The Darwinian Gardener


Not too long ago, Rick was telling me about a column in the local paper called the Darwinian Gardener. The basic premise is to only grow those things that will grow-survival of the fittest (or hardiest), so to speak. As a gardener I have naturally applied this philosophy to my selection of plants. Often I get plants from friends and neighbors as this usually is indicative of their potential to survive.

When I first moved to Florida there was not much it the form of landscape, mostly because it had been neglected after two years of being gone. There were a few native trees still alive but not much else.Β At the corner of the house near the back drive were three palms surrounded by grass.


We transplanted the bird of paradise which had been planted in the center of the back yard, making the yard unusable. The geraniums and spider plant were clippings from a friend’s garden, the columbine in the background was from seed and the rest was purchased at the local nursery.

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Not much of that survived. In truth, only the spider plant and the bird of paradise are from the original planting. We had to cut down one of the trees and I decided to hide the stump by planting fern. As you can see…they thrive in this location. The impatiens seed naturally and come in a variety of colors. I planted the buttercups, knowing that they too, reseed. Thrown in the mix are a few miscellaneous unknown bulbs I dug up at the project house and my latest plant is the orange nasturtium which was a birthday gift from my sister and was dying after being in a different location for only two weeks. Thankfully, it is recovering nicely though not yet at it’s splendor from a month ago.


Around the corner you see how much the fern has taken over the place and the spider plant is flourishing as well. Hidden at the base of the bird of paradise are several varieties of bromelia that I purchased that hadn’t grown much in two years. Once in this location, they have quadrupled in size in just one season, same with the scheffelera, and once again, more impatiens have popped up. The purple flowering plant is called a princess plant and as I am Rick’s Princess, it only seemed fitting to have one in the garden.

Keeping the Darwinian theory in mind, I have neglected to weed this bed for several months, or perhaps it was simply due to not having enough time to do it. I figure the colors of the flowers distract from the weeds so that they are hardy noticeable.



As I mentioned earlier, the yard had been neglected prior to my arrival. This is what it looked like.


neglected yard

A bit of pruning and water and it was on its way. I am not a fan of wire fencing and decided to plant confederate jasmine on the fence. I was told it was a fast growing vine.

trimmed and pruned

By the first summer everything was in bloom and the jasmine was starting to grow. As much as I enjoy hibiscus and bougainvillea, I couldn’t understand why the previous owner had planted them on the wire fence.


By the third year, the jasmine had overtaken the fence and was continually weaving in between the bougainvillea and hibiscus. Trimming it out of the hibiscus was easy but the bougainvillea attacked me with it’s thorns, challenging me at every turn. Since we were more interested in covering the fence and creating a privacy screen for our yard we removed the flowering plants. Not necessarily natural selection but Karen’s selection.


Within six months, the bougainvillea had returned. We dug down deep, I’m sure we were close to china, got all the roots we could get and then drilled holes into the remaining ones. Then we poured Roundup (plant and weed killer) in the holes. Certain that we had gotten the last of it we went along merrily with life. The following spring…up popped the fuchsia colored flowers, taunting us for not killing it. For now, we have surrendered to our mighty foe and it will live in the hedge. Since I no longer do the trimming, our thorny fights are now in the hands of our gardener.