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South Shore News

Overcoming the challenges of condo gardening


Published:   |   Updated: September 9, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Marion Carstens finds many challenges with condo limitations but she has overcome them to have a beautiful garden.

She chose an end unit with a much larger space than most and put in all the beds, edging them with stones. But she has to prune constantly to keep her plants from branching out to where they would interfere with the mowing done by the condo association.

Marion has not been able to stop the professionals from putting Round Up on the outside of the edgings and near the house to kill the grass so they don’t have to weed-eat. She has a blower and weed-eater of her own that run on batteries and are easy to use.

She convinced the yard folks not to prune her plants because they use power pruners and don’t do it to suit her.

I must say I believe she’s wise about his. Men with power equipment are never going to take the care we would for our treasured plants. Still, it’s sad to prune off branches of Plumeria or thryallis (Galphinia glauca) that would soon bloom. And it’s heartbreaking to find something broken off by someone who has no idea of its value.

Marion is very good at sticking the cut-off or broken pieces into the ground and starting new plants, however.

She spent two months up north this summer. Before she left, she put her orchids and other container plants where the sprinkler would take care of them. Thankfully it wasn’t needed due to all the rains, because the sprinkler broke down and hasn’t been fixed yet.

Since returning home, Marion’s been busy catching up, but her garden gets an A-plus for neatness. Mine would be a D or an F right now, but I still love it. Having gardened this space for 11 years now, nothing is overcrowded, though there is little space for another plant.

At least she didn’t have to ask permission before she planted any plant, as some places require. Actually she didn’t even consider it and no one seemed to mind. Most of her neighbors enjoy her garden, and she shares plants and helps them when she can.

At Christmas time, Marion has many poinsettia plants of all colors along the side of the house. Her many ti plants and crotons give constant color. She loves her plants and they respond accordingly.

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Today’s pick is the ti plant, Cordyline terminalis, one of Marion’s favorites — and mine, too. It grows in light shade to full sun and comes in many different cultivars. The foliage is marked with shades of red, green, pink, and yellow. Plants can grow to six feet, but it’s better to cut them back often enough to keep them compact.

The most common one, Red Sister, tends to get leggy much more than the others. I have about five different kinds and my favorite is Dr. Brown, named for the man who wrote the book “The Cordyline, King of Tropical Foliage.” Its wide leaves are a deep rich red. We used these leaves when we had a flower shop years ago, often with wire taped to their backs to keep them in shape. They’re so easy to root that I take a cutting, cut off the lower leaves and put them in a vase. Then I put the cutting, sometimes two or three cuttings, in the center, and they make a lovely bouquet indoors or out for weeks while they form new roots.

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Now’s the time to keep pulling those viney weeds. Be ready to water, especially container plants or newly planted ones, if or when the rain stops before the heat does. When that happens, it’s going to be a shock to the plants and the people who care for them. But cooler weather will soon follow.

Nothing is all bad.

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Upcoming event

On Sept. 19 the Tampa Bay Orchid Society will be meet at Christ The King Church, McLaughlin Center, 821 S. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. The doors open at 6 p.m.; the meeting starts at 6:30. The speaker will be Ruben Sauleda of Ruben in Orchids in Redlands.

The meeting is open to the public. For more information and directions, call (813) 839-4959.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, freelance writer and author of 11 gardening books who can be reached at monicabrandies@yahoo.com. Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.

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