DUNEDIN — One warm morning Cathy Tricocci sat on a small chair in her lush garden, a labor of love she started eight years ago after moving to Dunedin from Palm Harbor. The garden, she said, is her passion, one she readily shares with butterflies and bumblebees feasting on the numerous blooms.
The garden has proved to be a blessing to Triccoci, 66, and her husband, John, who was forced to give up his chiropractic practice in 2005 after heart surgery and a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The garden provides the couple with hours of joy.
"It's my free therapy," Tricocci said. "It gives me pleasure and it gives me peace."
Hers, though, is a garden with a difference. All the plants are contained in plastic, ceramic or stone pots. The pots, mostly culled from yard sales, garden shop sales and trash containers, range in size from 6 to 30 inches high, the largest ones containing tall trees, including a ficus and a cassia. The smallest ones hold small flowering plants. All seem to flourish in their containers under the hot Florida sun.
Tricocci chose to do her gardening in pots so she could easily take her garden with her if she moves from Palm Lake Village.
A mulched pathway divides the main garden, part of which stretches along the side of her home. The opposite section abuts a large swatch of yard on her corner lot.
Triccoci doesn't know how many potted plants she has.
"I have no idea of the exact number," she said, "but I'd say in the hundreds."
The contained garden includes both common and exotic species of trees and flowers. Interspersed with hibiscus, gardenias, lantanas and milkweed are the more exotic Confederate jasmine, Chinese hibiscus and other rarely seen but eye-catching species.
"I like unique plants that most nurseries don't have," Tricocci said. "I also have varieties of bromeliads that are rare."
Most of the unusual varieties come from friends, including members of the Dunedin Garden Club, which Triccoci joined last year. "We do a lot of sharing and trading," she said of the club.
Nestled among the plants are some visual and auditory surprises for visitors. A birdbath, a stone statue of St. Francis and a small ceramic seated Buddha are among the ornaments scattered beneath leafy green branches. Artistic wind chimes hang from boughs throughout the garden as well. A small breeze can set off a medley of sounds.
"I put my chair out and meditate," Triccoci said.
Putting a plant in a pot is just step one for the container gardener. Plants must be continually repotted as they grow. Triccoci uses a rich, fertilizer-enhanced soil in each pot. She also moves the plants around as they grow, sometimes to create variety in the garden, but also to capture more sunlight as surrounding plants shoot up and block the light.
Water may be an issue. Too much rain can drown the potted plants. Dozens of watering cans filled with water stand ready to use in dry spells, camouflaged beneath over-hanging branches throughout the garden.
Tricocci has garnered recognition for her gardening efforts. In May 2012 she was awarded first place in the Dunedin Garden Club's tour of gardens and was given a Certificate of Award for her contributions to civic beautification. Also last year, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs officially certified her garden as a butterfly garden.
In addition to her own garden, Triccoci has gotten involved in meaningful civic projects through the garden club.
"The club gives me a chance to do something for the community," she said. "We maintain the butterfly garden at the Dunedin Public Library and planted a garden at Andrews Memorial Chapel." The chapel stands at the entrance to Hammock Park in Dunedin.
This year she hopes to join club volunteers in planting a garden on the nature trail at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
Coincidentally, Cathy and John Triccoci live on a street called Paradise Lane.
"This is my heaven," she said of her contained garden and their home nestled alongside. "Living here on Paradise Lane is like camping out, with all the amenities and all the beauty."