BY JODY WOOD-PUTNAM PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAVANAH JANE &
A garden can be many things to different people. I find my garden to be both soothing
and fascinating in its day-to-day changes. It is a place to be with nature; it is a place for
reflection. During my 30-plus year career as a physicist with Panama City’s Navy Support
Activity Center, my garden was a place to release work stresses. Since I retired last year, I
have more time to tend and enjoy my garden’s many facets.
My home is located along the shores of St.Andrews Bay. My husband, Tom, enjoys the outdoors as much as I do. We fell in love with the mature oaks, hickories, pines, magnolias, and palms on our 1.3 acres when we bought it in 1999. Otherwise, the yard was mostly sand with a few palmettos and overgrown azaleas.
First, I want flowers and features of interest throughout the year. A key to achieving this is having a wide variety of plants that bloom throughout the year. I also pair plants with different foliage colors and textures to add interest, even when not in bloom. Second, I want my garden to be attractive for wildlife. Having a wide variety of plants, particularly native plants, is key to achieving this objective. When I add or extend a bed, I define its area with a layer of mulch, which serves many purposes in the garden. It is attractive, helps retain moisture, and minimizes weeding. I prefer pine straw, which decomposes to add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. After doing this over many years, the beds have a rich organic component in the soil instead of just sand. This has brought an abundance of earthworms to the garden, which further improves the soil.
My garden has evolved as I focused on one bed at a time over the years, including foundation plants such as camellias, a pindo palm, bottlebrushes and Majestic Beauty hawthorns that are now mature and quite beautiful. I also planted many bulbs and perennials. As I became satisfied with an area, I would add new beds or extend the existing beds. In addition to mature trees, today our yard has a wide variety of understory trees, shrubs, and perennials. I am mindful of what I plant in areas that may flood from the occasional tropical storm, planting either salt tolerant plants, those that are easily replaced, or those that I do not mind losing. In 2004 I became a Master Gardener, following completion of the comprehensive course offered by the Bay County Extension Office, UF/IFAS.* I remain active in this program and have had many opportunities to expand my gardening knowledge, have met many gardening friends and have found that I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and love for gardening with others. I also enjoy photographing my garden, giving presentations on different aspects of gardening, sharing plants I have propagated, and hosting garden walks. I have also enjoyed being a member of the Florida Native Plant Society and am presently president of the local Sweetbay Chapter.
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