From the Extension: If you're looking for evergreen plants, a Japanese garden can inspire

·3 min read

After teaching gardening classes to thousands of Florida residents over the years, I’ve observed a variety of landscaping wants and needs. Many new to central Florida residents desire long lasting aesthetic traits.

For example, many residents desire evergreen plants that bloom continuously and do not shed leaves. Low maintenance and slow growth rate are other desirable plant features often expressed by homeowners.

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As I strolled through a garden recently, I wondered why people seek permanence in their yards and gardens. Maybe it’s a human need for certainty or predictability, but I find the things I enjoy the most about my yard are the moments of fleeting beauty.

Japanese gardens often focus on this idea of impermanence as they often feature evergreens as a backdrop for focal plants offering short-term color. To celebrate ephemeralness, Japanese gardens often feature maples in the fall, camellias in the winter, and azaleas in the spring.

With their multi-petaled, sculptural flowers, camellias beckon the cooler months in the coastal states of the Southeast. Sasanqua camellias bloom as early as October and November, while most other camellias bloom between December and February.

These glossy-leaved evergreens flower for about one to two months. My ‘Sweetie Pie’ camellia begins to flower right around New Year’s Day and I look forward to those first blooms every year.

A unique feature of sasanqua camellia “Shishi-gashiri” is that the flowers fall apart as they come to an end, littering the ground with delicate fuchsia petals. Walking through a path of bright pink flowers conjures up the magic of a fairytale.

Trumper plants bloom on the ground.
Trumper plants bloom on the ground.

I recently visited the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka and the pink trumpet tree in the courtyard made me hold my breath. Not only were the blooms on the tree stunning, but it looked as though a lavender-colored snow had fallen along the ground.

Pink trumpet trees provide their soft color in the winter months on bare silvery grey stems. This deciduous tree retains leaves throughout most of the year but drops its leaves before flowers emerge.

Two different pink trumpet trees grow in central Florida when planted in a protected or warm area of the yard. The tabebuia species of pink trumpet tree reaches heights of twenty to thirty feet while the Handroanthus species serves as a better fit for smaller yards reaching heights of twelve to eighteen feet.

While Florida may not experience the temporary and dramatic fall of hardwood forests, trees such as maples and crape myrtles add color through their striking leaves. Red maples push bright red growth in the spring and offers red leaves in the fall.

Grow red maples along a wetlands area or in moist soils. Depending on the type, crape myrtles drop their red, orange, or sometimes yellow leaves in the late fall and early winter.

A couple of native vines also provide bright colors in their leaves during the winter months. Wild grape, with its yellow leaves, can be found in many natural areas. Virginia creeper’s leaves develop into an intense red before they drop.

This weedy vine grew up my shed and I left it to enjoy the color during late fall. Both native vines are aggressive in nature and overtake trees and shrubs if not maintained.

A Fallen Trumpet blooms on a Cardboard Palm.
A Fallen Trumpet blooms on a Cardboard Palm.

Grow them in a place where they can be managed and be extremely cautious planting them in forested or natural areas. They are not invasive, and both occur throughout natural lands in Florida and throughout most of the U.S.

Take time to enjoy the ephemeral nature of plants in botanical gardens or on a wooded nature path. Plant for fleeting beauty in your own backyard.

Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.

Brooke Moffis is the Commercial Horticulture and FL Friendly Landscaping Agent of UF/IFAS Extension Lake County. Email her at burnb48@ufl.edu.

This article originally appeared on Daily Commercial: If you're looking for evergreen plants, a Japanese garden can inspire

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