An accidental focal point

I devoted an entire day a while back to removing several very large shrubs that the previous owners had planted along the courtyard of our house. I had decided our property will have a tropical aesthetic exclusively, so the scrubby plants had to go. It was difficult work, as these were not small plants and the previous owners had let the area become entangled with vines. I have waited so long to do this because such a task is impossible to undertake during a South Florida summer, when temperatures are in the 90s and so is the humidity. You have to wait until the “winter” months to tackle serious landscaping projects. (Also, some gin may have been involved.)

I could not have anticipated how I would ultimately be rewarded, however.

The scrub happened to be concealing the most wonderful plant – a mature Queen Emma crinum lily (above). In addition to being gorgeous, this plant is HUGE. (For the sake of comparison, the arbor in the background is 8 feet tall. I would say the lily is over 6 feet tall and at least 5 feet wide.) We have several other crinum lilies on the property, but they are all about half the size of this beast. When it blooms, its magenta and white flowers are the size of globes.

I have no idea what possessed the previous owners to plant giant shrubs in front of such a majestic plant. My guess is they did what many folks do – they purchase plants from commercial nurseries when they are small and plant them without taking into account what they will mature into. (If you share this frustration, I recommend giving soon-to-be large plants the spacing they require and temporarily filling the emptiness with annuals. They won’t compete with the big plant for the resources it needs to grow and are a placeholder you won’t have to feel guilty about removing.)

Another perk of removing the scrub is the Queen Emma is finally getting some light. In the shade, the lily turns more of a green color. But once it receives some light, the leaves turn a deep purple. Between its size and interesting foliage, this plant that I did not even know existed has turned into a brilliant focal point for the garden our pool looks out onto – kind of an important place.

I am hoping I can eventually plant white and magenta Sunpatiens in the foreground, but that is going to take a year of soil preparation to achieve. Above this plant are several royal palms, among other trees, and their root systems will not allow me to till the ground. My only alternative is to build up soil above them and plant into that. I have followed my deep-mulching plan in this garden too, so I expect to see some progress on soil after the 2022 rainy season. Once I am done, we should have a stunning view.

In some future post, I am going to talk about garden design and creating “garden rooms.” Because our house has a “U” shape, I have mapped out at least seven distinct garden rooms. These rooms are separated (or will eventually be separated) by physical barriers but connected by paths, so as you walk you feel like you are entering into a new space with a different sort of character. A big part of the structural considerations is figuring out what the focal point of each room will be – what you will be drawn to as you walk into the space or view the space from the outside.

With a clever design, you can make even an urban plot feel like some extravagant park or botanical garden. That’s what I am going for here – a botanical garden that is thrilling to spend time in, but also produces quite a bit of food for our family.

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