Originally published in part in the Plant City Observer to promote Florida Native Plant Month and the Suncoast Native Plant Society Fall Plant Sale.
October is also the month that the many chapters of the Florida Native Plant Society holds native plant sales. The Suncoast Chapter (SNPS) in Hillsborough County holds their sale at the USF Botanical Gardens Fall Plant Festival. In anticipation, my husband clears out an area of our yard to make room for our native plant purchases. This year SNPS also had a buying trip to Sweetbay Nursery in August, so we got an early start to our fall project:
Transforming an eye-sore…
|Our little fall garden in progress|
The hard part about visiting a native plant nursery is not going overboard with your purchases. Sweetbay has native plants for every location; full sun and dry to full shade and wet, and everything in between. We had to remind ourselves that everything we purchased also had to planted, which is not fun in the heat of the summer. My husband had done all the labor to prepare the garden, so it was only fair to let him pick the plants. He picked out muhly grass, lopsided Indian grass, love-grass and liatris for the start of our little garden.
A Work in Progress...
|A beautiful fall landscape designed by Troy Springer, Springer Environmental.|
If you would like to plant a “Fall” native plant garden, here are some simple steps to get started:
1. Pick a small area in your yard that gets full sun and clear out the sod, non-natives, and weeds.
2. Note what type of soil you have: Is the soil dry and sandy? Moist and well-drained? Wet?
3. Go to one of the many Fall Plant Sales sponsored by a Florida Native Plant Society Chapter in your area, or visit a native plant nursery. Experts there will help you pick plants that are right for your landscape.
4. Plant your purchases. Most natives will require watering until well established, but pay attention to the needs of your specific plants; some of them do not tolerate over-saturated soils. Mulch with an eco-friendly pine straw, or leaf litter.
5. When designing your space, traditionally taller plants would be placed in the back of the garden and shorter ones up front, but if you want to create a meadow effect, intermingle the taller grasses and wildflowers in the center of the garden and put shorter specimens along the edges.
|Liatris, Courtesy of Troy Springer, Springer Environmental|
Goldenrod, Solidago spp., range from 3-6-foot-high with a fall display of golden yellow flowers in slender spikes or bushy heads. They are easy to grow from seed or mature plant, and will readily reseed or spread. When it is not blooming, it is a somewhat inconspicuous disk of basal leaves on the ground. Pollinators love goldenrod, especially bees.
|Goldenrod adds a splash of yellow|
to your landscape.
Grasses: There are many native grasses that put on a beautiful fall display: Among the most popular are:
Purple love grass, Eragrostis spectabilis, is another purple to misty pink grass that grows 1-3 feet high. It prefers well-drained, if not dry, sandy soils.
Elliot’s Lovegrass, Eragrostis elliottii, is a wispy grass with profuse tan flowers that bloom all year, but especially in the fall. It likes dry to well-drained soils.
Lopsided Indian Grass, Sorghastrum secundum, is only 1-2 feet high for most of the year, but has flower stalks that get up to 6 feet tall in the fall. The showy plumbs resemble an upside down Indian headdress, thus the name, “Lopsided Indian Grass.”
|Muhly Grass looks like pink cotton candy from a distance.|
Muhly Grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, a showy grass with silky pink to lavender plumbs in the fall. When view from a distance it looks like a purple cotton candy. It grows 2-5 feet in moist to well drained soils, making it highly adaptable for most landscapes.
If your FNPS chapter would like to submit an informative* blog that showcases an event that you are having in October, please email it with images to Donna Bollenbach. *While you may provide information about and links to your event, please make sure your blog has an educational component as well.