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Penny Carnathan

Penny’s a Nurture And Hold (NAH): Nah, I won’t pull that out yet, it’s still got a green shoot. She likes dragonflies, lady bugs and new stuff only after weeding, pruning and fertilizing.

Kim Franke-Folstad

Kim’s a Want It Now (WIN): Everything pretty, everything now. She will resort to full-spectrum insecticides in desperate situations, and believes it’s her duty and right to buy new plants every weekend.

Both advocate Plant Choice (SOMEthing besides crotons. Please!), lots of color and low maintenance. We don’t agree on everything, but we’re smart enough to learn from each other - and from you.

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Off to Laura Barber’s garden to steal ideas and anything else we can get our hands on!

Posted May 8, 2011 by Penny Carnathan

Updated Jun 28, 2011 at 10:00 AM

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Kim and I were thrilled to snag an invite to one of Friends of Plant Park’s members-only shindigs last weekend. Their “Conversations in a Garden” is a twice-a-year thing where one member hosts the club for a garden open house. This year, Laura Barber was the victim …. er, hostess. Friends of Plant Park is the group that puts on GreenFest, Kim and I looove GreenFest. Kim and I also loooove all the Lauras associated with GreenFest.  (There are many.)  So we were very happy to be invited.

This is Laura Barber. She’s as sweet as she looks. The great big vase is full of cut caladiums, which she has only recently learned make great, long-lasting cut “flowers”.

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Her tiniest-leafed caladiums made an adorable decoration in the open-faced bathroom medicine cabinet.

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On caladiums as cut flowers, here’s what Laura posted yesterday (May 9) on Facebook:  “I had two colors (the white ones shown and red ones with green trim). I cut them all on Wednesday, April 27, and I still have two of the four original containers almost two weeks later! The large whites (shown in photo) are still in the best shape; the medium white still look pretty good. The minis, alas, were around only about a week.”

Laura and her husband, Steve, bought their house on Prospect Street (old neighborhood – South Tampa) in 2003. Both house and yard were pretty rundown, so they had to start from scratch. They had some big ficus trees along the rear perimeter of the backyard, but those were lost to hurricanes a few years ago. (Aside: Ficus trees, which get huge, were the most-toppled trees when Hurricane Andrew hit Miami in 1992. If you plant, keep them far from your house!) The Barbers went from shade (and no view of the neighbors) to sun (and opportunity!) The central part of the yard is now a rose garden.

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That bench in the back corner they bought from Charleston, S.C., a place they love to visit.

Kim and I had some serious Conversations in the Garden about how we might spirit away Laura’s arbor – a GreenFest purchase a couple years ago. She has Confederate jasmine working its way up the sides. (Good plant choice, but I bet she’ll be sad when it completely covers this beautiful arbor!)

Alas, neither Kim nor I figured out a good way to get away with a heist of this magnitude.

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Laura has fountains throughout her yard – to mask the noise from neighbors’ pool pumps and A.C. compressors. It works! But it takes a lot of fountains. This was one of our favorites.

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Laura says she bought the owl separately (I never would’ve guessed!) at Bloom Garden Shop in South Tampa, so Kim may have trouble copy-catting. (Yes, she expressed that desire. No, there is NO shame in copy-catting.)

And yard art? She’s as big a sucker as the two of us. We loved the little tree with orchids and art hung like Christmas decorations.

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Lest, I forget, there are also lots of plants in the Barbers’ garden, including several raised veggie and herb beds and unusual plants like Dutchman’s pipe and a paw-paw tree purchased specifically to invite particular butterflies.

I loved this Florida native swamp hibiscus. It’s one of my new favorite plants—I have a different variety, which has lots of buds but no blooms. Laura’s is in a pot because it produces lots of little volunteers, which she potted up and gave away as favors. Mine is in a pot because there’s nothing remotely “swamp” about my yard.

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Last but not least, the rain barrels. Laura and Steve went to great lengths to install rain barrel systems in both of their side yards. They couldn’t find a rain barrel expert (perhaps a good business opportunity for some young jobless college grad?) so they did it themselves.

Laura’s coup is the brown garbage-bag-looking thing in this photo. It’s actually a big out-flow “pipe” that can be used to direct water wherever you want it when the barrels are over-flowing.

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I could go on. I’ve already borrowed ideas not even pictured here. Laura’s angelonia comes to mind first. I now have three. Kim wants that arbor. She’ll have to keep looking.

But that’s half the fun!

 

Reader Comments

Por (Susan Gillespie) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Now that looks like a fun yard. More, please. Did they do their own walkways and raised beds? And is that a potting bench I see? Everything looks great.  I never thought to have caladiums as cut flowers. Great idea, Laura.

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Por (Chip) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Good job Laura! I like the overflow idea on the rain barrels. We all know just how much work it takes to get a garden looking like yours and yours looks great! And if your arbor comes up missing well ....“Chip”

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Por (Pumpkin) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Penny, You and Kim have the best jobs, visiting all these gardens.

Laura, I love all things rusty, so of course I love your arbour and bench and you know we love seeing others garden at The Dirt. Pumpkin

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Por (Laura) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Thank you! As far as the cut caladiums, that was just a mistake that turned out beautifully: we had planted numerous bulbs in years past beneath our oak tree out front. This year, well ... a sparse turnout for caladiums. We had already planted impatiens, which were blooming beautifully, so the caladiums looked out of place. I really had run out of time trying to do everything to prepare out yard for this event (painting bad-aluminum-siding-someone-put-on-this-house-decades-ago, finding places to store a gazillion empty pots, trying to make everything show-worthy), so I just didn’t have time to remove the caladium bulbs, but didn’t want to destroy them.

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Por (Laura) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

So I just cut them on Wednesday (two weeks tomorrow) at the base and brought them inside. I had white ones (as shown in the photo) and red ones with green trim. I sorted them by size, and it amazed me that something so sparse-looking outside was incredibly rich and luxurious once they were inside vases ... four to be exact! I separated the leaves by color and size.

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Por (Laura) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

The large white ones (shown in the photo) and most of the medium-sized red ones are still looking fantastic—two weeks later!
Susan, Although we would love to take credit for the raised herb gardens and walkways, those were done by professionals (and probably a good thing they were). When we bought the house, there were these amazing antique bricks on a path ... leading to nowhere. We saved those, but unfortunately, there were not enough to create the entire walkway

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Por (Laura) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Also wanted to comment about the raised herb beds ... now that I watched a professional put them together, I’m sure when the cedar gives way, we can do it ourselves next time! Just make certain to use a wood that is resistant to the elements and insert a supporting vertical post to hold the horizontal boards together as the wood in the bed expands and contracts with the weather. Our beds are about twice the height as most of those I see in other yards, and that extra 4 or so inches makes a huge difference, I think, in giving the herbs and veggies room to grow (of course, everything looked amazing a week after the event ... how does that happen??!)!

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Por (Laura) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Final comment (sure you’re getting tired of these posts), but the overflow on the rain barrels has been a huge help ... and Chip, we haven’t even experienced rain barrels during the rainy summer season (installed only a few months ago). We have 7 barrels total (2 connected on one side, and 5 connected on the other), and they will fill completely within 30 minutes with a decent rain, so overflow is one area I believe many who install these have overlooked. Thanks again for the wonderful compliments!! I love this blog and always enjoy reading your tips and ideas!

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Por (Susan Gillespie) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Nagging works, huh? LOL So a swamp hibiscus actually needs a wet situation? It sure has a pretty flower. How does it do in the winter? More questions, I know.

That IS a fabulous arbor.

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Por (Chip) on May 10, 2011 (Suggest removal)

While I was in Savanna Ga. I seen the coolest rain barrel gutter combo. Instead of gutters they used chain. I know the first thing I thought was how is that going to work. but it works great and looks cool with the water coming down the chain into the rain barrel,and it makes a kind of a water fall kind of sound. I am done with training and waiting to get my own truck. when I get home and go back out my camera is coming with me…“Chip”

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Por (Laura) on May 11, 2011 (Suggest removal)

What color was yours, Penny? Ours grows like a true weed. It was a gift from my mom’s plant (she lives in Wesley Chapel). It sat last year in that same pot but out in full sun. It also died back over the winter, but was one of the first plants to spring back, with loads of new ones scattered in the dirt inside (and around) the pot. I will definitely save you the next sprout. We had a similar plant last year that really didn’t bounce back from the final freeze: a coral plant. It was another interesting one that was invasive and grew lots of babies in and near its pot. The butterflies loved that one (orange-red in color).

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Por (Janna) on May 11, 2011 (Suggest removal)

You have a beautiful garden, Laura! I’m also a sucker for yard art and fountains and I love your interesting variety of pieces.

I’m SO glad that you mistakenly discovered a great new use for caladiums. I’m always looking for things in my garden to cut for display inside and I never thought of that!

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Por (Pumpkin) on May 11, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Cindy and George have White Swamp Hibiscus and Red Swamp Hibiscus. If anyone wants them maybe I could pick them up from Cindy for you? Pumpkin

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Por (Pumpkin) on May 12, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Kim, Johnnie gave each of us a shade plant, do you remember the name of it? I wanted to look it up. Pumpkin

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Por (Alex Vila) on May 16, 2011 (Suggest removal)

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Por (Chip) on May 16, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Boy I am missing all the good stuff greenfest U.S.F’s spring sale but hey I made it all the way to London, London Kentucky. And its COLD! it got down to 48 deg. last night. But I have been enjoying seeing the farms and mountains all I can think is Diane would love to see all of this stuff sooner or later I am going to make it home and my camera. They have a “drive along” program so when we can get it together Diane can ride along…“Chip”

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Por (Susan Gillespie) on May 16, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Sure do miss seeing you here Chip but it’s kinda fun having a roving reporter out and about. Now can hear all about gardens and things from all around the country. And when Diane can join you it will be even more fun. Be safe on the road and will look forward to your next post.

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Por (Pumpkin) on May 16, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Chip, It sure is great hearing from you and like Susan said it cool having a roving garden reporter. Be careful on the highway. Pumpkin

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Por (Chip) on May 17, 2011 (Suggest removal)

Big lots has those rakes and they are cheep. So far I love the sights but I miss Diane and home but it has been awhile March 21 so I am so ready I stayed out for the bonus check and if I wait one week I have 5 days paid off meanwhile I can use this phone to check in every now and then ....Chip

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Por (Janna) on May 18, 2011 (Suggest removal)

We’ve all missed you, Chip! Keep checking in as often as you can and stay safe. Oh - the tomato plant you gave me awhile back is covered with yellow “cherry-like” tomatoes. Yum!!

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