FERN KINION, LUTZ
Q: Describe your garden.
Answer: In my sunny gardens, I primarily plant for butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. One side of my backyard is bordered with a native Walter’s viburnum hedge and the other with a variety of easy-care perennials, such as jatropha and firespike. In the center, a few plants provide fragrance as I walk down the curved brick pathway to a shady area near the lake, where a glider offers relaxing seating for watching wildlife — including the brilliantly colored cardinals.
Q: How long have you been gardening?
Answer: Since childhood. Growing up in Kansas, I helped my mother create flowerbeds — edged with “holy” rocks gathered from nearby farmland — in which we planted many spring flowering bulbs, lilacs and peonies. As an adult living in Colorado for many years, my flower and vegetable gardens were in raised beds, but with a much shorter growing season. Gardening in Florida provides easier and longer producing beauty.
Q: From whom (or what) have you learned the most as a gardener?
Answer: From the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County Master Gardener program, and from Brian Schatz, local landscape designer, who taught me about unusual plants and using curved designs in beds and walkways. I’ve also been able to use this knowledge in church courtyard and neighborhood park projects. I also learned from developing two UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County programs: one with friends about succulents and cacti, and a second I wrote about underutilized plants.
Q: What are your go-to plants?
Answer: Agapanthus flowers’ striking blue globe blooms first attracted me when seeing them in California, but being unable to grow them in Colorado, I was excited to make this plant one of the first I chose when moving to Tampa. Now agapanthus beds line both sides of my house because the foliage remains attractive after the blooming is finished. Also, I potted a number of succulents that create interest with little care — and are nice to share with other gardeners. Further, the various salvias throughout have attracted hummingbirds, even during the winter months.
Q: What was your biggest gardening mistake?
Answer: Trying to grow vegetables. Various efforts went awry when birds or insects visited the produce before it got to my table! But, with the help of UF/IFAS publications, I know I can be successful and will try again. Also, some groundcovers made weeding too difficult, thus quickly were removed from those beds.
Q: What are some challenges you face in your garden?
Answer: Dealing with roaming armadillos and raccoons. Their destruction in flower beds can easily be covered, but their digging under a small bridge in my garden has become hazardous and challenging.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for fellow gardeners?
Answer: Take time to enjoy the relaxation of viewing your efforts.
Have you ever been so proud of your garden that you wished you had some way to show it off? We’re looking for readers’ photos and growing tips for our “How Does Your Garden Grow?” feature in Baylife. It doesn’t matter if you have a small container garden or a long-established landscape; we want to hear about it. Just answer the questions above and email them along with a couple of jpgs of your garden to Baylife@tampatrib.com. Or mail your answers and photos to Baylife, The Tampa Tribune, 202 S. Parker St., Tampa, FL 33606. Please include a phone number and/or email (not for publication).