. I'll have all the cuttings lined up in front and you can leave your bucket at the tables while you look around the garden.