Garden Envy Led to a Thriving Tropical Paradise


Sherry SmithI’ve always loved the traditional cottage gardens. Tall, stately hollyhocks surrounded with mounds of sweet Shasta daisies filled with a profusion of flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds flitting among roses and phlox, bees buzzing through lilacs. It all seems so peaceful and relaxing, not to mention beautiful beyond compare. I’ve always wanted such a paradise in my own yard.

I have friends all over the United States, and they all share lovely photos of their pretty blossoms on Facebook. Yes, I admit to a touch of garden envy. So many of them can grow beautiful foxgloves and peonies in their yards with little to no effort. I, on the other hand, live in an area where cottage garden flowers generally die an agonizing death, either by burning up in our 100+ degree temperatures or rotting away in our 70+ percent humidity. I know. I’ve tried. It’s just heartrending to see what happens to foxgloves here in the subtropics. Let us also not forget that I live on the coast which also comes with its own touch of salinity. I’ve tried growing foxgloves in every way I can imagine. In the sun, they cook. In the shade, they rot. In between, they rot, then cook. It’s not pretty.

All of this said, I still wanted my flowery paradise, a setting where I can sit and drink iced tea and commune with the butterflies and hummingbirds. Here, Shasta daisies will grow in the shade. I can grow my heirloom roses. Hollyhocks will grow here, but rust is a high risk. Phlox doesn’t last long, although Sweet William will grow here. So, I channeled my inner plant nerd and set to work on the problem.

I compiled a list of flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Next, I took that list and crossed off the ones that won’t survive our heat and humidity. That narrowed it down considerably, I must say. My final step was to take out my sketchpad and pencils, sit on my back porch with the ever-present iced tea (This IS the South, after all!), and sketched out a design. Once I had my plans set, the next step was to embrace the heat stroke and start digging. Once it was all said and done, it looked nothing like the cottage garden of my dreams. Instead, I created a tropical paradise that invites just as many butterflies and hummingbirds as any cottage garden. As an added benefit, I get to enjoy the heavy perfumes of tropical beauties like gardenia, jasmine, magnolia, almond verbena and roses.



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