Monday, April 4, 2011

Under The Oak Tree

The southeast corner of the backyard garden is under the shady canopy of the large oak tree as well as the shadow of the wood fencing.  Pockets of sunlight appear in different areas at different times throughout the day.

Still on the east side but closer in toward the tree, new plants have been added to fill in the area where the wedelia ground cover once was growing.  The tallest plants are about two feet tall right now, but there are several which will be gaining height to add much needed layers.

Lots of low growing ground covering plants are planted on the north side of the tree.  This is the view we have from our back porch. 

There is a fairly good mix of cold hardy plants such as flax lily, holly fern and walking iris to keep the area from being too bare when the various clerodendrum, coleus, and caladiums disappear for the winter.  Where are all those caladiums I planted right after removing the wedelia?  Maybe I've been digging around too much and displaced them. 

Three oakleaf hydrangeas were planted on the southside of the tree to give some height and background.  These blooms are just beginning to open.  Hydrangea quercifolia is a native plant that fits in well with a natural woodland setting. 

Another native plant just added is this ground cover, Ruellia caroliniensis.  I'm hoping this native wild petunia will spread and help cover the areas between the other plantings. 

Up against the trunk of the old oak are clumps of different types of bromeliads.  The roots of the oak tree make it impossible to dig deep planting holes so these epiphytes fit perfectly. 

I just enjoy the sunlight shining through the leaves.  You never know when a stray sunbeam will show up.

On the west side of the tree I tried to mirror the planting of the east side.  There is another flowering maple, wormwood, firespike and a new reed-stem epidendrum planted on the outer edge of the circle where it can get some stronger sunlight.

With a mix of old and new, native and Florida friendly plants, I am eager to see how this woodland garden grows up. 


  1. Hi NanaK...You've got a nice variety of plants growing beneath your oak. My caladiums are just starting to peak their heads out of the soil. It's always nice to see them return. Last year I planted a lot of the wild petunias that I found growing on our property. I love them and they are so carefree.

    How are your flowering maples doing? Mine has doubled in size and is loaded with flowers. I'm eager for it to bloom.

  2. Ooh, that photo of the sunlight shining through the broms is lovely! I like that photo of the hydrangea with the orchids hanging in the background too. Didn't know there was a native ruellia. I could use a tough groundcover like that. I wish the garden centers in my area carried more natives!

  3. You have lots of nice varieties under your oak. It must be a cool place to be, especially in the summer. My limited number of caladiums are also peeking through the soil now. Maybe yours are just late coming. I was careful when trying to plant something in that spot after they faded away for winter.

  4. Hi Kay,
    Your old oak tree is just fabulous! You have really added a host of great plants under there that are going to be so happy with their new environment. It is looking so peaceful and serene. Had to smile at "You never know when a stray sunbeam will show up." Boy, do we ever have to count on those for some of our plants in the shade. That photo with the broms and the sunshine is glorious.

    My caladiums are coming out here and there so I'm sure yours are about to pop out, too. Love all your mix of natives and Florida-Friendly!

    (I went back to the nursery to get 2 more oakleaf hydrangea... couldn't resist... oh, and they had 3 gal. Reginas~big ones~ for 9.95... need some more?)

  5. With the filtered light and Oak leaf rich soil looks like a great place to grow lots of Florida native plants. You have me in shade envy as there is little shade to be utilized here.

  6. I have never, had good luck with the HYdrangeas.Maybe it's time for me to try again?

  7. Susan - I'm finally seeing a few caladiums pop up here and there, but the 50 bulbs I planted in that oak bed are not all showing up yet. I really am counting on masses of them to fill in the dark spots. I even have more to go in there as I see where the first ones emerge. Are your wild petunias the native ones? How neat to find them already growing on your property. My flowering maples are loaded with buds and a few have bloomed. I think they will flower off and on all year. The new ones I put under my tree are smaller and bushier than the huge one I planted under my bedroom window. But, I like both.

    Floridagirl - I found that ruellia at GardenFest in Tampa a few weeks ago. I agree that I wish natives were more available. I would buy them over other plants if I could find them as easily.

    Ami - Oh yes, my oak tree provides a great place to garden in the heat of summer. It makes a huge difference in temperature compared to the sunnier side of the garden. I am seeing a few caladiums now, Yay!

    Meems - Those oakleaf hydrangeas were a great deal. When mine grow up I think they'll be all I have room for right now. I'm going to be dividing some of my reginas to put in other places. This year they are really blooming a lot. Last year I only got one bloom. I'm definitely going to have to do a quarterly NW Tampa nursery run :)

    sanddune - I used to hate all my shade. I thought I didn't have enough light for anything. I'm learning that it all depends on what you plant. Right plant, right place has made me a much happier gardener. Of course, I still have "sunny garden envy." :)

    ChrisC - I grew the "Easter plant in a pot" hydrangea at another house a million years ago, and it did well for me. I don't know why I haven't tried any others before now at this house. I'm hoping that the native oakleaf will be easy to grow and love.

  8. Hi NanaK - I needed to come look at your garden pictures. I'm inspired! I have an area by my back porch that needs some TLC, maybe some natives like I see in your garden. Is the native hydrangea a shade plant? I need mostly sun-loving plants... I'm thinking a butterfly bush would be nice. I know what I'll be doing this weekend with my regained energy. :)


  9. Thank You for the pictures and information. We bought our house in Palm Bay specifically for the big oak in the back yard. But we have never educated ourselves about it nor about gardening.
    Well, I finally decided I needed to know how to nurture this gentle giant so I've been on line. I found out too late that our oak tree needs it's leaf litter. We just raked up the whole yard and now we have a sandy ground cover. I will show my husband what I have learned and he will be happy to hear that the leaves are important to the tree. Do you EVER rake? Don't they get impossibly thick? I would like to do some gardening with Florida native plants. I am looking for native plants that are fairly hardy once they are established AND a lot of advice. I would love to have someone come over and just tell me what to plant where that would work for our Oak, two dogs, and two young boys.

  10. Frany B - Glad to have you stop by the blog. You will learn to love your shady area under the oak tree. There are lots of things that will grow there. Even some things that say full sun on their label will appreciate the dappled sunlight around the edges of the tree. I don't rake the leaves in the planting area at all. That is the best part! They do decompose and make wonderful soil as the year progresses. Then, as more is needed it's leaf season again. My husband does use the bagger on the lawn mower to pick up the leaves on the small lawn areas we have but that's it. Check out this link for some great ideas on native and Florida friendly plants. I don't know if this nursery is near you but it's worth a field trip:)


Thank you for travelling down My Garden Path with me. I love hearing from you. Please leave a comment and share what is going on in your gardens.