As I write this, my husband is in our back yard propping up a little hibiscus tree, which yesterday started to fall over.
“What’s it like living in Florida?” people ask me. Well, this is what it’s like: The ground is so soft and perpetually hot and wet, that it can’t even support a little yellow hibiscus tree that has gotten beautifully bushy on top and OK, maybe was planted a little too close to the house, but still.
I used to wonder why all the trees in this state were either tethered to stakes in the ground or propped up by a pyramid of 2-by-4s. I thought that was the most ridiculous thing, propping up a tree. It became one of those “Florida things.”
“Survival of the fittest,” I said to my husband more than once, as we drove down a road lined with trees whose standing aids were larger and more eye-catching than the actual tree. “If a tree can’t stand on its own, it shouldn’t be out there to begin with. Before man came along with his 2-by-4s and tree-tying tape and props and binding mechanisms, trees grew just fine and the little puny ones that couldn’t make it, well, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Mind you, I’m not talking about baby trees who might need a helping hand until they’re old enough to stand on their own. I’m talking about full-grown palm trees that have boards holding them up.
So now we’ve become Those People. This little yellow hibiscus, which used to be so pretty, is now sporting a piece of big old tape that connects to a stake in the ground.
The thing about the ground in Florida is if you’re looking to plant small things, like ground cover and little bushy plants and anything with the word “dwarf” attached to it, you’re in luck.
Mark, our contractor/jack-of-all-trades/landscaper/and my first best friend when I moved here, told me that in Florida, if you like one of your plants and you want to put the same plant somewhere else in your yard, all you have to do is cut off a branch and stick it in the ground and it will take root and grow.
Right, Mark. And it shall grow up to the sky and you will climb it and get a golden egg.
But listen to this: It’s true. We tried it. We cut a branch off of a fluffy pinkish-maroon plant we have in a back bed and stuck it in the ground over near the electrical box we want to hide, and it grew into a regular plant. I think it’s because this soil is like a natural hot spring, it’s so moist and warm.
I know nothing about soil, Florida topography or plants, nothing at all, so I’m sure there’s a more scientific reason for it. But it actually is true. You just have to make sure you trim it back and keep it small or you’ll be propping it up before too long. And then you’ll know you’re in Florida.