Posts

Have you ever visited a community garden?  


I had the opportunity to help create a community garden with some very special friends in Miami, Florida.

Me (Noelle Johnson), Matt Mattus, Helen Yoest, Amy Andrychowicz, Steve Asbell and Dave Townsend – the ‘Saturday6’
 
So, who are these special friends? 
 
They are garden bloggers, like me and we’ve been brought together through our partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt. We came from all over the United States and came together to work with the folks at a service project in Miami.
 
 
As part of our partnership, we share our gardening knowledge via Troybilt’s gardening newsletter – ‘The Dirt’, Facebook and Twitter.  We also create how-to videos and test Troybilt equipment and offer our honest opinions. 
This year, we were invited by Troybilt to help create a community garden as part of their continuing efforts to give back to the community.  



The day we all arrived in Miami, we had the opportunity to tour the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, which you can read about here.  


The next morning, we all gathered on a vacant lot in the Perrine Neighborhood in Miami.

 
 
The local dry cleaner allowed the property adjacent to their store to be used for this inner-city community garden.
 
 
We were excited to be creating an edible garden for the surrounding neighborhood.
 
Imagine six gardeners together, trying to plan out a community garden.  Believe it or not, it all went smoothly and we all agreed on a plan as to where to put the raised beds and what size they should be.
 
 
We measured out the placement for the beds with assistance from the folks at Troybilt and the Miami chapter of “Keep America Beautiful“.
 

 

 
The surrounding community was very excited about the garden.  We were happy to meet the Perrine neighborhood community activist, Ms. Townsend who would help to distribute the produce from the garden.
 
Steve Asbell (The Rainforest Gardener), took time to talk with her about the different vegetables and flowers that we would be planting in the garden.
 
 
Ms. Townsend, was very interested in learning about the plants and seeds we would be planting.  She listened carefully when Matt Mattus (Growing With Plantsexplained to her how the seeds would grow.
 
*This special lady takes care of those in her neighborhood, including picking up day-old bread from the local supermarket, putting it in her car trunk and then delivers it to those in need.
 
 
Once the outlines were painted, we used cement block to create the sides of the of the beds.
 
You may wonder why we put cardboard on the bottom of the garden beds.  Well, the cardboard will form a nice barrier to keep the grass from growing through and will also serve to ‘smother’ the grass.
 
Initially, we had discussed planting some fruit trees alongside the raised vegetable beds, but we ran into a little problem with that plan…
 
Limestone rock lay right underneath the grass, making digging all but impossible.
 
 
We filled the beds with topsoil and aged steer manure in alternating layers.
 
 
Troybilt supplied us with the necessary garden equipment including a cultivator, which we used to help mix the layers of topsoil and manure together.
 
 
I have a smaller cultivator that attaches to my Troybilt string trimmer that I like to use in my vegetable gardens.  
 
You can read more about my gardening adventures with my Troybilt cultivator, here.
 
 
Amy Andrychowicz (Get Busy Gardening) and Dave Townsend (Growing the Home Garden) raked the soil smooth while Helen Yoest (Gardening With Confidence) filled the holes of the cement block with soil for planting.
 
Community members posing for a picture with a Troybilt representative.
 
Members of the community came out to watch our progress, including the neighborhood police officer.
 
 
We took a quick break for lunch then took a picture with people from the neighborhood, Troybilt, Keep America Beautiful and officials from the Human Services Department who were on hand.
 
Local Master Gardener, Sheila Martinez, assists Dave Townsend with planting.
 
After lunch it was time for my favorite part – planting!
 
Sheila Martinez, a local Master Gardener, assisted us throughout the day and will be in charge of caring for the garden.
 
 
I had fun planting the first bed with tomatoes and herbs including flat-leaf parsley, purple basil and rosemary.
 
Other beds included strawberries, peppers, leaf lettuce, collard greens and onions.  Beans were planted from seed.
 
 
The holes in the cement block was filled with soil so that we could add companion plants, which help to attract pollinators as well as repel bad bugs from damaging the vegetables.
 
To that end, we planted sage, basil, green onions and marigolds in the holes, which will not only help to protect the edible plants but also add beauty to each garden.
 

 

After a productive day in the garden, we were tired but happy with all we had accomplished.
 
This is the second year that we have all been part of the Saturday6.  Imagine how much fun six garden bloggers have when they get together!
 
Last year we all met in Arizona and enjoyed a great time, which you can read about here.
 
I am so grateful to be a part of this group of great people and the opportunity to work with Troybilt again.  I will be reviewing another piece of Troybilt equipment this year and giving one away, so stay tuned!
 
 
 

 

I have been enjoying sharing with you about my recent trip to the beautiful gardens of Vizcaya, located in Miami, Florida. The trip and garden visit came as a part of my partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt.  These gardens are inspired by Italian gardens and use plants that thrive in tropical climates.


Last time, we explored the secret garden, climbed up the man-made hill and saw a most magnificent, covered patio.


Today, I invite you to journey with me as we explore the gardens further…

 
The second part of our garden journey begins at the top of the man-made hill, looking toward the house.
 

 

On top of the wall, are examples of the stonework present throughout the gardens.  Most of it was made from limestone, which had a real ‘aged’ appearance.
 
 
This is a photo that I shared on my Instagram account of the mangrove forest.
 
Mangroves are trees that grow along coastal areas in the tropics in areas where most other plants cannot grow because of the salty water.  They are an important of the ecosystem and help to prevent erosion.
 

 

*Imagine how spooky this area would look on a foggy day?
 
 

 

A large staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) was mounted from the side of a Royal Palm tree.  They are epiphytes, which mean that they get water and nutrients from the air and not from the host plant.
 
When wet, this large staghorn fern can weigh up to 200 pounds!
 
 
 If you look carefully, you can Spanish moss hanging from the Southern Live Oak, which also grow in the desert – they just don’t get as big here.
 
*Did you know that Spanish moss is NOT a moss?  It is another example of an epiphyte and gets its water and nutrients from the air.  I have some from my trip to Savannah, Georgia last year that I used to make a terrarium.
 
 
A brown anole, which is a lizard native to Cuba and the Bahamas.  They are considered an invasive species in Florida.
 
 
This is a green anole, which is NOT considered invasive.


**A special thanks to my friend and garden companion, Steve Asbell, who explained the difference between these two lizards.
 
 

More examples of the statuary throughout the garden with ferns in the background.



Orchids grew naturally outdoors, which made me slightly jealous, although I have been able to grow them indoors.





There were even orchids growing in trees, which is where they are often found growing in the wild.  Most cultivated orchids are epiphytes, which means that they get their water and nutrients from the air.



As we neared the end of our journey through the garden, we encountered a fence with vines growing all over it concealing another secret garden.  There was a small hole, so I peeked through.



Looking through the hole, I saw another area of the garden that was closed off from the public.  I’m not sure if there are any plans to open this section called the Marine Garden, but I definitely wanted to explore it further.

 
As our time in the garden ended, I was so grateful to have been given the chance to view such a beautiful place.
 
I hope you enjoyed this ‘virtual’ tour.  If you are ever in Miami, I encourage you to take time to explore the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
 
***********************
 
If you want to explore this garden further and learn more about its history, check out my friend Steve’s latest blog post.
 
Next time, I will share with you our next Floridian adventure, which was to create a community garden.  While vegetable gardening is much the same wherever you live (except for the plsnyinh calendar) we did encounter an unusual barrier, which I will share in my next post.
 
*I traveled to Miami as part of a group called the Saturday6, which is a group of six garden-bloggers from around the country brought together by the folks at Troybilt.

 

 

 

Last week, I visited Miami along with five of my garden-blogger friends, hosted by Troybilt.  We had two days together, packed with activities including building a community garden, which I’ll tell you about later.  


The first part of our trip took place at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.




I had flown on the red-eye from Phoenix to Miami and was running on 2 hours of sleep when we arrived at Vizcaya.  

Though I was running on empty by the time I arrived at Vizcaya, once I entered the Italian-inspired gardens, I felt like I had stepped onto an European estate and I was instantly re-energized and ready to explore.

We all enjoyed a personal tour of the house (no picture-taking allowed in the house).  While the mansion was beautiful – I am a gardener through and through – not an interior decorator, so I was anxious to get out and see the gardens.

My friend, Steve Asbell (who has a blog called The Rainforest Garden) accompanied me as we explored the gardens.  His knowledge of tropical plants would prove invaluable as he showed me many of his favorite plants in the gardens.



The gardens were created to mimic the look and feel of Italian gardens, using plants adapted to Miami’s warm, tropical climate.

I really felt as if I was in Europe as we strolled through the gardens.

I would love to share with you some of the beautiful plants and areas of the gardens in the photos below.

Enjoy!


As we stepped out of the house, we were greeted by the sight of Biscayne Bay and a stone barge that was built as a breakwater to help protect against the rising tide.



Although there are quite a few differences between gardening in the tropics and the desert – there are quite a few plants that grow well in both places.


The first plant that I recognized was Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’, which is a huge favorite of many desert dwellers.  I have two growing from cuttings in my own garden.


A tea house stood amidst a backdrop of mangroves that was accessed by crossing a Venetian- style bridge.


This beautiful, flowering perennial is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha).  I have seen it grown as an annual during a visit to the White House and as a perennial here in AZ.  In Florida, it also grows as a perennial.

I really love the red backdrop, which really makes the fuzzy, purple flowers ‘pop’ visually.



Every garden should have a ‘secret garden’ don’t you think?

A decorative stairway leads down to the secret garden of Vizcaya where colorful plants include yellow Peruvian Candle (Sanchezia speciosa) while the fuchsia plants are a variety of Ti Plant (Cordyline ‘Red Sister’).


Wall pots held a variety of succulents.


I fell in love with the colorful Kalanchoe luciae ‘Fantastic’ growing alongside a ‘Blue Elf’ Aloe (which is often seen in desert gardens).

*I have a Kalanchoe growing in a container, but it is not this colorful variety. 


Formally-pruned shrubs form a maze in the center of the gardens.


A row of statues flanked the walkway, which is a design element that I really love to see in large gardens.


Barefoot in the garden.


You could easily think you are in Spain as you view this formal fountain and the palm trees in the background.

Notice the Australian Pine trees in the pots?  They are old!  These trees were last repotted in 1922.


Water is a vital element in many large gardens. 






A hill was installed across the garden from the house to block the sun’s rays.  The narrow tracks in the middle were created so that the gardeners could get their wheelbarrows up the steps of the hill.


At the top of the hill stood this stone planter with some very pretty plants – I have no idea what they are, but that didn’t stop me from admiring them just the same.


At the top of the hill stood the ultimate patio, or as it is called in Vizcaya – ‘the Casino’ where guests could sit outdoors in the shade.  


Here in the desert, we would add misters, which would make it a great place to hang out in the summer.

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of our garden tour.  Next time, we will explore a ‘spooky’ forest, view another secret garden and see an orchid garden.


* My trip to Miami and the gardens of Vizcaya was a result of my being one of the Saturday6 – a group of six garden bloggers brought together by Troybilt.