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    Wisteria is blooming on our pergola. Pat Foster-Turley/For the News-Leader

Garden springing to life

Things are springing to life in our garden, which is both good news and bad. I’m the plant lover in our marriage, and I love the blooms and shoots of spring in North Florida. Bucko, not so much. His view of plants is one of maintained order, and here in spring, that’s a tough challenge.

Take our wisteria, for instance. When we first moved to our new home, I envisioned a backyard pergola and deck covered with blooming, fragrant wisteria blossoms. Now, 18 years later, I have my wish. Our sitting area in the backyard is abloom with purple flowers, and the deck is covered with fallen purple petals, a beautiful sight to my eyes. But not for Bucko. He sees our Chinese wisteria as a foe to be curtailed, an invasive vine that threatens to swallow up all the nearby shrubs and trees. Not long ago, he spent some time on a ladder trimming off all the spreading vines. Not me. I just happily enjoy the results of his labor, sitting under the vibrant blooming vines that remain in their proper place on our pergola.

And then there are the sword ferns. A friend of mine years ago recommended these attractive green plants as a good ground cover, something that would fill in those bare spots in our brand new but bare backyard. I happily put some in a corner of the yard and was thrilled when they quickly filled in the space and also provided me with greens to fill out my flower bouquets. Little did I know what would happen 15 years down the road.

When the ferns I planted started spreading out of their designated spot, I dutifully pulled them out and tossed them at the edge of our backyard woods and never paid much attention to them. Then I learned about invasive sword ferns from Kathy Russell, the Egans Creek Greenway manager, and I took a closer look at our little patch of woods. Oh no! Where there used to be a variety of native fern species, now all I can see is the fresh green sprigs of more and more sword ferns spreading endlessly into the woods. Now, with the enemy in sight, we have mounted an attack plan to remove them all eventually. This is turning out to be a bigger job than expected. Sigh.

Other things in our backyard garden are mostly under control this spring. Some of my potted perennials have not yet shown any signs of re-growth, and soon I will be replacing those plants with flowering, butterfly-attracting plants to fill in this area of the garden. The two types of milkweeds I have planted are doing well, though, and are starting to sprout new growth. Come on butterflies, we’re waiting for you!

The honeysuckle we planted on a new fence two years ago is spreading nicely. Just maybe we will have a crop of hummingbird-attracting blooms a bit later; here’s hoping. Sadly, though, our two large bottlebrush shrubs have already bloomed profusely. These won’t be attracting hummingbirds this year, it seems. Somehow or another, almost all of the hundreds of flowers have fallen to the ground, either by wind or foraging squirrels, it’s hard to tell, but on the ground and now useless to hummingbirds.

Along the pond edge, things are beginning to look like spring too. The Zephyr lilies have bloomed already, the irises have tall green leaves with flower buds waiting in the wings, and the Virginia sweetspire shrubs are just about in bloom.

In the temperate evenings of spring, we sit under our pergola and watch the pond and bird feeders. When it gets darker, the fire pit is handy with a stack of wood nearby. The bugs have not found us yet, the oppressive heat of summer is still at bay, and life is good.

Everywhere I look, things are growing nicely, and everywhere Bucko looks, things are over-growing horribly. It’s a matter of perspective that we have differed on forever. No matter our view, we both have to admit that spring is a favorite time of year for us here in Fernandina Beach. It’s time to get out in the garden, folks, and savor the colors and smells. Whatever you do, just get outside.

News-Leader

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