Here’s the second installment of former RI Master Gardener Paula Bartnick’s transition to her new home in Florida:
(You can read Part 1 here)
We have now completed several weeks of the Master Gardener training course here in Marion County, Florida. It has been very intense. We have a minimum of 12 hours worth of homework each week, between reading, research, and plant identification.
We went on a field trip to a local nursery that specializes in unusual plants. The owners were very nice. They took us on a tour of their facility, and of course I saw plants for sale that up until now I had only dreamed of planting: ginger, plumeria, and princess plant to name a few. The owners had a table set up when we got there, with10 plants that we were to identify. I thought to myself “You’ve got to be kidding!” A few I could identify, but some of them, well, no way! Turns out this was a contest, and I came in second! My prize was second pick of the plants on the table. The first place winner of course took the plant I wanted, a variegated tapioca. I ended up taking the Firebush, (Hamelia patens.) It’s a Florida native, so I probably can’t kill it! It also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
We have had lectures on termites, ants, palm trees, and herbs. We have a full day dedicated to entomology. Each class, we have a quiz. There is an awful lot of work involved, but it will be worth it! When they say that they teach this course at a Master’s level, they aren’t kidding!
Our yard is coming along, and the heat and humidity have subsided a bit, so I was able to plant a few things at the front entrance.
I think that the weirdest thing for me is that right now in Rhode Island, I would be getting ready to start tucking things in for the winter, but here in Florida we are approaching the time to plant our “cool season” plants, the annuals that will bloom from now until January. In December, the camellias will begin to bloom. In March, the huge border of azaleas we uncovered will start. I can’t wait!
It would seem that the former owner, Bill, was every bit as serious about his gardening as the neighbors tell us. He had an irrigation system that he designed and installed himself, with a dedicated water tank so as not to draw off the house. Amazing. We have found and removed a couple of miles worth of rotted soaker house, which will need to be replaced as we progress. My husband has finally agreed that we need rain barrels. ($25 down here with hardware and a screen that fits over the top!) Conservation is paramount, because when it gets dry, it’s really dry! We are blessed with a spring fed stream across the back of the property, so once we get rid of enough vine to get to it, we are also going to find a way to utilize that as a source of water.
It’s time to go and plant the Firebush, and of course the tapioca that, as you probably have surmised, I couldn’t resist!