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Lifestyle Stories

Tampa nursery puts down roots

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: July 9, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Some big garden centers allow customers to return the plants that don't make it.

Not Manny's On The Bay.

"When you come to Manny's, we don't give you a one-year warranty," owner Manny Gil likes to say. "We give you a lifetime of knowledge. ... We want your plants to live."

That seals the deal for Linda Marsh, a customer for four years.

"I would never shop anywhere else," she says. "If you need information, he knows everything."

Manny on periwinkles: "Man's best friend. Trim them back once or twice a year so they'll be nice and bushy."

Manny on agapanthus: "Most people put them in the shade. They don't like the shade! They like part sun to full sun."

Manny on community involvement: "If you give, you receive."

Last month, he donated mulch and about 300 plants, including 30 Knockout Rose bushes, to students reclaiming a trashed courtyard at nearby Hillsborough High School. His plants populate many a school butterfly garden, and he regularly lends plants to churches and schools decorating for special functions.

"This is why I have all these people coming here," Manny says.

Manny's On the Bay has 400 to 500 varieties of plants on a shady 1-acre site with rocking chairs and fountains, at 600 W. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa. The family business, which includes wife Miggy, daughter Jaime and son Brian, has been open since 2001.

Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile)
Agapanthus africanus

A popular plant right now, maybe because it's in showy bloom in the Bay area. Agapanthus grows 3 to 4 feet tall and is topped by globe-shaped clusters of lavender or white blooms. For a dramatic effect, plant at least two or three together, Manny says.

It requires at least four to five hours of sun each day and, once established, does well with slow-release fertilizer. At Manny's, prices range from $2.99 for a 1-gallon pot up to $49.99 for a 15-gallon.

Gold Mound and loropetalum
Duranta erecta "Gold Mound"

Gold mound, a Duranta hybrid, and burgundy loropetalum are one of Manny's favorite foliage pairings. Both can grow into fairly large shrubs - 6 feet or taller - to form a hedge, or be maintained at shorter heights. Both take full sun; gold mound should be covered at about 35 degrees, while loropetalum is a bit more cold-hardy.

Loropetalum produces a hot pink flower that gives it the nickname Chinese fringe flower. Gold Mound, when first introduced a few years ago, wasn't popular, Manny says. People thought its yellow hue was akin to jaundice. Now it's prized for its bright highlights, which glow even more in the sun. The plants are $6.99 each for a 3-gallon pot.

Popcorn cassia
Senna didymobotrya

Movie lovers will want a few of these; their leaves radiate the aroma of a fresh-popped bowl of kernels. Grown as shrubs or small trees, they get about 6 feet tall and like the sun, which heats up their aroma. They produce stalks of bright yellow blooms whose aroma provides a second nickname, peanut butter cassia. A favorite of sulphur butterflies.

NURSERY HUNT

We're creating an on-line interactive guide to local nurseries for TBO.com, starting with Manny's. Submit information about your plant shop to baylife@tampatrib.com with Nurseries Map in the subject field. Include name, address, hours of operation and other pertinent information.

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