Gardening and Landscaping in Central Florida

The below excerpt is taken from the book “Gardening and Landscaping in Central Florida” by Marlys Bells. Anyone looking for Gardening and landscaping tips and techniques in Central Florida should read this book. This book contains tons of valuable information on landscaping ideas, tree selection and planting, gardening best practices, tree trimming tips, pruning, landscape maintenance and many more tree related ideas.

  • To support and encourage local wildlife.
  • To increase the amount of available living space.
  • And to differentiate your home from the neighbors and to reflect your tastes and preference.


Knowing more about your expectations for your outdoor space will help you look for the right property or make the changes to your existing home so that it meets more of your landscaping goals. The first set of questions deals with how the outdoor space will be used, and the existing realities which will influence landscaping decisions. Only after gross sizes, shapes and functions are determined, are color and other style preferences addressed. Following this sequence should encourage the selection of the right plant for the right place, as well as a landscape that works for you.

Embedded in the process are issues that are relatively unique to this area, such as irrigation system design, and use of evergreen trees and shrubs, as opposed to the extensive use of deciduous trees and shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Also included are suggestions to make your landscape “Florida Friendly,” low maintenance, and attractive year-round. Begin the process by asking yourself questions to determine what you want from your outdoor space. For example:

  • What are the functions/activities that the outdoor space should support?
  • What are your outdoor interests? If recreation, what kind? (such as swimming or basketball).
  • Gardening, grilling, bird watching?
  • Are you looking for ways to expand your living space? If so, for what purposes?
  • Who will be using it? Any children or pets? Do they have special needs?
  • Are there special storage, service or privacy needs?
  • What time of day and which parts of the years will various parts of the yard be used?
  • What kind of investment are you willing to put into your landscape both in terms of initial? expense as well as upkeep? How much will you be doing as opposed to utilizing landscape maintenance services?


After having asked yourself the kinds of questions outlined above, come up with your “wish list.” It may be done in the abstract, or in the context of the existing property that you already own, and which you have decided needs to meet more of your needs. Your circumstances may affect the level of specificity in your wish list, but it could look something like this:

I want my landscaping:

  • To give me complete privacy in my back yard;
  • To attract birds and butterflies that I will be able to see from my potion;
  • To provide enough flowers for bouquets and herbs for cooking years round;
  • To have and outdoor cooking area that will be shady in the late afternoon;
  • To have a separate place where I can let out the dog at night;
  • To be low maintenance and drought tolerant so that I will not have to spend a fortune irrigating and maintaining it.

With your “wish list” as a preliminary framework, start focusing upon the realities of how it will be achieved in the context of your actual site. If you are planning to find a vacant lot and build your home, the work you have done can be used to help, assess the relative attractiveness of your options. This section provides information for those buying a vacant lot and building to existing landscapes for those wanting their outdoor space to work better or reflect more personal interests and aesthetic preference.


In addition to the obvious consideration about the location, neighborhood, and whether or not it appeals to you, there are several landscape related issues worth considering when buying a vacant lot some of them are:

Water Related

  • Is the land in any kind of flood plain which would raise the cost of insurance and cause flood
  • Is there standing water which might mean needing to add “tons” of soil to raise the grade?
  • Are there any other significant grade issues which would need to be addressed?
  • Does it border any bodies of water? If so, are there implications for easements, land use restrictions, run off and erosion control, flooding, or wildlife? Will there be salt water and/or? spray issues?
  • Will the property be on “city water” or will it require a well? If on a city system, is a well permitted for irrigation? If a well is being considered, can you get by with a shallow well (which may affect the nearby water table in lakes, etc.) or will it need to be a deep one, both of which may have salt, iron or Sulphur?
  • What are the costs and implications of each? What are the results of a water test? What does that mean in terms of filtering, or chemicals (excessive salt in the water causes plants? problems and high iron content require treatment to avoid orange stains from water spraying on hard surface)? Are there noticeable smells from the water, such as iron sulphide? which causes a rotten egg odor which would need to be treated with chemical?
  • Where is the water table? To get some clues, dig a hole and see if water seeps into it, and either drains or puddles. To determine drain ability, dig a hole, fill it with water, and see how long it takes to drain. When assessing the results, take into account the general weather conditions such as periods of recent rain or extended drought periods. Get a survey done if there is any reason for concern.

Existing Tree/Plant Communities and Wildlife

  • Has the land been stripped of vegetation, or has any part of it been left “as is,” which could reduce the cost of clearing and landscaping, and preserve shade and native habitat for local wildlife? If it has been stripped, how much landscape will it take to get the shade, privacy, curb appeal, and other aspects needed in order to have functioning outdoor space?
  • If there is existing vegetation, are there applicable country, city or community guidelines and requirements for buffers, maintaining natural area, and caliper size of trees which can be cleared?
  • Once your house is built, given the surrounding neighborhood, what is the likelihood that you will be living with deer, alligators, opossums, armadillos, vultures and snakes? How will you deal with that possibility? Are there opportunities to leave space for them as long as you space too? Is fencing an option in your community?

House Site

  • Is there a perfect site for the house? If so, what would have to be done to put it there in term of clearing, grade changes, view adjustments, etc.?
  • What direction would the front door face? How about the patio and other entertainment areas? Would the orientation of the house be consistent with your preference? (Outdoor living areas facing east are cooler in the afternoon than those facing west.)
  • Are there other factors that should be taken into consideration (such as prevailing winds, odors, light patterns, views of power lines, etc.)? Can they be fixed if determined to be issues?

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