Maybe this is my garden's awkward adolescence. So many of my perennials are still slowly — slowly — making their way from spring sprout to summer bloom.
Or, maybe the problem is I'm just too good! I did such a swell job of getting certain plants in the right places more than 10 years ago, I've now got Berber Carpet Syndrome (the attraction wears out before the rug does).
Whatever the case, I'm bored. And oh how it hurts. I've never before looked at my garden and thought, "You just don't turn me on anymore." The realization hit me hard ,and I immediately started rearranging containers, hiding scraggly spiderwort and declining hollyhocks under the cuttings table and splurging on new yard art.
I'm not alone. In Citrus Park, Janna Begole painted her yellow bench purple this month and contemplated ripping out whole beds.
"I'm just so — tired of it," she said.
Out in Odessa, Becky Perry is seeing nothing but "predictable" after a visit to her niece's spread in Maryland. "Florida is so ... FLAT," she complained.
In times like these, I turn to other local gardeners for help. As usual, they didn't disappoint. If you've got the May doldrums — or want to prevent them — listen up!
Several gardeners said growing vegetables always makes for exciting new finds. (And I'm sure they're not just talking tomato horn worms!)
Brittany Aukett — Tampa urban farmer at organic-gardening-adventures.blogspot.com: "Working with vegetables, you're always in motion and always changing. One season you plant one way, the next you plant a different way," she says.
To cut down on the seasonal workload, Brittany incorporates perennial veggies like asparagus, sunchoke, chives, chaya, taro, New Zealand spinach, winged bean, Okinawa spinach, cranberry hibiscus, yams, Malabar spinach, sylvetta arugula, artichoke and shallots.
Veggie gardener Chip Fulp of North Tampa adds spark by going all wild and crazy with his tomato varieties. "This year, I'm trying black ones," he says.
Cynthia DeBoer of North Tampa has amassed a bushel of tricks:
1. Remove all accessories to one area and consider the "bones" of the landscape. (Hmm, my bones are all the shrubs I did right, the perfectly placed garden swing, the little pond my brother dug for me on a very hot summer afternoon. They may be ho-hum now, but we've been together for years. Change? I couldn't. Next?)
2. Choose plants that will bloom in succession from one season to another. (Ah! Definitely need more May bloomers!)
3. Plant like plants in uneven numbers — one, three, five, seven. So, instead of buying just one of those heat-loving foxtail ferns, get three — or five — and plant them near one another to make a big visual impact. (I learned this the hard way. She's right! If the plant is new to you, buy one, see how it does, and multiply by propagating through seeds or cuttings, if possible.)
4. Look for colored foliage. "Lots of nice reds and purples out there." (Will do.)
5. And texture! "Vary shapes of leaves. Elephant ears, iris whips, the curly stalks of pine cone ginger all add interest, even when they don't bloom." (Good point, Cynthia.)
I love this perfectly lazy — and inspiring — idea from Janice Vogt of Seminole Heights, who blogs at graceful cottagegardening.blogspot.com:
"Go buy Flea Market Gardening Magazine. ... Get the magazine and a bottle of wine."
Thank you, Janice, for turning me onto this new annual publication now in its second year. The 2012 edition promises 379 bargain ideas for your garden. It sells for $12.99 on Amazon.com, but it's also supposed to be available anywhere that sells magazines. If you can't find it, call (212) 462-9624 to order a copy — no subscriptions available yet.
As for the wine? I recommend a nice, chilled Riesling. It's perfect after a hot afternoon of planting.
A few people mentioned the caladiums now coloring their beds. (See No. 4 under Cynthia DeBoer — foliage can be as pretty as flowers.) I've planted some caladiums, but they're bulbs! When they disappear, as bulb plants do, I forget about them and put new stuff in those empty spots. I need a better plan.
"My caladiums right now just blow me away," Janice says.
Cynthia "Meems" Glover of North Tampa, who raves about caladiums on her blog, hoeandshovel.com, says they're her favorites, but not the only plants she relies on in May.
"Pentas, gaura, roses, salvias, coral honeysuckle, hydrangeas ... and colocasias, gingers and caladiums are sprouting out of the ground at rapid speed," she says.
(Your plants are obviously over-achievers, Meems. I've got most of those, and they're taking their sweet time!)
Of course, it's possible I'm just done. In which case, I need to start packing.
"Please don't use my name because hubby hasn't figured this out," wrote a tipster, requesting to remain Anonymous, "but we've moved both times I felt like my landscape was 'finished.' "
Penny Carnathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more of her gardening stories at www.digginfladirt.com. Join her and other local gardeners chatting on Facebook at Diggin Florida Dirt.