How My Garden Grows: Three

Margot’s “Get-Real” Guide for Gardening in the South

Dear Readers,

[After you read this entry, click: How My Garden Grows: Four.]

I confess that I am a “fair-weather” gardener.  The best months in NW Florida to enjoy gardening are:  October, November, early December; March, April, and May.

There are many things you need to know about, if you are a first-time gardener, or if you are a “frustrated” gardener.

I will give you my best gardening tips:

Purchase the Book:

  • The very best book I have found is The Southern Living Garden Book.
  • This one is specific to the Southern climate and heat zone.

 Know Your Climate:

  • Record Your Climate Zone here:   ____________   Mine in NW Florida is “Lower South” [LS].
  • Record Your Plant Heat Zone here:   _____________  Mine is Zone 9.

Find a Nursery:

Find a small, locally-owned nursery that specializes in:

  •  native plants
  • education
  • rain gardens
  • xeriscaping
  • attracting wildlife

In Tallahassee, my favorite nursery is Native Nursery.  If you go, please tell them I sent you:  I won’t receive any compensation but my friends at Native Nursery will be delighted to meet you.  Get to know the owners and staff by name.

Know Your Gardening Terms:

For instance, grass that you cut is “turf.”  Save the term “grass” to describe the “ornamental grasses.”

Turf plus everything else is “the garden,” a term which Anglophiles, such as I, relish using.

Plants” is a woefully inadequate general term but I am going to use the term, anyway.

Look below at the amazing choices of “plants:”

Choose a Category:

In what plant category are you interested?

  • Annuals
  • Bulbs & bulb-like [corms, rhizomes, etc.]
  • Evergreens
  • Ferns
  • Foliage:  solid color; variegated
  • Fruits & berries
  • Grasses:  Ornamental
  • Ground covers
  • Herbs
  • Perennials
  • Shrubs & bushes [I cannot remember the difference.]
  • Trees
  • Vegetables
  • Vines

Speak Compass: 

  • Use a compass to identify the sun exposure on the sides of your home and garden.
  • Draw a rough sketch of your home and garden.
  • Label:  N, S, E W.
  • Take the sketch to the nursery.

Know the Requirements of the Plant:

The label on the plant may not be correct because the labels are not “regional.”

Always check The Southern Living Garden Book first!

Requirements vary:

  • Sun exposure:  Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Moisture:  water and drainage
  • Climate: heat and humidity
  • Soil texture: sand, clay, or loam*
  • Soil pH

 Speak Latin:

  • Learn the Latin names of the plants!
  • Regional names are not specific enough.
  • There are many “spider lilies,” for example, but only one Lycoris.

 Choose a Theme:

What theme or purpose do you have in your garden?

For what problem do you require a solution?

  • Beauty spots:  bed, border, or island
  • Bullet-proof:  You cannot easily kill it.
  • Care-free:  Very low maintenance.
  • Containers:  pots, hanging baskets, and window boxes
  • Exposure: sun or shade
  • Food:  fruits & berries, kitchen herbs, or vegetables
  • Flowers:  fragrant blooms and/or flowers for cutting
  • Moisture:  Damp or wet area [Rain Garden is a solution]
  • Moisture: Drought conditions [Xeriscape is a solution]
  • Privacy:  hedge or screen
  • Showy:  Color [blooms, foliage, stems, or bark] or seasonal interest
  • Southern:  Heritage or Native
  • Wildlife:  butterflies, songbirds, and hummers

Choose plants that are Care-Free AND Bullet-Proof:

Must have: 

Pleasant fragrance/odor


Attraction for wildlife:  butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds

Must be:



Hardy and tough



Tolerant of extreme ranges of:  salt, sun/shade, temperature, moisture, ph, soil quality, and soil texture.

Must be free of:





Toxicity and poisonous properties

Allergic reaction in people or pets

Does not require:

Spray, soap, oil, powder




Fertilizer [special]

Soil amendment


Color:  blooms or foliage or bark

Year-round interest [or at least more than one season]


Florida Native

~~~Compiled by Margot Blair Payne, May 2012


Filed under Gardens

2 responses to “How My Garden Grows: Three

  1. Lu

    How delightful to find out you like to garden! I do, too, although don’t really do much more than stuff a small flower bed in our front yard full of things, including a couple of vegetables the past few years. We’ll have to compare notes sometime.

    • margopayne


      So lovely to hear from you! I am elated to hear that, in addition to gardening, we also have something else in common: You are going to be a grandmother! Yes, I hope that, this summer, we compare notes on gardening and other common interests!

      Coram Deo,

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