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Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
Lifestyle Stories

‘I’ve learned as a gardener to never give up’

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SHIRLEY PAGLIARO/ PALM RIVER

Q: Describe your garden.

Answer: “Just Another Day In Paradise.” It’s island time! Tropical, lush, very Key West. We live on 2 acres in Palm River. I can’t even begin to guess how many species of tropical plants and trees there are. We have pecan trees, avocado, banana, citrus, cassia, bamboo, plumeria, ferns, bromeliads, butterfly friendly plants, ginger, caladiums, lilies, just to name a few. It all started four years ago with nothing but a couple of pecan trees on the property. We also grow our own organic herbs and vegetables that we eat daily. It’s very eclectic. I’m an artist, so I have my artsy garden art everywhere, including sculptures and statues. The atmosphere is relaxing , yet whimsical at the same time.

Q: How long have you been gardening?

Answer: Seems like most my life. At least 40 years. Once my hands hit the soil, I was hooked. It’s become a passion.

Q: From whom (or what) have you learned the most as a gardener?

Answer: My beloved mother was my muse. She was an avid and superb gardener until her death at 93. We gardened together often. I miss her expertise. I’ve learned as a gardener to never give up. It can be just as frustrating as it is rewarding. I never stop looking for new information. It has taught me to respect and enjoy nature even more.

Q: What are your go-to plants?

Answer: My go-to plants are my organic herbs, banana trees, bromeliads and butterfly plants. I use the herbs daily for cooking. I even make organic pesto sauce from my African blue basil. The banana trees give me lots of bananas almost year-round . Bromeliads never cease to amaze me with their color, endurance, and propagation. The butterfly plants bring beauty into the garden. I enjoy taking photos of the monarch butterflies dancing with each other among my golden dew drop trees.

Q: What was your biggest gardening mistake?

Answer: My biggest mistake was overcrowding. I forgot how large and how quickly some species grow. Also how invasive some can become.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face in your garden?

Answer: My biggest challenges have been fighting disease, weeds and freezing temperatures. I’ve learned how to control disease with constant inspection. I have a lot of property, so weeds tend to get out of control. I try to use several kinds of ground cover to keep them under control. Freezing is solved with covering the delicate species. It’s all about problem-solving with common sense ... it works.

Q: What is your best piece of advice for your fellow gardeners?

Answer: Read and ask!! It takes knowledge, diligence and time to have a beautiful, rewarding garden. Get advice from the experts, whether it be online or in person. Read newspaper articles and magazines. Go to plant shows (they’re always fun ), and visit other people’s gardens for ideas. And don’t ever underestimate the power of compost! Make your own ... it’s easy and will save you money. My plants thrive with good hummus!. Just remember: Whether your garden is large or small, it gets easier with time. It will become your best friend.

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).

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