Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Home and Garden

Diggin' Florida Dirt: It's a former attendee's turn to inspire at 2017 Earthly Paradise Garden Tour

When Missy Weiner took her first Earthly Paradise Garden Tour 23 years ago, she had no idea she'd soon have two little forces of nature, Rebecca and Robert, who would define her garden space for the two decades to come.

From toddler toys and a mammoth swingset to trampolines and firepits, the view of Missy and Alan Weiner's back yard evolved as their kids grew. And still — or maybe because? — Missy faithfully attended each annual tour of South Tampa's private gardens.

In 2015, her youngest followed his sister off to college and, at that year's Earthly Paradise, Missy found her vision for the next chapter.

"I saw Diane Pertmer's yard and that's what I wanted," she says.

Now, it's Missy's turn to inspire. Her garden in South Tampa's Beach Park neighborhood will be one of five on the 25th Earthly Paradise Tour on April 9. This year, the Rose Circle Garden Club's popular driving tour also includes a historic bungalow, a "grand, Southern estate," a fruit-filled Eden, and a home with a cacophany of blooms and fragrances.

Take a break any time from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Musical Tea Party in Fred Ball Park on Bayshore Boulevard. Then pop next door to the Tampa Garden Club's clubhouse for a flower show. The theme, Paradise Found, incorporates visions of "little Edens found," says show co-chair Kitty Wallace. Like Earthly Paradise, it offers a plethora of creative design ideas — think Pinterest Live! — ripe for borrowing.

That's what Missy did within months of spotting her dream garden. She hired GardenSmith landscapers of Tampa to work with her on a plan, then ripped out the concrete and installed water-permeable paths and an irrigation system.

She used Diane's tempered mix of manicured/mild mayhem as a template. "I like the classic, but slightly different. . . . Diane had four pineapple guavas, and see? I have four pineapple guavas (Acca sellowiana, aka feijoa) over there," she says, pointing to a quadrant of the shrubs tidily pruned as standards. "She had a fountain and so do I."

But Missy also has a worm farm, a bed of budding blueberry bushes, and two standard long-haired dachsunds — Oscar Mayer ("I married a Weiner") and Emmy — who delight in trampling, digging and pouncing on whatever she puts in the ground.

Tour visitors to the Weiners' home will find garden beds defined by boxwood hedges — a tame-the-wild aesthetic that gained popularity in late 17th century and early 18th century England. The paths and symmetrical planting patterns contribute to the structured look.

Missy also grows herbs, vegetables and fruit trees, which she fertilizes with rich castings and tea from vermicompost — worm poop. Those plants get huge!

"I have overflowing parsley, arugula and mustard greens around that Meyer lemon tree," Missy points out, almost apologetically. "That tree had 10 blooms when I got it a year ago. Now, it has 100."

The lemon tree, like many plants in her garden, grows in a container — a solution for those of us with four-footed friends who like mucking around in our flowerbeds.

For ground cover, she's trying oregano, a plant that's supposed to hold up to doggie foot traffic (jury's out!) And despite the downy mildew that has virtually wiped out Impatiens walleriana, she's still successfullly growing her own from seed.

It's not often I see a young garden that looks so mature. It may be the worm poop, or Missy's mind-blowing energy. (Did I mention she makes her own mosaic pots?)

"I just love this garden. I like the fragrance, the structure, the sound of the fountain," Missy says.

And the previous "owners," Rebecca and Robert, do, too — although they can identify a trampoline much easier than, say, Mom's spiraea.

"My daughter told me she had no idea what any of the plants are. I told her the story of when I first moved to Tampa and lived in an old walk-up in Hyde Park. The manager asked me what I thought about the crape myrtles and I had to tell her that I had no idea what they were," Missy says.

"I think that by showing my interest to them and surrounding them with beautiful spaces, they will use the memories when they're ready to create their own spaces."

Contact Penny Carnathan at [email protected]; visit her blog, digginfloridadirt.com; join in the chat on Facebook, Diggin Florida Dirt; and follow @DigginPenny.