March brings spring in Florida and provides an optimum time to purchase plants for garden renovation. The days are getting longer and the spring weather provides an optimum time to plant comfortably, then to get plants established in time for the start of the summer rains, typically near the first of June. Fortunately for gardeners spring also brings an abundance of excellent garden shows, with good plants for Florida landscapes. There is nothing quite like buying the plant from the grower and these garden shows offer the perfect opportunity to discover how the plant was grown and what conditions it needs to thrive. A couple of shows that should appear on the calendar of gardeners in Marion County include the Master Gardener Spring Festival at the Marion County Agricultural Center. Now in its 24th year, this show will be making a major change in 2018, moving under the covered pavilion of the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion. This is in response to customer requests for less walking – we heard you! Always held the second weekend in March, the show will occur March 10 and 11, 2018. The show features a variety of vendors, many with plants, some with garden accents as well as a selection of food vendors. 4-H members are on hand to help get your purchases from the vendor to plant pick up. Bring your children, the show offers an outstanding interactive learning experience for young people and the young at heart.
Later in March make plans to attend the Kanapha plant show at the Kanapha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville. Scheduled for March 24 and 25 this show offers entertainment in addition to opportunities to purchase plants. At 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, the local nurserymen’s chapter offers a plant auction which offers good plants at good prices. Come make a bid for plants produced at local Florida nurseries.
The ideal days of spring present a perfect opportunity to visit great botanical gardens to pick up ideas for your own landscape – and Florida has an abundance of these. Public gardens offer great day trips and in addition to the aforementioned Kanapha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville, consider these gardens, all an easy day’s roundtrip drive from Ocala. A first on the list might be a visit to Leu Gardens in Orlando. The gardens offer an opportunity to view several plants that perform well in central Florida but remember Orlando’s climate is a bit warmer than Ocala’s in the winter so view the sub-tropical plants with this in mind. The gardens also exhibit Mr. Leu’s old house from the late 1800’s, adding another interesting element to the visit. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is largely known for the large 205 foot tower which contains a carillon featuring 60 bells. The site also includes a lush Florida landscape designed by the famous landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead. Looking for something more formal? You might enjoy a trip to the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. Operated by Pinellas County, admission to the garden is free and there are over a hundred acres of garden to view. This garden includes a wedding garden with interesting topiaries, including a man – presumably a groom – attempting to escape over the wall. This garden has some water features and a great deal of hardscape. A little south of Florida Botanical Gardens, in Sarasota, one finds the Marie Selby Botanical Garden, a 15 acre parcel adjacent to Sarasota bay. The gardens feature an epiphyte garden under large sheltering oaks, a fern garden, a conservatory, and a bamboo garden among other points of interest. If your travels take you through Tallahassee, an interesting stop is the Maclay Gardens, operated by the state of Florida and just off Interstate 10. With over 300 acres, the gardens offer ideas on landscape for large areas and feature both shade and sun gardening. A large number of azaleas and camellias are on display during the first three months of the year. With walking trails, water features and a most interesting “secret garden”, Maclay gardens is an easy drive from Ocala and offers ideas for plants that will take the cold of a stressful winter. The 1909 Maclay house has been refurbished to appear as it did when the owners lived there. The house is open during the blooming season each year, January – April.