"I got rid of my lawnmower," Hondo Hernandez said. "After redoing the front lawn three or four times, I decided to try something different."
So he called his friend Scott Johnson who owns Cut Rite Lawn and Landscape and they settled on a plan. Two great but not so usual circumstances came together: a lawn man who also knows all about and cares for other plants and a homeowners association that does not demand turf.
All of the old and unsuccessful grass came out. They brought in some good soil to level the beds. The lot is on the curve and therefore pie shaped with a fairly small front yard. Most of it is in shade from the oaks above, but one corner near the driveway gets afternoon sun. They planted low-care roses there, knockouts and heirloom varieties.
"I believe that less is more, and this xeriscape (water-saving) plan means less water, less insecticide and herbicide, less work," Johnson said. "Mary and Hondo had suggested some changes to the plan and we worked them in."
Hernandez collects rocks. Each rock in his collection has a story, except the largest one he bought from Brandon Landscape. "That one is from our old hunting camp, this one is from our new hunting camp." Most of them are displayed in the open patio in the center of the new garden. Smalls stones cover the area with the large rocks carefully placed. Benches on the far side are his favorite place to sit and watch his new garden grow.
"It has been in for a year and I haven't done much, just some covering in the winter and some trimming this spring. I bring a plastic crate to sit on and work away," he said.
"We tried to select hardy plants that wouldn't need covering," said Johnson, "but having some of the tropicals makes for a lot more color."
The garden was full of bloom at this visit, from blue and white lily-of-the-Nile, several shades of lavender pentas, many colors of impatiens in the shadiest spots, and the bright foliage of caladiums and stromanche. The latter was even blooming, a fairly rare sight.
A raised bed of dark red coleus surrounds one of the oaks. "I've topped them once already. Every time I do, I put the tops right back in the ground where they root. The bed just gets thicker and thicker as the season goes on," he said.
Scott Johnson changed the original sprinkling system to low flow that uses less water. In the dry days of May Hernandez was watering three times a week for 45 minutes, as needed. Low flow is not restricted, but he is careful not to overwater.
Johnson can be reached at (813) 684-2345 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I bring people here to see that there is an alternative to grass that is much more colorful and interesting and less work, water, and worry," Hondo Hernandez said. He can be reached at (813) 689-2758.
My four blood lilies, Scadoxus multiflorus , are still blooming as I write this. I was inspired to hear from Joyce Barr Tilly whose wedding garden I wrote about years ago. "My grandmother started these bulbs 75 years ago and passed them on to my mother and she had them in a small pot," she wrote. "When I moved to La Viva I separated them and planted them across the front of my house. I had to replant them to the side of the house. They have multiplied over the 11 years...to a total of 52 African blood lilies and more to come