About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Friday, November 22, 2013

Natural Florida Landscaping - The Book

Several years ago I began working on creating (or should I say "enhancing") a natural area on our property that will provide food for all types of wildlife.

In my search for information on the types of plants that will attract a large variety of wildlife, I came across a book written by Dan Walton and Laurel Schiller entitled Natural Florida Landscaping. This duo have been growing native plants, and selling them in their Florida Native Plants Nursery in Sarasota for the last ten years.

It is a small book (about 102 pages) but is written in a simple and effective format that allowed me to easily determine which plants fit my location requirements. Many times when I finish reading a book such as this, I find myself overwhelmed with information and confused on where to start. That was not the case with this book. The most helpful part of this book were the tables of trees and plants well suited for north, central and south Florida. These tables included the average height, moisture and light requirements, as well as comments on what it provides for wildlife. I immediately began to create lists based on my location without getting confused or overwhelmed.

Other good information in this book includes advice on "rethinking" your current yard with tips on how to begin adding natives to what is already there. Small changes can attract wildlife, conserve water, reduce pesticide and fertilizer use. Plenty of helpful ideas are spread throughout this book. They include tips on planting to reduce your home's energy use, which plants provide shelter, food and homes for wildlife, creating water ponds, and adding edibles for human consumption, too.

The tables include lists of: canopy trees, small trees, large shrubs, small shrubs, ground covers, palms, vines, native grasses, wildflowers, pond plants, ferns, plants for full sun and deep shade, plants for poorly and well-drained sites, and salt-tolerant plants.

Bottom line: Someone who wants to attract wildlife, and reduce their landscape's maintenance and water requirements will benefit from the information contained in this book.

If you're interested, please check out the "wild" area in my garden that this book helped me create.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Benefits of a NOT SO Tidy Garden

At the end of summer we all seem to be venturing back out into the garden to tidy up a bit.

A little clipping back and deadheading seem to be in order. BUT, WAIT! Before you clip those faded flowers from your annuals and perennials it's important to note that these seed heads provide an essential diet for the birds that winter in our Florida yards.
Pictured above - Zinnia

 I know . . . I hear you . . . you don't like having a messy looking garden. Neither do I, but I think it's possible to tidy up the garden and still leave plenty of seed heads around for our feathered friends.

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta (left) and Bee Balm Monarda punctata (below).

My suggestion would be to plant non-seeding plants around those that go to seed. By the end of our summer, the plants have all grown together, and they will help conceal the dried seed heads. Plus, the merged and tangled plants will provide extra cover for birds.

Last year, I enjoyed watching a number of birds zooming in and out of my front "island bed" feasting on native Bee Balm Monarda punctata, Stoke's Aster Stokesia laevis, Coneflower Echinacea purpurea, Salvia Salvia spp., Indian blanket flower Gaillardia pulchella, Black- and green-eyed Susan's Rudbeckia hirta, Pentas Pentas lanceolata and Thryallis Galphimia glauca.

Other perennials that provide seeds are Gaura Gaura spp., Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia,   Cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus, and Mexican sunflower Tithonia rotundifolia.

The tiny Goldfinches that winter here in Florida scooped up the tiny seeds, in the old crape myrtle blooms in my garden, once they dried and opened. So, if you like to trim the seed heads off your crape myrtles be sure to leave that job until spring. And, don't forget to hold off on trimming ornamental grasses back until spring as they provide seeds, as well.

The same little birds were also busy picking seeds out of the cracks in the road.

Some folks, including me, like to provide extra food for the birds by having feeders in the garden. It's not necessary if you plant the right plants, and leave the seed heads on, but if you enjoy feeding the birds . . . go right ahead . . . they certainly won't mind! And, should some of the millet sprout beneath the feeder . . . leave it for the birds.

Recently, I finally got around to picking up some old boards that had been lying in the back of a garden bed for a year or more. When I lifted the last one, out jumped three frightened toads. I quickly put the boards back down, and decided they would be more useful staying there than putting them in the trash for pickup. 

A couple other good practices is to leave leaf litter in your garden beds, and create a stack of cut up small branches in the back of the bed behind your plants. Many small creatures and insects will call these wood stacks home, and they will also be a source of food for birds.

It's wonderful to know that we don't need to be so tidy in the garden. It certainly eliminates some work for us, and it will provide a more welcome environment for local wildlife.

Which of your plants have you seen birds feeding on during the winter months?

Monday, October 07, 2013

What is Sustainable Gardening?

Sustainable gardening is one of those terms that is difficult to grasp. The  name is vague and really doesn't disclose a clear meaning.

In a sustainable garden, the gardener practices the art of improving their plot of land by composting waste, building the soil, creating a habitat for wildlife with native and Florida friendly plants, reducing the use of chemicals and gas powered equipment, and using available resources wisely.

In other words, we work to sustain our land in a way that leaves it in better condition than when we purchased it. It's an old concept with a fancy new name.

Why is Sustainable Gardening gaining in popularity?

After years of building sterile landscapes of lawn and foundation plantings, over-development of land, and harmful uses of pesticides, more people are coming to the conclusion that there's a better and simpler way of doing things. Adopting the practice of sustainable gardening is a way for people to make a difference. To change the status quo . . . to build up . . . to nourish . . . to improve. Something positive we can actually do in a world of many negatives. 

So, now that we've defined it . . . how does one begin the practice of sustainable gardening?

We begin by taking it one step at a time. It's a process of thought that involves questioning the way we've always done things, and then choosing new alternative ways of managing our yards in the future. The following are some ideas to incorporate into the maintenance of your landscape. The list of changes we can make is only limited by our imaginations, and I would love to hear the ideas that other gardeners have put into effect in their yards.  

Compost & Improve the Soil - Instead of hauling plastic trash bags or cans of yard debris to the curb every week, work towards composting the plant and tree waste that your yard generates. The compost will in turn enrich your soil. 

Reduce turf grass to a minimum. This will reduce the use of pesticides, fertilizers, water and loud gas powered equipment. Plant low maintenance ground covers or plants.

Reduce your use of water on the landscape by planting native and Florida Friendly plants. At the same time, you'll be providing a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.

Grow some of your own food. Not only will you be sustaining your land, but you'll be sustaining yourself and your family, reducing your grocery costs, and having much healthier food to eat. Save seeds for use in the future.

 Harvest rainwater. It's free and everything grows better with rainwater. Use rainbarrels, and cisterns to collect water for vegetables and container plants.

Retain rainwater on your property by installing rain gardens where runoff is the greatest. The water will then have a chance to slowly soak into your ground. Redirect the gutter water off your driveway and into your vegetable gardens.

Manually operate sprinkler systems or install drip irrigation systems for minimal use of water.

Eliminate Pesticides & Chemicals - Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or use organic pest control. A healthy yard will sustain the necessary natural predators that eliminate many pests. Only treat infested areas of turf grass for Chinch bugs instead of the entire yard.

    Design your yard before planting. Plant deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home to cool it in the summer and warm it in the winter. Provide a high, medium and low canopy of trees and plants to provide shelter for wildlife. Create pathways with natural materials that allow water to percolate into the soil. Group plants with the same water needs together for easier watering.

Mulch to retain moisture, reduce weeds and cool the soil - Use natural sources first from your yard such as leaves, small twigs, pine needles, etc. as mulch. Local communities frequently offer free mulch, and so do tree trimmers. Purchase Melaluca mulch or renewable pine bark mulch, but never cypress which is a very slow growing tree.

  Repurpose items instead of throwing them out - Find a use for tree branches and twigs by building fences or lining garden beds. You can even repurpose items from inside the home such as egg cartons to start seeds in, large chlorine containers to grow vegetables in, newspaper and cardboard as a weed block, etc. The ideas are endless . . . it only takes a little thought and creativity.

Did you notice that most of the above changes, generally provide several positive results?
i.e. composting our yard debris = compost to improve our soil + money saved in not having to buy fertilizer and plastic bags +  a reduction in material (both plant and plastic bags) that goes to the landfill. And, so it goes with sustainable gardening. 

As you can see, becoming a sustainable gardener will also turn you into a sustainable homeowner, as well. You'll find yourself looking for ways to reduce your overall footprint on the environment.

Start by taking small steps and continually build upon them. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day and you won't become a sustainable gardener overnight either. But, step by step, we can change our vision of what a landscaped yard should look like, and we can make changes that will preserve our natural resources and impact the health of the planet. 

As we make simple but impactful changes, we not only nurture our garden but we nurture ourselves as well. Life becomes a little less stressful, as we worry less about a few weeds in the turf. We have time for fun things instead of trimming, mowing, edging and fertilizing. In time, we build a symbiotic relationship with the earth. As we sustain the land, it sustains us.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Green Gardening Matters by Ginny Stibolt is a great resource for more information on sustainable gardening in Florida. 

This article is by no means comprehensive of all the changes you can make toward sustainable gardening. It's merely a starting point, and I would like to invite everyone who reads this article to share their "sustainable gardening tips" with the rest of us by leaving a comment. Thank you for sharing!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Struthers Nursery & Garden Center

It was a warm sunny day at the end of September, when I visited Struthers Nursery & Garden Center located on 27041 C.R. 561 in Tavares in Lake County (352-343-1430).

It's hard to find the old-timey, genuine mom & pop nurseries these days, but what a feast for the eyes this immaculately kept, well-stocked nursery is.

Look at this beautiful long entrance into the nursery. I knew instantly I was going to enjoy my visit. The owners are extremely pleasant and eager to help answer questions. They don't mind spending time with you, and I ended up hanging around chatting for quite a while.

You can find just about any landscape plant, and some pleasant surprises on their sprawling acreage of land. The plants are in excellent shape and the prices are lower than the local box stores, and generally larger, too. 

They've created "garden spaces" to display their plants and give you ideas. On the day I visited their were tons of butterflies drifting throughout the nursery. 

Wouldn't you just love to have their garden shed in your backyard? I know I definitely would!

There's a shade house filled with shade-loving tropical plants. And, as I sat on that bench in the photo waiting for my sister and daughter to arrive, birds and butterflies were all around me. I jokingly told the owner that I was coming back tomorrow with my lunch to sit here. He smiled and told me that he has folks come out just to stroll through the garden and plants.  

It's well worth the drive for folks who live near the Tavares/Astatula area, or if you happen to be in the area.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Butterfly Basics

Creating butterfly gardens is one of the most popular forms of gardening these days. Seeing beautiful butterflies drifting among the blooms in my own garden is very rewarding.

Luckily, creating a butterfly habitat is quite simple. With the right plants and a little know-how, it's easy to attract these flying beauties to your garden.

To attract butterflies to your garden you'll need . . .

~~ Nectar Sources ~~

Choosing a mix of nectar-rich blooming plants (both native and non-native) for the butterflies to feed on is essential. And, if you've ever spent any time watching butterflies in a garden, you'll notice that they prefer certain blooms over others. Add a good variety of of the following nectar-rich plants around your garden to ensure a plentiful supply of food year-round.

Annuals - Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), Asters*, Spider flower (Cleome hasslerana), Gazanias (Gazania spp.), Indian Blanket flower* (Gaillardia pulchella), Pentas (Pentas lanceolata), French marigold (Tagetes patula), Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), Zinnias (Zinnia spp.).

Perennials - Fernleaf Yarrow (Achillea filipendula), Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)*, Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis), Swamp Sunflower* (Helianthus simulans), Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), Kalanchoes (Kalanchoe spp.), Lantana (Lantana camara), Stoke's Aster* (Stokesia laevis), Salvia* (Salvia spp.)

Shrubs - Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora), Powerpuff (Calliandra haematocephala), Firebush* (Hamelia patens), Hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.), Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), Barbados Cherry *(Malpighia glabra), Plumbago (Plumabo auriculata), Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus).

To keep the butterflies in your garden add a mix of . . .

~~Host Plants~~

To have a more dramatic increase in butterflies you'll want to add host plants (both native and non-native) for the butterflies to lay their eggs on, so that the caterpillars will have a food source when they hatch. By having host plants for future generations there won't be any need for the butterfly to leave your garden, so you'll be assured of future generations. Caterpillars have a voracious appetite, so don't skimp on host plants. And, by adding as many varieties as possible you'll attract more butterfly varieties.

Annuals - Dill (Anethum graveolens), Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), Mustard family (Brassica spp.), Calendula (Calendula officinalis), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Parsley (Petroseliman crispum), Rue (Ruta graveolens).

Perennials - Milkweed*(Asclepias spp.), Aster* (Aster dumosus), Beach Verbena (Verbena maritima), Golden canna* (Canna flaccida), Beach sunflower* (Helianthus debilis), Florida native petunia* (Ruellia spp.).

Vines - Passionflower (Passiflora spp.), Corky-Stemmed Passionflower* (Passiflora suberosa), Pipe vine* (Aristolochia spp.)

Shrubs - Paw Paw (Asimina obovata)*, Cassia (Cassia spp,), Golden Dewdrop (Duranta repens)*, Firebush (Hamelia patens)*, Hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.), Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens), Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)*, Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), Viburnum (Viburnum spp.), Spanish bayonet (Yucca spp.), Coontie* (Zamia floridana).

Trees - Redbud* (Cercis canadensis), Citrus (Citrus spp.), Sweet Bay* (Magnolia virginiana), Red bay* (Persea spp.), Laurel oak* (Quercus laurifolia), Live oak *(Quercus virginiana), Hackberry or Sugarberry* (Celtis laevigata), Wild lime* (Zanthoxylum fagara).

Important Note -- These plants are food sources so expect to see leaf damage as the caterpillars need a lot of food to grow. Also, avoid using pesticides or chemicals on their food source!  

~~Other Welcome Ammenities~~ 

Create what's called a "puddling area." This is basically an unmulched area of dirt where butterflies can extract minerals from the ground when it's wet.

 Add a rock in the middle of a birdbath so that butterflies have a landing spot from which to drink water.

Plant additional shrubbery around your nectar and host plants for increased shelter from weather and predators.

Many experts think that grouping plants together by color (red, yellow, blue)  is beneficial in attracting more butterflies. Give it a try and let us know if it works for you.

 Tales from the Butterfly Garden - Lepcurious blog is a great resource to learn more about the butterflies that call Central Florida home and how to attract them.

Attracting butterflies is super easy and loads of fun! So, head on out to your local nursery with this plant list, and get started on creating your very own butterfly haven.

* Indicates native plant. You can buy native plants from local native nurseries, plant sales - especially local Master Gardener sales, plant swaps, seeds or cuttings from neighbors.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spotted Bee Balm - Native Wildflower

If you want to include Florida native wildflowers in your garden then Spotted Bee Balm Monarda punctata is one to include on your "must-have" list. Also, known as Horsemint, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the mint family, and is a favorite of local bees and other pollinators.

The Bee Balm in my garden grows into a  large clump 4' tall and 4' wide, similar to many sages that grow in Florida. It sports clusters of very attractive light lavender flowers, and blooms in late summer through fall. It then sets seeds that the birds dearly love, and in the following spring you'll find Bee Balm sprouting in unexpected places.  Don't panic! While it is self-seeding it does not do so aggressively. In my garden the plant dies back in winter and returns in spring. The leaves have a fragrance similar to spearmint and can be used to make tea with either fresh or dried leaves.


Moisture: This plant is drought-tolerant but may need some water during excessively dry periods.

Light:  It blooms best when it receives full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. 

Propagation:  Start from seeds or divide root clumps.

 Care:  Plant in spring. You can fertilize if you like with a 10-10-10 mix, but it's really carefree and low-maintenance. It's ability to tolerate sea spray makes it a good choice for seaside gardens.

Wildlife:  Attracts many bees and other pollinators. Birds eat the seeds in winter.

Spotted Bee Balm is one of the showiest and prettiest Florida wildflowers. It looks especially good when planted toward the back of a perennial garden where it adds some height to the garden bed. You can purchased Spotted Bee Balm from a local native plant grower or a Master Gardener Plant sale, which is where I found mine.

If you've grown this native wildflower in your garden, please share your experience with all of us in our comments section. And, for more information on creating a "Bee Friendly" garden click here.

Monday, September 09, 2013

More Florida Garden Bloggers

Hello Everyone ~ ~

Great news! I have come across 8 really wonderful, interesting and educational Florida garden blogs. You're going to love seeing what these gardeners have done with their Florida gardens.

Gardening in Winter Garden - Jonathan blogs about growing veggies in this quaint Florida city.

My Florida Meadow - Landscape designer Andrea shares the conversion of her standard yard into a meadow.

Orange County Master Gardeners - Lots of great information here for Central Florida gardeners.

The Lazy Woman's Garden - You'll enjoy visiting Sharon's beautiful Asian-influenced garden.

Myrtle Glen - Evelyn has turned her 1/4 acre corner lot in an Orlando suburb into a Certified Wildlife Backyard Habitat.

Graceful Cottage Gardening - You'll find plenty of great ideas in Janis' small cottage garden in the Tampa area.

Spruce Pine Cottage - Located in North Florida, Leslie writes about her beautiful old-Florida home and garden, as well as historic gardens in her area.

The Roosting Hen - Janine is sharing what she's learned about working with nature in creating her sanctuary.

I generally find Florida garden blogs by accident, so if any of you visitors have a Florida garden blog, please send me an email, so I can include you on this list and on our sidebar. I look forward to hearing from you!

Here's 2 more garden blogs for you to enjoy ~ ~

Treasure Coast Natives by John Bradford, George Rogers & Dee Staley

 Abandon in Place by Shaun Heath on Florida's space coast.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Mandevilla - A Mannerly Vine

If you're a gardener who suffers from "vinophobe - a morbid fear of vines" like Florida Girl at her "Peace in the Valley" blog*, then Mandevilla could be the vine for you. In central Florida this beauty is a well-behaved vine that doesn't insist on taking over the garden or even a trellis. Its glossy leaves and trumpet shaped flowers are most commonly found in red, pink and white. I, too, must confess that I am timid when it comes to planting vines due to their aggressive nature, so Mandevilla is the one I turn to often.

It's perfect for arbors, trellises, containers, obelisks, and even around mailboxes. It roots easily from cuttings. and requires minimal care. When rooting cuttings, cover the stems with a rooting hormone powder for quicker results. While tropical to sub-tropical in nature, temperatures below freezing will damage the vine, but it returns easily from the ground in spring. It is a member of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, and will ooze a milky sap when cut which is toxic.

The pink Mandevilla pictured above has been growing on this arbor since summer of 2012,
 and did not freeze back during the winter. You can see it's mannerly growth habit.


Moisture: Water regularly until it becomes established. It may need additional water during extended drought periods in summer.

Light: Full sun for non-stop summer blooms. Will tolerate partial sun, especially later afternoon.

Care: Plant anytime except winter. Add compost when planting. Fertilize annually with compost or 10-10-10.

Wildlife:  Butterfly/hummingbird favorite. It is a host plant for Gulf fritillary caterpillars who can cause substantial damage to the plant in spring, especially if it's just beginning to grow back following a freeze. I generally, leave them on or move a few to other plants, as the vine will make a strong comeback during summer.

The red Parasol Sun Mandevilla (pictured at left) is my personal favorite planted poolside because of its vibrant color and tropical look.

It's very eye-catching and when planted among green and gold foliage plants, it's a real standout.

I highly recommend this Florida-Friendly vine which has so many uses, especially in a small Florida garden.

*And, back to Florida Girl  at her "Peace in the Valley" blog which is very entertaining and educational even though she sadly stopped blogging back in 2012, and has since moved to Facebook where you can still enjoy her stunning photos and her eclectic garden. You can find her here: https://www.facebook.com/floridagirl.peace?fref=ts. By the way, that term "vinophobe" was coined by FloridaGirl. That shows you a bit of her humor!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Common Ground

Whether to eliminate all turf grass from your Florida yard is a big conversation taking place on the Internet these days. Between water restrictions and chinch bugs there's no doubt that it's getting harder and harder to maintain a water-thirsty St. Augustine lawn. But don't fret, if you're a homeowner who's not a gardener or not sold on eliminating all the grass in your yard there are ways to scale down the amount of turf grass but still enjoy a pretty green lawn.

If you'd like to eliminate some turf grass start with a plan. Start slowly and choose to replace 30% (about 1/3) of your turf grass with one or more nice-sized garden beds. The garden beds can be planted very simply like the homeowners in the following 3 photos.

This homeowner kept it very simple by planting a large bed of Big Blue or Evergreen Giant Liriope (Liriope muscari).  An easy solution with virtually no maintenance.
*Turf grass tip: St. Augustine grass that receives a fair amount of sunlight through a tree canopy, like the one above, tends to withstand drought conditions better and Chinch bug activity seems to be lower in shady areas. Your turf grass may not be as vigorous as grass in full sunlight though, so choose  shade-tolerant dwarf varieties like Seville and Floraverde for best results.

This creative homeowner solved two problems. Eliminating grass and dealing with a slope on their property. They replaced turf grass with the well-known groundcover Asiatic Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) which can be neatly maintained with a string trimmer. The Asiatic Jasmine provides a nice expanse of green color that people often like. 

This homeowner eliminated approximately 40% of their turf grass with an extra large landcaped bed. It looks very attractive and colorful with varying green shades of drought-tolerant plants. 
Note: By creating one large bed instead of a  number of smaller ones throughout the yard this homeowner has made it easy to mow the remaining turf grass.

The City of Mount Dora dealt very well with an odd-sized section of land that divides two roads by planting a very large bed of Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae) beneath the oaks and palm. As you can see this area gets a fair amount of sunshine, so it was important  to choose Bromeliads that can take some sunlight. This area looks very colorful and looks perfect with just a small border of turf grass to soften the spiky Bromeliads. Planting Liriope or Asiatic Jasmine groundcover instead of turf grass would also have provided the same affect without having to mow it.

Like the next homeowner I, too, have a large front yard and this creates several dilemnas. First, how do you create a landscape for a large front yard without having it look too busy with a large number of plants? How much time will it take to maintain a super-sized garden bed? How much will it cost to fill up a large space with plants and mulch? 

This homeowner kept it simple by replacing an extensive stretch of turf grass with Junipers (Juniperus). The effect is still a large expanse of green but one that is easily maintained and pleasing to the eye. There are several varieties of Junipers to choose from in varying heights and shades of green.

This next example is my favorite for a regular-sized building lot. They replaced approximately 70% of their turf grass with a beautiful horseshoe-shaped garden bed leaving a small amount of turf grass in the center of their lot. I personally find this look very appealing as it showcases the home beautifully, softens the edges of their property and makes maintaining and mowing the grass super easy.

Here's a view of the right side of the front yard. You can see their driveway right behind the garden bed and they've also replaced the slim strip of grass to the right of the driveway with a hedge of Podocarpus (Podocarpus macrophylla). They've got a combination of neatly trimmed plants as well as soft naturally shaped Florida-Friendly plants  that won't grow too large and block the view of their home.

This homeowner has creatively replaced approximately 90% of their turf grass with predominantly green-toned plants that create a very calming and interesting scene. Once again, this homeowner dealt with a sloped area that would be more difficult to mow by planting two different types of groundcovers - Asiatic Jasmine and Liriope.

They have done the same thing on the right side of their front yard with the variegated form of Liriope known as Aztec grass and Asiatic Jasmine. They incorporated rocks and various tones and heights of plant material which make this landscape design quite interesting . . . and not a speck of turf can be found here.   I would love to sit and study this landscape more because in my minds-eye it works beautifully.

Here's an example of someone who decided to replace 100% of their turf with plants. They have a nice large canopy of Live Oak trees with filtered light and have chosen to use a variety of shade loving plant materials such as Lady Palm (Rhapis humilis), Liriope (Liriope muscari), Bromeliads, Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) and Sago cycads (Cycas revoluta).

Here's a view from the other side of the house. As you can see their front yard is actually quite small which makes the elimination of all the turf grass a little easier.

Here's a look at the right side of the driveway which uses more of the same plantings. Their small side yard on the left side is also composed of a thick patch of several varieties of Bromeliads

And if that look is a little too busy for you here's an example at Stetson University where they replaced all of the turf for this building with Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus). Mondo grass only works in heavily shaded to very filtered sunlight areas. This particular variety only grows 2 inches tall and can sustain very little traffic, but it works great in the right locations and can be a fantastic replacement for turf grasses. 
 Here's another look at the Mondo grass which fill in quickly when planted close together.

Start slow, as I mentioned above, by replacing a percentage . . . 30% garden bed to 70% turf grass or 40% to 60%. If you like the results, move on to a 50%/50% split between garden beds and turf grass, and if you're really happy with the results plunge ahead with a 60% garden bed to 40% turf grass or more if you so desire.

 Here's some tips on how to get started:

* Start with a plan

* Start slowly. Rome was not built in a day and you won't want to replace your entire turf in one season. That would be a major undertaking and could be costly if you use the wrong plants and have to replace them or your turf grass later.

* Improve your soil prior to planting any plants with compost, garden soil or other soil-enriching amendments. 

* Choose plants that are drought-tolerant, native, Florida-friendly and predominantly cold-tolerant (especially for your front yard) varieties.

* Take note of plants that have not performed well  so you won't use them in the future.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch. In order to keep the garden beds weed-free and reduce your maintenance it will be important to mulch with pine bark, straw, pine needles, melaleuca mulch, but not cypress, please.

It's my sincere hope that you've gotten some great ideas and been inspired by the creative homeowners featured above who have successfully replaced turf grass with attractive garden beds. If you have replaced a large portion of your turf grass and want to share your results and tips with others, please contact me at cenflagardener at gmail.com, and I'll be delighted to feature your yard here.