Armadillos In the Garden

Spring weather has finally set in with mild sunny days and no danger of frost. I set out to tame the wild jungles of dead brush in the garden this afternoon, enjoying the sunshine and the heady smell of confederate jasmine blooms intermingling with the orange blossom drifting in from the nearby grove.  I love the smell of spring in Florida.  I probably look like a crazy person when I’m outside at this time of year; inhaling deep breaths of the floral perfusion that probably look like hyperventilation to anyone else.

One of the decidedly lovely things about gardening with all native plants is that – even with extreme weather events – they’re often hardy enough to come back on their own.  But first I’ll have to clear all the dead scrub to see what’s managed to survive beneath.

One of the species hardest hit in our landscape: dune sunflower. Most of the large stands of mature plants were nothing but crispy twigs so dried out they would’ve made great kindling and snapped like uncooked spaghetti noodles as I pulled it free.  The root systems had totally died back and I easily plucked the main stems from the loamy soil.  At least I didnt wind up with a backache today from yanking out heavy rootballs.  With dune sunflower, there simply isn’t too much of a root mass even when they’re incredibly healthy.

Luckily, even though the mature plants are toast, the sunflowers self-seeded and there is a dark green carpet of seedlings sprouting up underneath all this old canopy.  Once the deadwood came out I set to work thinning out the seedlings and reworking borders and edges around the paver stones.  The seedlings had already invaded the passionflower vine and honeysuckle vine borders as well as the coontie.  Speaking of which, the coontie was the least hardest hit of all the natives in our garden.  They looked completely unscathed.

Wish I could say the same for the wild coffee. While the plants have died back entirely to the core stems and stock there are weak little green leaves popping through the leaf mold.  Hopefully they’ll make it as well.

The only thing missing from the garden?  Indian blanketflower.  This beautiful ground cover usually races all over the place – a weed really – but I can’t find any seedlings at all yet.  Let’s hope the continuing warm weather will coax a few out of dormancy.  Otherwise, we’ll have to transplant.

All in all, I must say, I’m shocked that the garden is going to recover so well. While many of my neighbors lost, literally, thousands of dollars in landscaping due to the extreme freezes in January I don’t think we’ll have really lost anything.   Even the pineapple plants in the front border are hanging on, despite having lost a few leaves.   And to cap off the beautiful day and tremendous progress, a little troop of armadillos snuffled through the far border while I sat with some iced tea in hand.  It took a lot of self restraint not to run over to the line of babies, scoop them up and cuddle them.   Little armadillos are unbelievably adorable… but unfortunately just as smelly as their parents.. and they usually ‘poo when they’re frightened.

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