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Florida-Friendly Landscaping

An Inspirational Garden to Visit

Do you love to stroll through gardens for inspiration?  If so, we invite you to visit our Demonstration Garden located at the Polk County Extension Office in Bartow.  The goal of our garden is to grow and demonstrate to Polk County residents the plants that grow well and thrive in our central Florida climate and soils.

What will you find in our gardens?  Our landscape garden areas are filled with native and non-native Florida-friendly

Photo of Rain barrels in the garden

Rain barrels in the garden
Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

trees, shrubs, grasses, bulbs, vines, perennials and annuals.  We grow plants for the sun, shade and in-between!  We have plants that grow in a wet bog setting, and plants that grow in the sand with no irrigation at all (after initial watering to establish).  If we find plants that are difficult to maintain, we will generally just remove them.  The landscaping practices of the garden are guided by the 9 principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, a University of Florida program which teaches sustainable practices for gardens and landscapes.

What makes our garden Florida-Friendly?

*  Our plants are chosen on the basis of their ability to adapt to their planting site.  We try to assess the anticipated mature size of the plant to minimize the need to artificially “hedge” or prune to control its size and/or shape.

*   We attempt to grow plants whose needs for fertilizer are generally low. If a plant is thriving with healthy new growth, we do not routinely apply fertilizer. We maintain organic mulch materials which add nutrients to the soil as they break down.  We apply slow-release fertilizers, as needed, mostly to perennials and annuals.

*   We attempt to choose plants with medium to low supplemental water needs.  Our plants are watered on an as-needed basis; most areas are set up with microirrigation systems in an effort to water most efficiently.

*   We approach insect pests and disease problems guided by IPM (Integrated Pest Management) techniques. Volunteers walk through gardens, scouting for pests and/or disease evidence.  Before applying chemical controls, we will attempt to hand-pick visible insects, remove diseased or damaged branches, or decide to live with a few areas of less-than-perfect foliage.  If chemical treatment is warranted, we will apply the least toxic materials, such as Neem oil (a plant-based insecticide, miticide and fungicide), or insecticidal soap.

* Our gardens are visited by small wildlife!  Over the years, as we have reduced the areas of turf and lawn, we see

Photo of Pollinator house in the garden

Pollinator house in the garden Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

more and more birds, butterflies and other pollinators!  We have two areas that are specified as “butterfly” and/or “pollinator” gardens; but in fact, because we maintain a diversity of plants and severely limit the use of chemicals in our gardens, we enjoy the presence of birds and pollinators in all our garden areas!

A self-guided touring pamphlet will guide you through 18 mini-themed areas of our garden. (You can pick up inside the front doors of the main office, or in the outdoor kiosk on the south side of building near the gazebo).   Most of our plants are labeled, but If you have any questions about any of the plants, visit the Master Gardener Plant Clinic inside the office, or take a photo of the plant and email to:   You can also call the Master Gardeners at 863-519-1057 with plant questions.

Pardon our Weeds! Our gardens have been designed, planted and are maintained by Master Gardener volunteers.  So, if you see imperfections in our garden spaces, you can just imagine that on our previous “work day”, some of us might have been on vacation!  We’ll be working on improving soon!

Polk County Master Gardener volunteers working in the demonstration gardens

Polk County Master Gardener volunteers working in the demonstration gardens
Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension


Come visit our gardens!  We hope you find inspiration for plant ideas in your own yard.  And, as you stroll through, we invite you to take some time to find a shaded bench and just rest in the peaceful space because…. isn’t that what gardens are for?

This blog post was written by Master Gardener Molly Griner under supervision of the Master Gardener Coordinator and Residential Horticulture Agent Anne Yasalonis.

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at  The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Visit us in person, give us a call, or email us at

The Florida Master Gardener Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida.  The program  extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.