Tony and Beverly Sacco have worked together in this garden since 1975.
Beverly and Tony Sacco have living proof that you can have a lush green lawn and still work within the water restrictions. Tony is a perfectionist about this. "The area right along the street tends to burn out from the heat of the asphalt, so I'm putting in a edging of a hardier ground cover there," he says.
Over the years they have cut down the area of turf where it was not doing well in the shade. They have Seville St. Augustine that is doing very well in partial shade. "I like it because it doesn't grow so fast," Tony says. "I had some Floratam that grew higher and was susceptible to fungus. I am careful not to mow too low."
One of the best helps they have had with their lawn was an application of Hydratain put on by the company that regularly sprays for them early in the dry times. It made a definite decline in water needs.
They do not have an automatic sprinkler system but drag around hoses with portable sprinklers. Thank goodness the drought seems to have ended for now, but it always comes back.
They built their present house in 1975. "We enjoy having a wooded lot," Beverly says, "but we did have a large tree struck by lightning that fell on the back part of the house." They have one live oak and several other oaks.
The side garden has constant color from bromeliads. These orange orchids have been blooming since January. Cardboard palms were full of seeds. Can you imagine 17 starfish cacti blooming at once?
Around and under the trees they have constant color from many bromeliads. "Every morning when we come out there is a surprise," Beverly says. One day their starfish cactus had 17 huge blooms. Recently the nun's orchid, amaryllis, and walking iris have make spectacular shows. But it only takes a small bud or new flower to lift a true gardener's spirits.
As their bromeliads multiply, they plant the extras in their neighbors' yards and the neighbors also watch for the constant surprises on this corner lot.
Both Saccos are retired. Tony was born "where I 4 crosses 40th street" and has lived in this area all his life. "I knew the good Florida. We still have birds and wildlife, but nothing like its was then." He has two large pots of Amazon lilies that once were his grandmother's.
Beverly is from New Jersey. They work together on the garden but are becoming more and more selective about plants. "Any that need the hose too often are gone," Beverly says. "And we also said we weren't going to cover everything from the frost, but we did it anyway." They did give away all of their peace lilies because they demanded too much water and some sagos because they needed too much spraying. While they have the lawn treated regularly, they use few pesticides on the garden beds.
One of their favorite plants is the healing aloe plant: "we use it (the gel in the leaves) for everything." They also have quite a few pineapples ripening, and tangerines, lemons, tangelos and a kumquat. This back garden is fenced so their dog can run free, but here also the grass is elegant. So are the plants surrounding it. Honeysuckle was blooming abundantly along part of the chain link fence and bleeding heart along another length.
The back garden where the dog can run free is surrounded by gardenias, a very green neem tree, a tall fishtail palm.
Two gardenias were blooming. "That one by the house looked so bad we were going to take it out, and then it burst into bloom to show us," said Beverly.
A huge fishtail palm had suffered some damage near the top, but for the most part it was thriving and baby plants were coming up all around it. A palm of unknown name (they have too many plants to keep track of all of the names) has an attractive bronze color on the new growth all year long. They have many interesting palms and cycads, none of which are too tall to prune.
He does take an ax to the runners of the lady palm, Raphis species. It has roots that are like iron.
Beverly claims they often miss the rains that fall nearby, but they also missed much of the frost. Their large neem tree was completely green while many of us had ours turned completely brown. "Another wonder of nature for us to enjoy," says Beverly.