By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS
We migrated south, for good, at the end of the year in 1994. We settled in our Southwest Cape Coral home, Dec. 31, 1994, and slept on the floor with borrowed blankets and pillows. The Berber carpeted floors were quite comfortable.
Our hired help stayed with us - two grown daughters who lived in different
parts of Fort Myers, and could spare a few days from their homes and jobs.
We had a complete bedroom set of furniture by the end of the week when the moving van arrived from the North.
We had walked the property, lanai and atrium with the sellers. We bought several potted trees and pots of greenery and vines, none of that was free. He gave his secret lawn care recipe to my husband and lots of other hints about taking care of the healthy Palms, and what to spray and what not to spray.
I couldn't find anything flowering, however finally I was very happy to find out that a 4-foot-tall bush on the east side of the house was a gardenia. In fact, I was thrilled. Where I had just come from, a gardenia was not a bush, but a tabletop plant that made an appearance only at Easter time. It also did not survive (me) for more that a month or more. It was free.
This nice hardy bush looked like it would take awhile for me to destroy it.
No one knew the actual type of gardenia it was but that did not bother me
at all. It has bloomed steadily for the past 16 years with small, nicely scented blooms.
The only other flowering thing around was the bottlebrush tree. That has
done well also but has not grown that much. It kind of fends for itself. It is just right to hang orchids in until they bloom and then I bring them into the lanai so we can enjoy them better. They just do better out there in that tree, in between bloom periods.
I went wild at the big box stores and the local grocery stores, filling up spaces on the large lanai and a small courtyard, with colors.
The colorful crotons were great out front with the large pittosporum bushes.
However, when my husband became nervous about his beautiful lush front lawn disappearing, I promised to stay out of that.
It does not look as good now days. The slam, bam, 15-minute care it gets now, is only adequate at best and full of killer particles. Thank goodness it still gets a great cut and trimming all year.
I now find that even with the forest of palms cut out so a beautiful pool could be put in, those lovely tropical queens are mostly 20 feet tall and need to have a yearly cut and trim also - by a professional.
The day they are cut and trimmed, the whole mess is so cleaned up and carted away that once in awhile I do not even notice they are trimmed, except for all the sunlight out there instead of shade.
I have been meaning to down size for a couple of years, but I just cannot seem to get away from a garden center or big box center without bringing home what I went for - and a few extras.
Everything is changing, also. Plant names, new bugs, new invasive and now there are so many kinds and colors of mulch to be had. Too much.
I suppose it is not any hotter this summer than the last two, but it sure seems like it is, and I know I have too much to do out there for my dwindling energy spurts.
One thing is still the same - it is always hurricane season from June to September and we have had several possibilities blowing around out there already. We will be getting one or two much closer soon. That is the one thing that saves me some work outside. I refuse to put any lawn ornaments or swings under a shady tree or big comfortable chairs out on the dock. That would be too much hot work to handle, dragging everything in and out.
Last year I broke my large bird bath in the back yard, being in a hot hurried state to get it down and put away. I have not put up another one this year, yet. Hopefully, I will not be at any good birdbath sales during this season.
Please keep your cool out there in the yard. Sunscreen and hats, long sleeves and mosquito spray or crme and drink lots of water. We have one last hot month to get through and then we can set back with a nice cool drink and laugh about our really hot summer.
Keep gardening cool until we meet again.
H.I. Jean Shields is past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.