Throw the books away

The sunsets and the dogs on the beach are great reasons to live in South Florida. Trying to figure out how to garden here might be another story. Having spent most of my life 600 miles north of here, I thought I would be able to buy some books about what grows here and figure it out. Come to find out there really aren’t any good books.

The title sounds like something Hitler might have done. Actually, it was a bit of advice given to me by a longtime Treasure Coast gardener a few years ago. I had been lamenting the lack of good gardening information for our area and frustrated by what I had been reading in the Florida Gardening books. She said ‘throw the books away, they have no meaning here’.

Mondo that has seen better days

Mondo that has seen better days

This kernel of knowledge proved correct and popped into my brain this morning as I was looking at the charred remains of my Mondo Grass (that supposedly grows in Zone 10 – where I live) My suspicion is Mondo Grass will grow in Zone 10 if you import soil and water for it and keep an umbrella over it at all times, otherwise, forget about it. I had Mondo Grass further north and it was a reliable nearly indestructible groundcover. It was used as lawn in places too shady for turfgrass.

The Mondo Grass was my last rely on the books installation. My other major char broil was Bronzeleaf Begonias, which I did not even know could be burned up. I planted them in front of my Soap Aloe in my South facing front yard. Once the summer started they curled, browned, withered and unceremoniously died. The Aloe looked and still looks great. I feel bad about throwing away the offshoots sometimes, but not everybody wants a Soap Aloe. Instead of gaining sea legs on a ship, I am gaining sand legs in gardening. And usually end up covered in it.

Our Soapy Friend

Our Soapy Friend

This had left me wondering if it is really possible to write a useful gardening book with plant selection advice for a wide geographical area. I think not.

10 comments on “Throw the books away

  1. I don’t think so either. I’ve lived in Washington State for most of my life, and have had almost two successive years of garden failure in the FL Panhandle until this year. I took a class at the community center in town, and they said you have to adopt a whole different mindset than what we’re used too, and find different plants as well! I don’t know if you’re looking more for edible or ornamental plants, but I have a few ideas I can share if you’re looking for some fruits or veggies to eat!


    • Actually, the fruit trees are doing well. I have limes, lemons and mangoes – love to hear what veggies you like and when you plant them, although you get frost, I think?.


  2. I had the same problem when I moved here from 1,000 miles north. I checked out botanical gardens, the gardening column in the paper, joined a gardening club and took a course that was called Gulf Coast Gardening. The instructor said there was just no use to talk about anything else expect what would grow here. Our weather is very unstable with floods, droughts and hard freezes. Also, passalongs were used to fill my garden. After about 20 years, I’m feeling pretty good about it! P.S. Your beach looks great!


  3. mattb325 says:

    Lovely shots on the beach. I think the problem with the USDA hardiness zones is that they really only talk about average likely lowest minimum temperature, and yes mondo grass is hardy to that zone, in say, the very southwestern tip of the UK, or coastal Sydney or San Francisco, etc which are also zone 10 but don’t have the 10 months of heat and humidity to contend with.
    I know that they have also introduced a heat zone map, but trying to marry the two for all plants would be very confusing and probably drive people nuts…I usually just look out for plants that grow well in parks and gardens or municipal plantings as a starting point and once the tougher plants are established, I then try the more marginal ones 🙂


    • Looking around is always best. Unfortunately, I just love Mondo Grass. Wah! When I first moved to Florida, I was looking and what I was seeing wasn’t supposed to grow here. There is a lot of water around us (2 Rivers draining into the ocean) this causes all sorts of weird hardiness issues. I don’t think it is possible to make a map and say this will grow here and the heat zones – Good grief. I think they are written by people in California.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mattb325 says:

        You’re probably right….your climate seems like Mackay in QLD: winter daytime temps in the low 70s, very occasional cold nights (but mostly nights above 50), and humid summers of about 70 overnight and 90 during the day with good rainfall and a scorching sun.

        We have a government website for weeds and their non-invasive alternatives. This link is for the tropical parts in QLD:

        It might be useful to look at the invasive list for inspiration: just because they’re invasive in Australia doesn’t mean anything in Florida 🙂


      • Thank you! such interesting info. Most of what is invasive there is invasive here, I am going to check out the dry tropical part of the site. I live between Florida scrub and high hammock habitat. Florida scrub only occurs in Florida and has some wacky plants.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Chloris says:

    What an amazing beach. The light is beautiful too. It seems to be quite an adventure, gardening there. Obviously it is a case of trial and error and then write your own book.


    • A book I once read described the light in England as “pale golden light of the British Isles” I thought, “sure” then I was in England and indeed it was pale golden light. We get the same sort of light here in South Florida very early or late in the day, thanks for appreciating it.
      In regards to writing a book, I know even if I wrote one it would always be wrong?!


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