Before 2004, our side yard was shaded by twin oaks and lush with ferns. In the evenings, it was nice to sit on the deck and watch Prince (our huge black-and-white Persian) blast upwards like Shamu in pursuit of geckos.

With 2004 came Hurricane Charlie, a killer storm that missed us by 2 miles. The oaks were toppled. The ferns that were not crushed directly by the trees or their subsequent removal burned off in the sun. Weeds began to take over the lot.

We tried everything. We whacked and cut. I planted rows of corn but the bugs ate them. Then I tried plumbagos. As soon as I got a group of them going, as soon as it looked like we might push the weeds back, they perished in a cold snap like soldiers at Stalingrad. The only thing that did well was the live oak we planted to replace the fallen pair.

For a while, we just let it go, content by the “natural” element of it. Yeah, it was natural all right. It was feral.

Finally JB suggested we go with Evolving Landscapes. It wasn’t cheap, but they took everything out. Weeds, vines, snakes, rats, everything. Then they replanted with Florida native plants. I wasn’t sure it was a good use of money – I remember standing on the deck and looking at a sea of mulch and thinking it might have been a bad move. But by summer’s end, the plants were coming up, really filling out. With the mulch down, we could leap on the weeds as they came up. Really nice.

Funny thing – we got an unexpected bonus when a huge number of gloriosa lilies came up, a colorful complement to our garden. We’d never seen so much as a single one while it had been all ferns, and that stretches back to 1979 when JB bought the house. The bulbs had lain dormant like forgotten land mines all that time.

There were a couple of bad moments over the winter – three freezes. We’d be outside in the failing light, wrapping plants and putting down sheets. We weren’t sure what would make it. But with the spring, things began coming up (including a row of plants I’d been just ready to dig up and replace – I was actually putting the spade against their root system when I spotted a single green bud. It was a stay from the governor. Now those plants are booming).

This morning, I went outside following the overnight rains, if only to pass an hour pulling weeds. But when I sat back on my haunches and looked over what this weedy mess has become, I felt I really had to post. I mean, just look…


Even my babies are doing well. There is one plant against the fence – my tobacco plant, I call it (because of its wide flat leaves). I personally wrapped it on those chilly nights. I really wanted it to survive. And now its rewarding me with a flowering cap. Beautiful.


Like I said, this isn’t Farmville. It’s beyond that, an Eden of our making that we can enjoy.