Garden voyeurs, step inside the seed queen’s palace

I used to think that once I’d visited someone’s garden, that was it. Nothing new to see and no reason to return. I know better now!

Bachelor button flower in Tampa, Florida bright pink narrow petals in a star shape and rounded leaves with serrated edges

I’ve been to Janna Begole’s Citrus Park (Tampa) garden countless times since my first visit about three years ago. I always bring my camera, because Janna’s garden — like everyone else’s, including mine — has fun new stuff to see, and maybe a whole different look, every time I visit.

The photo above is a bachelor’s button flower (Centaurea cyan’s). You may know it as coneflower or basket flower. And you might be saying, “What the heck? That’s not bachelor’s button!” There are a lot of varieties with a lot of different looks. Florida’s native “bachelor’s button” really does look like a button, but it’s Polygala rugelli.

Janna’s buttons were grown from seed — the girl’s amazing with seeds. She could grow a stone flower from a pebble, I’m sure. But she drives me nuts because she doesn’t give a hoot about what’s popping up where.

(These bachelor’s buttons were from a seed pack mix that included asters. “So is this bachelor’s button or aster?” I asked. She shrugged and smiled. “Oh, I don’t know!”)

She does, however, save all her packets. A good suggestion fo you random sowers.

This one I recognized. Do you?

Nasturtium with reddish bloom, five rounded petals. rounded leaves with veins radiating from center     I’ve had a hard time growing nasturtium from  seed. And I keep trying. Nasturtium is totally edible, and the flower has a spicy flavor, great for salads. In the Tampa area, it’s a fall-winter annual.

     But, for all it’s supposed to thrive on neglect, it’s darned picky. The seeds need to be  nicked or soaked to encourage germination. They should be planted in the ground, or the pots they’ll live in, because they don’t like to be transplanted.                 And fertilizer will encourage only leaves; it discourages flowers.

      I haven’t had a lot of luck with nasturtiums, although Janna and a lot of other gardeners I know have. It’s one of those “easy” ones that aren’t so easy for me.

 One reason Janna’s garden looks so much better than mine is she gets a lot more help. I’m not complaining (really!) but her husband pulls weeds and lays paver paths. And even her newest dog, the “puppy,” Junior, walks around yanking out weeds with his teeth and debriding beds of dead sticks. Seriously! I saw him in action!

Here’s Junior, scouting for weeds. (I apologize for decapitating Rasta-man.)

dog searching for weeds in a garden box (yes, he really pulls them up!_

 One of the things I love about Janna is she actually does some of the things I write about in my garden columns. In one of my first for the St. Petersburg Times back in August, I asked one of my favorite Florida garden writers, Robert Bowden, director of Leu Gardens in Orlando, for suggestions on winter veggie gardens. (One of his books, which I highly recommend,  is Guide to Florida Fruit and Vegetable Gardening.) He had one word: sugar snap peas. OK, three words.

Danged if Janna didn’t plant peas! We had a delicious time hunting down her many pods. (Tip – Janna didn’t have room for a trellis, so she wrapped a big old tomato cage around her sweet peas, instead. It works!)

sugar snap pea pods with sun shiny through. These are sugar snap snow peas

Of course, I envy Janna. Which means … cuttings!

I got a nice one from this purple and red bleeding heart vine. I have a beautiful bleeding heart with scarlet and white flowers; it’s been blooming in full sun since early summer. I’ve always loved this hardy Clerodendrum, but everyone said it was a shade plant and mine is a sun-filled garden. I didn’t give it a try until a local gardener tipped me off to the truth (thank you Gardendipity!)

Now I’m greedy. and I can’t wait to give these fuchsia look-alikes a try.

small lavender purple and scarlet blooms on a fast-growing vine. sun. tampa floridaCheck out the surprise! Janna thinks it’s a monarch chrysalis on her oyster plant — a succulent!

This “oyster plant,” unfortunately, shares its common name with a Florida invasive. That oyster plant is a bad guy; this one is a good guy, one of our many friends from the kalanchoe family — Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi ‘variegate.’

monarch chrysallis on oyster plant kalanchoe gedtschenkoi. green succulent variegated with lavender veins also called lavender scallop