So as soon as the weather will allow driving, we are off to Florida for 3 months. Our daughter will move from northern Virginia into our house, the fire and burglar alarm system have been checked out, the landscaper has been asked to keep the driveway clean of snow and ice, and the neighbors and friends will check on woman and home on a regular basis. There is now an emergency stand-by generator, should we lose power this winter, and all is ready to go!
So we thought we would give you a taste of things to come from our winter home. We have taken pictures of the beauty of the Florida peninsula for many years. We have many nature parks as close as 15 minutes away, and as far as 8 hours drive, but still in Florida (this is a really big state, taking as much as 14 hours to drive from the northern end to the Florida Keys.)
Our winter home is about 60 miles northwest of Orlando in a sleepy little town just outside of the county seat of Eustis, Florida. Almost everything of tourist interest is about 1 to 2 hours away, the coasts, Disney World, Audubon sites, National Wildlife Refuges, etc. We are fond of saying we are “near Useless,” just to see if the locals catch on to our mispronunciation. We still go to Subway for lunch (a date we keep with each other just to get out of the house on a regular basis.) But instead of a brick house, we live in what is essentially a trailer, a double-wide, permanently parked on a 60 by 100 foot lot paved with bermuda grass and two asphalt driveways (there used to be a drive-through carport on the front of the house). My mother left it to us when she passed away in 2008. We didn’t think we’d keep it, but as DH had to plow and keep the Maryland brick house driveway, front, and back walks clear, and he hated the winter winds, we stayed first 6 weeks, then 8, now 12 weeks — January through March. Although we have to drive 14 hours to reach the place, it is worth the passage from winter to not exactly summer, but a very mild fall or spring in Florida. The temperatures are about 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than Maryland, and even if the night temperatures get into the 30′s, it is usually a nice 60 to 70 degree day and mostly sunny all the time.
Plantings so far have been hit and miss. We have a very narrow strip between the house and the drive way in the front that we have planted with some test perennials in the past few years. All that seems to survive in the sun is dusty miller, that seems to grow as a perennial rather than as an annual or biennial like up north.
This year we plan to landscape the place. Mom left the house mostly well landscaped, with azalea, euonymus, pittosporum, holly, and podocarpus, but there is a hot southern wall without much of anything at the base of the house or on that side of the yard that needs significant improvement. The front of the house could also use improvement, since the azaleas and other bushes are getting a tad too large for the squat windows and low to the ground glassed-in front porch. Although green, they look straggly and weak to us, not luxuriant like in Maryland. Also, spanish moss is something that must be constantly picked off the plants, and we have lost a few hardy bushes by letting them fill with moss and thus loose their access to light. Our next door neighbor has had to have a tree removed because of this problem. Some of our neighbors have citrus trees, but we won’t be around to spray them, and in the past 5 years, we have had 2 or 3 years of freezing weather that have damaged or destroyed citrus in this area. We would like to check out crepe myrtle to see if it could withstand the searing heat of central Florida during the summertime.
With only 3 months of care from us (a landscaper comes in to keep the bushes trimmed and the grass cut), a very hardy landscape plan must be developed and followed. Nothing should be planted that will require care during the maximum heat of the summer, especially on this very sunny side of what is essentially an aluminum wall, albeit painted. We do have an irrigation system for the grass and landscaping, but that can only be used once a week because of general drought conditions in this part of the state. Any ideas, southern readers? Stay tuned for our landscaping project(s)! Happy New Year!