Tracy Webber is looking forward to Muscadine grapes by late summer. The vines are three years old and Jeff built the supports.
Tracy Webber and her husband Jeff of Seffner have a small garden that is full of surprises. She sent information about a 'Nearly Wild' rose she loves and it is definitely one for the high color/low maintenance list.
Her front yard was fragrant with a Confederate jasmine that once climbed the mailbox. It got so big that when the mailbox broke off, they left the post for the jasmine and put another mailbox beside it. We took these photos in early May in the midst of the drought.
In a small bed beside the front walk and very near the door is a huge croton that was there when they first moved in 1998. "We have to keep cutting it back and Jeff built that frame to hold it off the walk," Tracy says. It is a beauty.
The front yard also holds a huge crape myrtle, a queen palm, a white heritage rose that was in full bloom and a hibiscus that has come back well from the freeze.
The Norfolk Island pine in the side yard was nipped only slightly by the freeze, being between the two houses. She is very glad because it is a shelter for birds she watches out the greenhouse window over her kitchen sink.
The blueberries were loaded with fruit that has ripened by now.
The back garden starts with a glimpse into her Florida room where container plants abound, including some orchids, Christmas cacti, spider plants and others.
"I've always been a plant person. I learned first from my dad and I often think of him when I work in the garden. My friends say, 'I don't know how you grow that.' I know. He taught me.
"After he died, my stepfather also taught me and he has been to visit here and helped, so he is part of this garden, too," she says. "It is my way of being close to them."
There are orchid trees on either side of the house and in the back there is a yellow orchid with tiny but twin leaves and buds of brown. I had never seen one. "It came from the Jail Plant Sale," she said.
It was her stepdad who told her to bury the grapefruit peels near the blueberry bushes, and it sure works. They are presently loaded with blueberries. So far she hasn't had trouble with birds. "I heard an owl would scare them away, so I got a statue of an owl," she says.
There was an above-ground pool in the back at one time and its removal left quite a few rocks, which they have moved to one area and covered with mulch. The rest is now her fruit and vegetable garden which included green beans, spinach, chives, and sunflowers. She was thrilled to find their first little Muscadine grapes on the vines and three baby pineapples on plants that had been hit by the frost. She also has some raspberries and black berries and has been getting green beans, banana peppers and habanero peppers from her vegetables garden. The spinach was a challenge, probably because it got so hot so soon, but it looked good.
Tracy is the main grower, but Jeff built the raised beds, the support for the grape vines and the croton, and he helps with heavy work. Near the vegetable garden is a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, which is seldom seen here. "It was only about 3 ft tall when we planted it," she says. It must be 25 ft tall now, though they have not yet seen any of the green-yellow tulip-like flowers. It is supposed to have low drought tolerance, but it was definitely thriving even before the rains came. The leaves look like squared-off maple leaves. It was one of my favorites up north. The Webbers also have a maple tree in the back yard for fall through spring color. Eventually they will have much shade there.