Until now, as far as I knew, my book on shade gardening was the only one for Florida. Well, it isn’t any more, and I am delighted to tell you about Craig Huegel’s new book, Native Florida Plants for Shady Landscapes, just off the University Press of Florida. What I like best is that it is so different, mostly because it is about native plants.
It will be a must for any gardener or homeowner who is interested in shade gardening, low maintenance, and native plants. Low maintenance is always a blessing and more and more people are appreciating the importance of native plants in the landscape.
Reading his book is easy and doing so is like taking a walk through many woodlands and gardens throughout the entire state with an wonderful guide whose knowledge is beyond belief and who explains all the plants and their needs. Most who buy it will use it as a reference book, but reading through it as an adventure story has been a delightful experience. I was honored to be a peer reader while the decision to publish or not was in the making.
The factual information is excellent. I especially like when he tells how a plant has behaved in his own plantings in Pinellas County.
I have been learning about gardening for 70 years. I learned a good bit more from this book, more of the technicality of shade and soil and even mulch and certainly about many plants, some I had grown myself and many that I have never seen. And all of it was fascinating. The book is interesting to anyone who likes plants, but even more it would be useful in helping homeowners, landscapers, and gardeners in choosing the right plant for the right place and avoiding costly mistakes and frustration.
Craig Huegel’s obviously huge knowledge and experience is the most compelling aspect for me. It seems he has tried almost all of the plants he writes about and therefore his reports are much more useful than just plain facts. He also tell readers when and where not to try certain plants. And he gives detailed information for every county in the state.
The second best aspect to me is the added information of how each plants can be used by birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
While this is a very informative book, there are several places that made me laugh out loud, such as “If not occasionally cold-, caterpillar-, or human-pruned, the native cassias below often become leggy and a bit unruly” and his description of how the trumpet creeper grew “through the side boards and overtook the clothes I had hanging in my closet.” Seriously, this a volume of useful experience and information that is easy to read and inspiring to put into practice for a better use and enjoyment of shady gardens.
So much for the text. The color photos on almost every page are wonderful as well.
Today’s pick is Salvia coccinea, tropical sage, one of the easiest and showiest of the native plants. Birds planted the first ones in my garden and I’ve had some ever since. It grows in sun to partial shade, sends up stems about three feet and blooms for a long time, then sends up new ones. It is also a good butterfly nectar plant. It can be multiplied from seeds, cuttings, or divisions or you can just wait and it will spread itself, but it is not invasive. An Irish friend said that, of all our flowers, these reminded her most of the fuchsias in Ireland. There is a cultivar with pink flowers as well.
Now is the time to admit that I have many plants to feed the birds, but I am not good at feeding them in feeders, mostly because we have no place to put feeders where the squirrels don’t get there first and most often. So I as happy to donate $10 the Flatwoods Bluebird Fund to sponsor a nesting box and I have had my first of weekly e-mails of information on what is happening in the box.If you’d like to do likewise, send your check to the Tampa Audubon Society and mark it for the Flatwoods Bluebird Fund. Send it to Mary Miller, 892 Congress Ct. Tampa, FL 33611 and be sure you include you e-mail address.