Tropical South

August, 2004
Regional Report

Prepare Your Garden for Neglect

Before you leave on vacation, water well but do not feed plants. Once we fed tomatoes on our way out of town and they grew so rampantly out of their cages while we were gone that we never got them back in. Do any planting a good week or two before you leave so that the plants will be nearly settled. Group all your container plants together in a shady spot near the house, and have someone come by to water them if you're going to be away more than a few days, unless it's rainy season.

Take a Wildflower Book Along

You still might not be able to identify all the flowers you drive past, but just looking them up will pass the time and ease the frustration of not knowing their names. Now and again a rest area has some plantings with labels.

Jot Down Plant Descriptions Even Without the Names

The more you know, the more you know you don't know. After studying plants for many decades, I still meet many that I don't know, especially the seaside plants and many of the native plants. Don't let this bother you. Just write down the description. I've interviewed many gardeners and almost all have been growing several kinds of "I-don't-know-what-it is" plants. Sometimes you find a label in a garden and solve a mystery. But one good gardener said, "Don't ask me names. I don't want to go there." Always having something new to learn is one of the things that makes gardening fun.

Stop at Public Gardens

Check the Web for public gardens on your route. They may be close enough for you to get your fast food and make them a lunch or supper stop. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville is only a
mile west of I75 at Exit 384. Maclay Gardens is very close to Exit 203 on I10 north of Tallahassee. It takes awhile to train a reluctant family to carry the French fries that far, but if you do it gently, they will eventually be finding some garden stops for you and admit to enjoying them as well.

Don't Pass All the Nurseries

Nurseries are beginning to look and feel more and more like botanical gardens, and owners are flattered when people come just to visit or spend some quiet time, even if they don't buy. Check out Tallahassee Nurseries, just south of I10 at Exit 203 in Tallahassee, and The Gourd Garden with two locations along 30A, a lovely drive in the Florida Panhandle between Panama City and Fort Walton Beach.

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