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Garden of Eden for newcomers

February 22, 2019
By H.I JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Newcomers to this climate must think they have landed in the Garden of Eden when they go to the big box stores and garden centers to pick up a few flowers to enhance their newfound homes.

They must be amazed at the amount of plants and colors available.

Gardeners new to Southwest Florida and its nice warm climate are in for a bit of surprise when it comes to actually picking flowers and trees, etc., to plant.

Here they will be able to plant gardens in a reverse climate, as their spring choices are now ready, here, for fall planting.

Gardening in the South is not a real big problem, however it does take some thought.

They will be able to plant a lot of flowers right away but they will not be the same as their familiar lilacs and tulips.

Not to worry, there are still marigolds and roses.

Yes, roses.

The roses are still big and beautiful, scented and healthy, but the soil is different, the temperature is different and some of the hungry critters are different.

The rains are even different, not always dependable and can be overly abundant at times.

The nice balmy weather does become a frosty cold 40 degrees once or twice, and that is stressful for a lot of plants.

The determined rose grower will be surprised how easy it will be to grow their favorite flower, although maybe not their favorite bloom.

You may understand grafted vs. own-root stock, or Fortuniana root stock and its value, but will need to talk with local nurseries.

Read some catalogs, visit several garden centers and talk to your neighbors, before you plant.

Sometimes you can just be lucky.

Years ago, like many years ago, I bought a rose bush from outside a hardware store, in the Cape. Both the store and the bush have long disappeared, however I had the best luck with that "Afternoon Delight" bush, for 6 years.

I planted it in a little corner of the garage wall, the driveway and the front walkway. It was in the full sun for 6 to 8 hours a day, hand watered by me, fed reasonably often, with excellent rose food evidently.

I had to hose it down to clear away a few critters on the new buds occasionally, and all that hot concrete did not seem to bother it at all. It was very happy in its sunny breezy place.

The blooms were a beautiful creamy white with red scarlet tipped petals. A sweet scent always.

We had a couple cold 40s winter nights with a chilly wind and I carefully wrapped newspaper around it and fastened it loosely with year-old clothspins. I un-dressed it in the early morning sun, and we were good.

It did finally weaken and die. Nematodes? Maybe, Old age?

I never planted in that soil again.

I did try a rose bush in a footed concrete planter, in the pool cage. It never did do well and someone in my house did not think soil things belonged in that area so it went out onto the lake dock.

Still not happy, so disposed of it and never tried another rose bush since. Too many other beautiful things to enjoy.

Roses can be grown here, you just have to adjust to their way of life.

A good way to learn "their way" is to visit the Rose Garden at the Historical Society on Cultural Parkway, near City Hall. It is free to walk through at any time - please do not pick the roses.

You will be reading the newspapers, watch for garden plant sales which occur often as well as Parks and Rec programs.

Watch the city medians for planting ideas. Patches of society garlic, with their lilac heads waving above tall slender green stems, are beautiful.

Take your time ... so much to learn.

Till we meet again, happy gardening.

H.I. Jean Shields is Past President of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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