Holiday Shopping for Gardeners

What does that special gardener want from Santa this year? This gardener wants new gloves, potting soil, colorful pots and more exotic vegetable seeds. But another gardener may want orchids, clay pots, or fertilizer. And yet, another gardener will want more holiday-themed plants like a Christmas cactus, poinsettias, or a red, green, and white arrangement. Then there is all the garden art and gardening literature. So many choices, and if you happen to not be of the gardening circle, you may just throw in the towel and hand the gardener on your list a gift card. Though, for some gardeners this may be the best route, I’d like to think we all like to open gifts. So let’s have a little fun and explore some fun gardening gift ideas.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Vegetable seeds. Give the gift of heirloom seeds this holiday season. Many gardeners like heirloom seeds for reasons such as better nutritional value to being open pollinators, which means you can then save the seeds and replant.

2. Tillandsia holiday arrangement. One of my favorite new plants are tillandsia. They are air plants and can be displayed is so many different ways. They require very little care and create an exotic, tropical appeal. This could make for a great homemade gift.

3. Poinsettias. I’m a big fan of these Christmas flowers, and you can grow them outdoors in Florida after the holiday season. Many stores sell them in beautiful arrangements.

4. Garden decorations. I’m kind of a sucker for gardening decor, and my garden is my zen, so I thought these cute Buddha monk fairies were precious.

5. Growing cocktails? Why not? This gifts is unique and can be paired with an appropriate beverage.

6. Tools and gloves. Let’s get practical. Sometimes tools and gardening gloves wear out and need to be replaced. You can easily make this practical gift fun with color or patterns.

7. Gifts that have nothing to do with the actual garden, but still inspire planting. This link has so much gardening fun from coffee mugs to t-shirts.

8. Gardening books. This is one of my most used Florida gardening books.

Inspire a gift that can grow all year!

I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds. ~ Margaret Smith


Holiday Gift Shopping for a Cause

Photo courtesy of Pexels

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. ‘Tis the season – the holidays are upon us. It’s a time for family, fun and gift giving. I’d like to challenge you to think a little more when shopping this year.

In an earlier, blog I challenged you to be a compost conscious consumer. Today, I’m asking you to choose a cause you are passionate about and support it as you shop for the holidays. We all know with the holidays comes a big push for donating to various organizations, churches and causes. There are the Salvation Army Santa’s; there are the extra collections at church; there’s the flyers that come in the mail to help feed the homeless. There is always someone out there who needs our help and usually that costs money. People can talk and talk and talk about what needs to be done, but sometimes that where it stops. Or we are pestered so much to give that we lose sight of what it means to help those less fortunate.

My someone in need, and who I want to bring to your attention this holiday season, are victims of human trafficking or modern-day slavery. You’re probably asking, Slavery? Wasn’t that something that happened during the civil war? Or, that doesn’t happen in the U.S. Maybe Africa or Asia, but surely not here. You’d be wrong. Modern-day slavery is happening in my backyard. Florida is the third highest number of calls to the human trafficking hotline in the U.S. In 2016, almost 1,900 reports were made for human trafficking in Florida. This is scary stuff because it’s affecting young children and vulnerable young adults. These young women and children are being forced into prostitution. In Asia, young woman are forced into marriages. In India children are forced into labor. Globally, 40.3 million people are affected by human trafficking.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

I’ve asked myself, How can I help? I could donate money. I have little time to volunteer, but maybe one day. I could educate myself and tell all my friends, but they’ll probably get bored or tired of me talking, which would not help this cause at all. And then an answer came to me while doing a little research: I could buy things. We all need things. What if what we bought helped more than just satisfying a personal need? Buying particular items can help victims of human trafficking. Some are handmade by victims. Others send proceeds to help the victims find refuge, therapy and a chance at living again. Below are links to shop and support human trafficking. I hope some of you are inspired to buy a gift. But if not for my cause, choose your own and see what you can buy this holiday season to support your cause. Take that passion and make it a gift.

Take a look at these few links that bring awareness to human trafficking. Happy shopping!

1. Badala

2. Bracha

3. Purpose Jewelry

4. Starfish Project

5. Elegantees Clothing

6. Thistle Farms

7. My Sister

8. Sudara

9. Success by Health

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

~Mother Teresa


Florida Gardening in November

November Gardening:

It’s the month of cooler weather, turkeys and family. In my garden, it’s been the month of mulch and lime rock. At the beginning of this month I had a delivery from Green Dreams. It was like receiving an early Christmas present. I’m certain my neighbors think I’m insane, but that insanity has transformed my back yard and will be a huge payoff as we enter the dry season. I used the lime rock to create a path and seating area. The mulch is filling in my gardens and creating more of a distinct spacing. It’s made me realize I have so much more room to plant edibles. I’m planning to exercise my food forest knowledge, which is minimal at this point. (But that’s what all these gardening books are for that sit on my desk.)

I’ve been observing my drip irrigation as the rains have just about stopped. My gardens seem a little thirsty, but I’m trying to decide how much water I need. Last fall, I watered daily. I’d like to extend my watering to once a day or even once a week. I finally removed my watermelon and cleared up an entire raised bed. To my surprise, I found a handful of small watermelon buds. My children enjoyed playing with these. I planted snow peas and bok choy in this open bed.

What I planted in my vegetable garden:

  • spearmint
  • oregano
  • cilantro
  • basil
  • strawberries
  • snow peas
  • carrots
  • lettuce
  • peppers

What’s flowering:

  • cranberry hibiscus
  • moringa tree
  • Jamaican strawberry tree
  • lantana
  • poinsettias
  • marigolds
  • periwinkle

November marks one year of planting in my yard. I can’t believe how much it’s changed! I went from one live oak and a queen palm to more plants than I can count and far more garden than grass. It feels good when some of the neighbors stop by and say, “You’ve really changed this house.” Most often they are only referring to the front yard; they have no idea what hides behind that white fence. It’s my jungle sanctuary, and it’s only the beginning.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in this year:

  • propagating and seed saving are much easier than I had imagined
  • mulch is magic when it comes to transforming sand into dirt
  • composting is the next best thing to buying plants when it comes to gardening
  • gardening friends are better than any book
  • Florida can grow some exotic edibles – many I had never heard (e.g., Barbados cherry, Jamaican strawberry, moringa tree, etc.)
  • there are so many vegetables that you should just never try to grow in Florida; they may work in the north, but the moisture and drastic rainy and dry season give those edibles a run for their money

Keep experimenting in your garden! Experiments may fail, but the lessons will be your success.

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.

~ Meister Eckhart


Maccubbin, Tom. Month-By-Month Gardening Florida: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year. Minneapolis, MN: Cool Springs Press, 2014.

Garden Therapy

Photo courtesy Pexels.

Sometimes I wonder who is helping whom? Am I helping the plants grow to their full potential or is this greenery here to heal me? Plants have that power, you know.  Sometimes after an especially busy day – not necessarily stressful – but very busy day, I enter my backyard sanctuary and feel instantly at peace. My muscles relax; my mind clears; and my breath slows. My soul is home.

When I have the rare chance to simply sit in my garden, it’s extremely rewarding. I sit in the shade of my big live oak tree and take in scents of mint, lavender, and citrus blossoms. Butterflies circulate the mismatched jungle in search of nectar. And there are most often girls giggling in the playhouse or softly singing on the swings. It’s a scene for the senses. In that moment, I have everything I need. Those are simple blessings.

Perhaps you’ve encountered a moment where you’re seeking serenity, but unable to find it. Life is tough at times. It could be as catastrophic as a death, a separation or an illness. It could be you’re feeling the pressure at work; you’re overwhelmed with school; or you’ve received some unkind feedback. No matter what your struggle is today, these are moments when God, the universe or another higher being is shouting, “Slow, down! Take a break! Listen!” Those demands are not a failure, though we may perceive it as that because we feel like we should be able to handle anything. Instead, it’s a call to balance our physical, mental and spiritual health. Problems will never go away. They will simply transform and take another skin. So we must decide how we navigate these challenges.

Unfortunately, sometimes we choose to ignore these hints or, worse, we turn to other harmful avenues, such as alcohol or drugs. This will only make our challenges more difficult and create more problems. The weeds in this world will strangle you if you let them. But we have a choice. We can grow. We can find our way through the weeds of life and bloom into a incredible human beings.

One way I navigate challenging times is to go to my garden. I call it garden therapy. Spending time in the fresh air with my hands in the dirt is truly healing for me. Watching a plant grow from a seed is a reminder of miracles in this world. And sometimes when you have a plant that is fighting for it’s life, it’s an encouragement to have courage and to take things a day at a time. Because with just a little care, a plant can come back. And so can you.

Photo courtesy Pexels.

A friend once told me that opening ourselves up to a higher spiritual being allows us to feel the energies of the plants and in turn become amazing gardeners. I think it’s simply giving ourselves the chance to take in the miracles of nature to transpire into amazing people. This is why I garden.

So I challenge you today, to walk into nature. Take a deep breath. And simply listen. Listen to yourself. Listen to the universe. And then let it all go – at least in that moment.

Plants talk to us at all levels, molecule to molecule and spirit to spirit. They facilitate healing that is potent, profound and life-affirming. ~Marlene Adelmann

Fly Away With the Butterflies

Butterfly gardens are one of my specialties. I started butterfly gardening in Illinois, and it was the first garden design I created in Florida. I love the colorful flowers, the colorful butterflies, and it’s a huge hit with kids. Plus many of the plants are perennials making it a low maintenance garden. There are two types of plants required in a butterfly garden: host plants (plants the caterpillars need) and butterfly nectar plants (plants the butterflies need).

Host plants:

Host plants not only provide food for butterflies in their larvae stage, but also provide camouflage, shelter, chemicals used for protection, courtship, and reproduction.

  • Cassias
  • Passion flower
  • Milkweed
  • Sassafras
  • Sweetbay magnolia
  • Patridge pea
  • Coontie
  • Blueberry
  • False foxglove
  • Coral honeysuckle

Butterfly nectar plants:

Butterflies like flowers in clusters in shades of pink, red or purple.

  • Asters
  • Liatris
  • Firebush
  • Milkweed
  • Spanish needle
  • Wild coffee
  • Dahoon holly
  • Necklace pod
  • Fiddlewood
  • Lantana
  • Summersweet
  • Bloodberry
  • Beautyberry
  • Porterweed
  • Florida paintbrush
  • Eryngium
  • Coreopsis

Some of the butterflies you may see:

Some butterflies, especially in their larvae stage, need particular plants. If you are looking to attract a particular species, check the resource link below as a guide.

  • Monarchs
  • Zebras
  • Sulphurs
  • Skippers
  • Ruddy daggerwings
  • Swallowtails
  • Hairstreaks
  • Malacites
  • Queens
  • Viceroys
  • Julias
  • Atalas

Butterfly gardens not only attract butterflies, but also hummingbirds and other beneficial bugs. Butterflies are sensitive to pesticides. I would suggest not using any pesticides. In my experience, these gardens usually take care of themselves and don’t need any chemicals. I also like to include a clean water source. This will help attract other backyard wildlife as well. Be sure to watch for mosquito breeding if you choose to do this. Constantly flowing fountains can limit mosquito larvae since they prefer standing water. Butterflies need shelter from predators, which can be accomplished by plantings at diverse heights. Get out there and enjoy some beautiful colors both in plants and the wildlife they attract!


Haehle, R. and Brookwell, J. Native Florida Plants: Low-Maintenance Landscaping and Gardening. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004.

Butterfly Gardening in Florida

Wednesday’s Where the Wild Things Grow

Enjoy some fun Florida flora and fauna. It’s officially Fall in terms of weather! I woke up to a brisk chill with temperatures in the mid-60s. It was heavenly! The last few days I’ve been able to turn off the air conditioning and open the windows. It’s refreshing to not be suffocated by humidity.

The snowbirds have arrived, which means it must be cooler up North. So it’s time to get outside! Enjoy the next six months of fantastic weather! I plan to be outside ALL weekend. Weekend goal: attack the dump truck loads of mulch and rock I received today!

Florida Gardening in October

Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower. ~Albert Camus

October Gardening:

It’s been a busy month. I’ve been doing my regularly maintenance of watering and weeding along with cleaning up some dried up plants. I also planted some lettuce, beans, squash, and tomatoes. I want to plant more, but my watermelon plant is relentless, and I decided to just let it grow. It will free up an entire raised bed when the time is right. I discovered three watermelons hiding among the vines. The vines are still producing flowers and tiny melons are budding.

An entire dump truck of mulch will be delivered next week. I would like to add to the mulch I had put down in spring and also prepare for the dry season. The mulch will help hold more moisture when I have to water. My husband is installing irrigation in the main beds, which will also ease the need to water every day. We chose drip irrigation. I have also continued to play with propagating and pretty much take cuttings from every plant, stick it in soil and see what happens. So far, I’ve been pretty successful. My goal: free plants to pass onto friends for Christmas presents.

What to plant:

Time to continue adding to your vegetable garden!

From seed:

  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Turnips

From seedling:

  • Herbs
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Onions

What you may be harvesting:

My Jamaican strawberry tree is producing berries daily. The small red berries taste like cotton candy – a favorite with the kids.

  • Some citrus
  • Barbados cherry
  • Carambola
  • Guava
  • Passion fruit
  • Papaya
  • Persimmon

The above quote may paint the picture of newly fallen leaves to newly sprouted flowers, but perhaps in Florida October is like spring in the actual growth of all those new vegetable seedlings! Get out there and start planting!


Maccubbin, Tom. Month-By-Month Gardening Florida: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year. Minneapolis, MN: Cool Springs Press, 2014.