You can learn a lot bouncing around local garden blogs. And I'm all for learning from someone else's trial and error.
A blog I keep on my Favorites links is Hoe & Shovel, "a tropicalesque Florida garden," at hoeandshovel.blogspot.com. I love Meems' photographs (have you ever noticed how many gardeners are also talented photographers?) and thoroughly enjoy her smart posts.
I spent a morning in her Lutz garden this week, ostensibly to gather information for this week's Dig This plant profiles. But, in truth, I'd also grown really curious about the mysterious Meems. And after awhile, frankly, garden photos are just a tease. I want the real thing.
Meems is actually Cindy Glover, a friendly, fast-moving woman fueled by not one but two coffeepots.
"I'm usually in a hurry," she says, a little apologetically. "I know that's not how gardeners are supposed to be."
But she's got to move fast. Like my friend Kim, she's compelled to fill empty spaces. And she's been doing it for 24 years. That's a lot of plants to maintain even as she adds yet more beds. And a vegetable garden.
"My husband says, 'You've created a full-time job, and you're getting paid nothing for it!'" she says. "It's true!"
Like so many of us, she has learned mostly by trial and error. And she's happy to pass along some of that hard-won knowledge:
When you're experimenting with a new plant, try it in two different spots. It may like a little more sun, or a little less - you'll learn faster with two.
Pay attention to changing conditions. If a neighbor takes out a tree, your shady spot may become a full-sun spot. And your shady plants will get very cranky.
Dig your new beds in January. (I love this one. Why do I always wait till June?)
For plants that need a bit more water, look for (or create) a small slope in the ground and plant at the bottom of the slope.
Use your own stuff; divide plants and root cuttings. Not only is it economical, but in a large yard, repeated patterns - such as a mass planting reproduced every so often - draw the eye and help create visual flow.
Get yourself a great neighbor. Cindy's is Helen Mitchell, an 89-year-old gardener whose yard overflows with bounty.
"I have her to thank for many beginnings of many plants," Cindy says.