Cracking the ‘code’ of South Florida gardens


Book information

“Florida: Getting Started Garden Guide” by Tom MacCubbin and Georgia B. Tasker (Cool Springs Press, $24.99 in paper)

For people who didn’t grow up in Miami — that’s most of us — gardening in South Florida is a mystery. The answers to dealing with limestone soil, summer downpours and strange bugs are like a secret code, and we have not been initiated into the society that knows the rules.

Many of us brought our gardening habits with us from the Northeast or the Midwest — plant our vegetable gardens and annual flowers in the spring, rip out the tomatoes and replace them with cool-weather vegetables in the fall. It’s hard to erase those instincts. Frustrated with the zinnias that die in early summer, it would never occur to us to plant them in the fall.

But that’s the solution for those of us who aren’t ready to replace our zinnias and marigolds with tropical gingers and heliconia, and the details are in a newly revised edition of a Florida gardening book.

Florida: Getting Started Garden Guide focuses on ornamentals rather than vegetable gardens. It covers the entire state, from the bluffs of the Appalachicola River to the stony dry reefs of the Florida Keys. The book was co-authored by Georgia B. Tasker, former gardening writer for the Miami Herald and now a writer at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and Tom MacCubbin, who writes a gardening column for the Orlando Sentinel and hosts a radio program on gardening.

The book recommends 175 plants, including flowers, shrubs, trees, vines and groundcovers, many of them Florida natives. It tells when to plant each of them, varieties best suited for Florida, what kind of soil and light each prefers, what their water and fertilizer needs are and what pests they attract. Most important, with South Florida’s upside-down growing seasons and conditions, it tells how to grow them in different parts of the state.

For someone like me, a Californian who misses her flower garden, the book offers hard-nosed practical advice. You’ll find me out shopping for snapdragons and geraniums.

Marjie Lambert is the editor of the Miami Herald’s Home & Design section and was Georgia Tasker’s editor at the Herald.

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">COZY, CASUAL CHARM:</span> Downsizing from a larger home is an art, but you can still maintain a stylish space.


    The art of downsizing is well worth the effort

    My life changed the day I visited a friend who had downsized into a charming home on a little lake on the outskirts of Kansas City, Mo. I fell in love with the quiet community of small, unassuming homes built decades ago around a sleepy lake.

Neil Patrick Harris listed his home in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles at $2.995 million.

    Hot Property: Los Angeles

    Country stars selling Malibu pad for $7.5 million

    Country music superstars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood have put their place in Malibu up for sale at $7.5 million.

This impressive and rather rare vase was made in England by a company that was founded in 1820 to make utilitarian items out of stoneware.


    How old is this vase from my great-grandfather?

    Q: Attached are photos of a vase that once belonged to my great-grandfather. It is marked “Coulton, Burslem” and is decorated with painted poppies and a three-dimensional dragon. It is marked with an emblem with a crown on top and the number 1922. It is 221/2 inches tall. Would it be possible for you to tell me how old it is and the approximate value?

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category