When I first moved to Florida from New Jersey, I remember being appalled when I first tried to garden. The soil was so thin and sandy, and most of my favorite plants I used to grow in Jersey just wouldn’t make it in the thin soil and extreme environment here in Florida.
As the years went by, I became familiar with the different plants and flowers common to the area, and came to realize that, in fact, I was pretty lucky to live in such a tropical environment. Florida is a gardeners paradise, if you can stand the heat.
I also quickly learned that you don’t really need to buy plants. I mean, you can if you want to, but there are lots of plants that sprout from seed right out of the mulch you get for free from the landfill. I quickly learned you can grow just about anything here, either from seed or clippings or just thinning out some plants. I particularly love hurricanes, because the high winds carry in seeds from wherever and you end up with new things sprouting in your yard the next year. I’ve got some great palms from tiny little seedlings that I found after a hurricane.
With this in mind, you can imagine that I found myself with a HUGE assortment of plants. My neighbor jokes that they are my children. I have had to learn that, just because I can grow a ton of stuff, I don’t necessarily WANT a ton of stuff, and now throw perfectly good and lovely plants in the trash can, simply because I’m running out of room. This is particularly true of my purple flowers.
Officially known as Purple Ruellia, and more commonly as Mexican Petunia, I ran into it in a nursery and, struck by the abundance and almost neon-like purple of the flowers, it is one of the few plants I actually purchased. They were pricey, almost 5 bucks, but so pretty I decided to get it and put it in the garden. It looked like this:
The plant grew taller and taller and was getting quite spindly with the stalks starting to fall over. I wondered if this was the end of my purple plant. With great trepidation I decided to trim it, none too sure how the plant would react.
The plant loved it. As with many plants, trimming it made it fill out and bloom more.
The next year I noticed that my little plant had grown HUGE. Not only had it filled out, but I was getting little sprouts all around it, which were adding to the general volume of the plant. It was getting way too big for the spot I put it in, and I gave almost 90 percent of the plant to my neighbor, keeping only 10 percent of the plant, which was about the same size as when I first planted it.
My neighbor planted it in her yard and noticed that, each time she trimmed it, clippings that she failed to pick up off the ground would just sprout and spread, and really quickly. The piece of plant that I gave her turned into this:
And this (note the huge pile of clippings and purple flowers under the windows):
What we found is that not only does it spread and fill like a mad-plant, you could just grab a handful of trimmings (I did about 12-15 at a time), cut it into 10” lengths, pop it in the ground, water for a week, and VIOLA, purple flowers! These things are so insane, you can leave a clipping with buds on it on cement and the buds will bloom up to 2 weeks later. Just laying on cement. Lay them on dirt, and they root.
If plants are my children, then I’m I randy son of a gun. Here’s what I ended up with (keep in mind the size of the original plant and how upset I was over the price of it):
Wait!! There’s more:
Not done yet:
And the Grand Finale:
Yea. My kids! I estimate somewhere around 1500 of them. Here is a pretty close-up:
There is a little church around the block from me. Back in the day when I first moved here this was way out in the suburbs, and the church was mostly empty except for 2-5 people who always came on sunday to worship. As the area built up, the church did as well, with several hundred people and a day care there. They’ve been landscaping it like crazy.
Walking past it recently, I noticed a lonely purple plant sitting in a sea of green (I showed you this plant earlier, in fact, as my original plant is no longer available). Here is what I saw:
Looks like I’ve got some work to do.