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Diggin' Florida Dirt

Goodbye summer romance, hello fall fling

I would never speak ill of my summer bloomers. They power through the heat, the humidity and the afternoon deluges. They flower like champs right up until the first freeze coldcocks them. I love those tough-guy perennials.

But by the end of September — dare I say it? — they're so last season. When I look at my garden, my eyes slide right over the little yellow thryallis blooms and the crimson pentas that had me sighing back in June. I still appreciate them, of course. But now, it's more the way a 20-year-old appreciates her very reliable boyfriend when a hot new guy happens by.

I start checking the Philippine violets, the lavender firespike and the desert cassia trees for signs of buds. I get impatient. I'm ready for some new loves.

Lots of Florida gardeners take care of the fall itchies by decorating. They buy mums and pumpkins and hang stuffed scarecrows. But mums die (mine do, anyway) and with more than a month left of hurricane season, I'm not inclined to put out one more piece of yard art that will have to be picked up and stowed should the cone of probability fall on Tampa.

So I appreciate gardeners like Janice "Pumpkin" Vogt, a lifelong Seminole Heights resident with hair, toenails, shoes — even an ankle tattoo — that pay homage to everything fall and Halloween.

Pumpkin, as she's known online, goes all out decorating and coaxing her fall bloomers to flower in time for her annual October "open garden." I try to get there every year. She always has something new and unusual growing, and her garden never ceases to hold new yard art surprises, often hidden in corners and tucked behind shrubs. I love surprises.

Pumpkin finds many of those old goodies at antique fairs and yard sales; she even picks them up right off the street in Seminole Heights' alleys. Some were gifts.

Those pieces may be hard to duplicate, so consider the photos inspirational. Her beautiful fall bloomers, however, can be yours, too. Look for them at your local nursery or at the Garden Club of Lakeland's 27th annual Munn Park Garden Extravaganza — with more than 50 vendors — from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Munn Park, 100 S Kentucky Ave., Lakeland. Or check out the Garden Club of St. Petersburg's home-grown, budget-priced plants from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 500 Sunset Drive S, St. Petersburg. Admission to both events is free.

Don't think of it as cheating on your summer romances; think of it as a little fall fling.

Goodbye summer romance, hello fall fling 10/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2011 5:30am]
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