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Brandies: Gorgeous garden adds jewels to flowers

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: May 2, 2013 at 09:56 AM

Good news! The garden Iím about to tell you about will be open to the public this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 811 Knowles Road, Brandon. Itís just north of Bloomingdale Avenue and a right turn off Bell Shoals.

Itís expansive, lovely and well worth the trip. But thereís also something special here you wonít see anywhere else.

Myrtle Cail is one of those people blessed with great talent as a gardener and also as a decorator. She loves all kinds of garden art and has used many pieces, including an old clawfoot bathtub from my husband's childhood; blue bottle arrangements; and Mexican pottery filled with flowers.

Her husband, Jerry, also is an expert builder. Together theyíve designed and built several arbors.

Theyíve lived on their 3-acre bit of country since 1977 and only several years ago changed from raising cows to raising flowers. At first they hauled compost from the landfill on Falkenburg Road for flower beds, then planted butterfly plants and then any plants donated by friends and or given away at master garden talks at the library.

Myrtle got so good at it sheís won seven blue ribbons and two red ones at the Hillsborough County Fair for her best plants.

She entered the Recycled Yard Art contest and won second place in 2010 and two firsts since. She makes what she calls ďjewels for the gardenĒ from clear and colorful glass pieces, securing them to metal stakes you stick in the ground. They look like gems floating among the flowers.

The ladies at the Hillsborough County Extension Office encouraged her to make more to sell, so she did. I met her at an event where she was selling plants and gems, and I was selling books. Just talking to her convinced I must go see her garden. Iím sure glad I did.

I bought one of her pieces, which range from $15 to $35 and seem very sturdy. I hope to get more Ö hint to my family.

I have a big garden, and the gems really set off the flowers. I donít care much for personal jewelry, but these I can appreciate every day while I wear my grubby clothes. The jewels and a few other pieces of garden art will be for sale at the Open Garden and they are ideal for Motherís Day gifts, even for mothers who donít garden themselves but like a nice landscape.

Todayís pick is the Calamondin orange, probably a cross between mandarins and kumquats. The fruits are small, about the size of a golf ball, and often borne in clusters and treasured for jam and marmalade. The tree is compact and cold hardy.

The fruits are small and sour, though some people eat them as is Ė or with salt. They grow like any other citrus, best started from grafted plants. The Cails have a tree thatís loaded with fruit.

Myrtle makes a Calamondin pie that won Best of Show at the Hillsborough County Fair. I can tell you itís delicious, somewhat like lemon meringue, but much better. She gave me the recipe and if you email me I will send it on.

Nowís the time to save all the water you can. Put a bucket in the shower to catch the water thatís usually wasted while you get the temperature right. But be careful not to trip on it. Iíve often scooped up the bath water after it cooled and poured it on the plants outside the door.

Be sure your faucets arenít leaking and your irrigation system isnít clogged. If you wash your car, pull it onto the lawn so the water can do double duty.

The Tampa African Violet Society will meet at 7 p.m. today at the Common Ground Christian Church, 4207 N. Boulevard, Tampa.†Award-winning grower Jay Sespico will present a program on African violet trailers. The event includes a plant raffle, lots of growing tips, free admission and parking.†For more information, call Jim Boyer at (727) 871-2014†or Mina Menish at (813) 681-1910.

?Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, author and freelance writer who can be reached at monicabrandies@yahoo.com. Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.

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