Florida is a difficult state in which to landscape for three reasons: insects are a problem; there's either a drought or flood going on, often within the same week; and it's difficult to spend more than five minutes outside without melting for about 10 months out of the year. Barring these issues, there's a wealth of Florida backyard landscaping options to explore, with ground covers, plants, and trees you're not likely to find growing elsewhere.
Drought area backyards, meaning most of Florida, are best covered with bahia grass. This species grows wild throughout the state and is nearly impossible to kill from drought or insect infestations, though it is susceptible to weeds. An in-ground watering system must be in place for anything to live beyond the first week of summer. Install a chickee--a freestanding patio roofed with palm fronds, a Floridian holdover from the Seminole--to form a gathering place in the yard. Place a table and chairs under the chickee for entertaining. Use a series of limestone stepping stones to connect the back door with patio, and line each step with crinum lily and beach sunflower for contrasting blue and yellow. Surround the chickee with wax myrtle on all sides except the north end, which you should leave open. This allows you to enjoy cool breezes from the north in the evening.
A general ground cover choice is Saint Augustine grass. It's native to Florida, and while it is known for thick leaves that can appear a little ragged, it can withstand hot temperatures and flood. It also grows so aggressively it kills off most weeds. Since most flood-plain homes are built on artificial hills, wall off the bottom of the hill with clumps of Florida gama and wiregrass; gators won't normally pass through it because of the barbs irritating their eyes. With the alligator in mind, screen and cover your rear patio. Do not use trees, as they pose a serious danger to the house during hurricane season. Plant a line of swamp cyrilla down either side of the yard to add privacy; the plant attracts butterflies and produces fragrant white flowers in spring. Build raised flowerbeds near the house, where they're protected from direct sunlight by the overhanging eaves. Plastic dividers set into the ground are the only way to keep the grass out of the beds, in which you can plant blue flag iris, goldenrod and canna lily for color and fragrance.
The first Florida homes didn't have backyards in the conventional sense. They were built in gullies and low-lying areas beneath heavy-canopied tree lines to afford the cooler air. This style of landscaping is still, arguably, the most preferred and certainly still the most comfortable in Florida. Red maple, hickory, red cedar, sweetgum, oak, gumbo limbo, and American hornbeam are scattered throughout the yard to create an area of encompassing shade below. Zoysia grass, a foreign breed but one that stands up well in the shade, carpets the ground while autumn ferns cling to the tree trunks and bromeliads and orchids flower in the branches.
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