A periodic newsletter from your friends at the Florida Native Plants Nursery & Landscaping in Sarasota, Florida.
Volume 1 - Summer 2011, Article 1 - Shade!
In this issue: SHADE! - Laurel's Yard: Planting a Forest | Our Aurora Award
| Introducing Mark Lerch | A 10% Discount | Vine Sculpture Workshop | Container Gardening Workshop | A Little Addition to the Team

The How-tos of Natural Florida Landscaping

Laurel’s Yard: Planting a Forest
or Not Sherwood ... Schiller Forest
by Fran Palmeri and Laurel Schiller

Once Venice, Florida was pine flatwoods but now, with most of the trees gone, shade is at a premium. Most of the year it’s warm and dry but summers are wet and humid—90+ degrees with 90 percent humidity. The
heat island effect makes it feel hotter!

To get shade fast I planted a forest. Instead of specimen plants, I created a woodland. And kept on planting. Now my yard is an oasis amid hot sterile surroundings—on one side white lava rock in concrete, on the other a weedy fire ant infested sand and across the street a two story apartment complex. It took some doing to get there.

FRONT YARD BEFORE: The yard back in the early 90's. The only shade cast in the yard was from five Brazilian Pepper trees, Category 1, Florida alien invasive pest plants.

FRONT YARD TODAY: A woodland oasis in hot sterile surroundings—white lava rock in concrete on one side, weedy fire ant infested sand on the other side, a two story apartment complex across the street.


My main goal was to create 95% tree canopy (total shade) quickly. I wanted to look out at a forest when I relaxed in the back or front yard at the end of the day.

I wanted the windows open all year to cool the house naturally with fresh, oxygen-rich breezes. (What I hated most in Chicago was being stuck inside seven months of the year in forced air heat with artificial misters, moisturizing lotions, sore throats and colds from November to May.)

The view from the living room window: a green haven hiding unsightly cars, dumpsters, asphalt driveways, and the apartment complex. Note the natural shade for the car which out of 120-degree heat will last longer.

My yard would be an oasis for wildlife with multi-layers of undisturbed cover, shelter, and nesting places in native trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vines and clump grasses producing a year round supply of berries and seeds. I wanted a pond for frogs, tadpoles, dragonflies and thirsty resident birds as well as migrants passing through.

The back yard: native habitat for urban wildlife. A great place to read, play pool, eat with the family, relax in the evening.

My kids would have a place to play where they would not be boiling hot.

I needed a fenced yard for the dogs.

I didn’t want to have to water anything.

Dog kennel down below, children's tree house up above. Not one nail was put into the tree.

What I Did

Fifteen years ago there was only one tree out back—a golden trumpet—and a Canary Island date palm in the front yard. I left both in to honor the previous owner's efforts.

BEFORE: The backyard "pre-forest days" in hot sun, with lack of privacy, and an unhealthy, patchy "lawn" in need of constant mowing.

To shade the hot, white, tile roof I planted native trees on all sides of the house. Most were planted about the same time but I started with the south and west side where the growing conditions were the harshest.

The front yard is an inviting, cool woodland oasis. A tree lover’s paradise.

I kept all plantings ten to twelve feet from the foundation so that they have room to grow utilizing rainfall and I could open windows, avoid conditions that attract pests and work on the house at will.  Larger canopy trees were planted 20 feet out where possible to give their root systems room to become anchored in all directions.

I planted in natural groupings of canopy, middle and understory plants and shrubs imitating how they grow in the wild. Maximum heights and widths in textbooks are based on optimum conditions. Around here the soil is nutrient poor sand and so my trees did not grow as large as single specimens.

I crowded plants so that interconnecting branches and root systems would increase wind resistance during stormy weather. It is not necessary to cover the ground with plants. In nature we have open areas.
I hand watered minimally and just until the plants were established. Some things grew slowly, competing as in nature for sunlight and nutrients.

I put in some benches and sculpture.

I didn’t want rock or shell pathways which get weedy and need maintenance over time. Nor did I want to hop from round stone to round stone. So I put in one walkway with pavers but kept the others natural by leaving the leaf litter.

A shady diverse multi-layered entryway.


I keep the sidewalks and driveway swept. I use an electric blower and it takes about ten minutes a week to clear the concrete of leaves and needles. I do some light pruning to keep pathways open and the roof clear of branches.

I don't mow, water, weed, mulch, fertilize, or spray for pests. I haven't seen a fire ant in ten years.

What I Planted

Trees. Longleaf and southern slash pines. Mahogany. Sugarberry. Red bay. Sand live oak. Wild tamarind. Cherry laurel. Gumbo limbo. Citrus. Red cedar. Winged elm.

A cloudless sulfur visits the coral bean.

Shrubs. Wild Coffee. Beautyberry. Firebush. Jamaican caper. Wild lime. Southern bayberry. Florida privet. Yellow elder. Marlberry. Myrsine. Sea grape. Yaupon holly. Chickasaw plum.

Beautyberry is a woodland plant which adds color to the yard year round. Pale pink flowers in spring, purple berries in fall. It’s drought tolerant, establishes easily, low maintenance. Wildlife enjoy the berries in winter.

Palms and cycads. Coontie. Saw palmetto. Sabal palms.

Vines, groundcovers and wildflowers. Crossvine. Virginia creeper. Coinvine. Scorpion tail. Coral bean.

Crossvine growing gently on a fence.

(Photos: Credit Fran Palmeri, three by Laurel Schiller)

Have a comment or question about this newsletter article? We would love to hear from you. Send us an email: annie@floridanativeplants.com

A Lot of Recognition...

Our team just received an Aurora Award for one of our environmentally-friendly landscapes.

The nursery, along with MyGreenBuildings, designed a green living space on Siesta Key in Sarasota. Our designer, Sharon Fitzpatrick (see our
staff page to learn more about her), created a one-of-a-kind coastal landscape of native beach plants in the "backyard" of the property that flows right down to the water, the first Gumbo Limbo tree to be planted on Siesta Key on the street front, and one of the areas first green roofs with native, Florida-friendly and edible plants.

Sharon - our designer - on the green roof-in-progress

The nationally-recognized Aurora Award was created to "honor builders, planners, architects, developers, designers, interior merchandisers and other housing-related professionals in a 12-state region stretching from Texas to Virginia plus the Eastern Caribbean."

To view pictures of this landscape please visit our *NEW* online
photo album on Flickr.


Henry William Jack Caudell.
Born 4.6.11, 8 lbs. 12.5 oz., 21 in. long. Managers James and Annie love new little buddy and team member, Henry. Henry likes to look at the trees, dappled sunlight and the rain.

Introducing Mark Lerch

We are excited about the latest member of our team, Mark Lerch. We met him in a Florida Master Naturalist class. He is a rare combination of worlds being both highly trained in landscape architecture and knowledgeable about native plants. To boot, he is also a certified arborist. Read his bio on our staff page to learn more about what makes this guy so amazing.

Container Gardening Workshop

Yes to using native plants in amongst fall/winter edibles.  Join us learn what to grow out your door in easy to maintain recycled containers. Combine greens and herbs with fall flowering natives to attract pollinators for your crops. We will provide the how-tos and a starter container, organic soil, and edible. Additional containers, edible seeds and plants, organic soil and fertilizer for sale.  Cost: $15.00 per person. Time: Saturday October 22, 11:00am-12:00pm. Reservations please. (941) 322-1915

Vine Sculpture Workshop

All ages! Learn how to make organic sculptures for your garden out of wild, abundant and native grape vines. The class will be at the nursery on Saturday, October 15 starting at 10am. $15 per person. All supplies provided. Space is limited so reserve a spot now by calling the nursery (941) 322-1915. Bring your lunch if you want, there will be tables and chairs available in our garden for you to dine when you are done.

End of Summer Tree Sale

For the month of September - 20% off all trees (excluding Weeping Yaupon Holly). See our tree list for details about the trees we carry. Call ahead of time to ensure availability. (941) 322-1915.


Want to grow from seed? We now carry organic, southern heirloom, veggie and herb seeds. For only $2.50 a packet you can add organic edibles to your garden that can withstand our Florida seasons.

Our 10% Discount

Are you a current Florida Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, member of the Florida Native Plant Society, Audubon, Sierra Club, or other environmental group? We want to honor your commitment and offer 10% off your total every time you buy plants from us. Please present your current membership ID at time of purchase.

Copyright © 2011 Florida Native Plants Nursery & Landscaping, All rights reserved.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp