Tour showcases Florida’s natural landscapes

Native plant aficionados, potential enthusiasts and curious admirers gathered in south county this past Saturday for the Seventh Annual Native Plant Landscape Tour. 
The Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society hosted the event, which this year showcased the gardens and grounds of six private residences in Seminole and St. Petersburg.  More than 200 people attended, according to the organization’s president, Jan Allyn.
Through the use of plants native to the state, the homesites exhibit a real sense of Florida and its natural beauty.  Such landscapes attract a diversity of wildlife by providing both food and refuge.  Lawns of turf grass purposely have been downsized or eliminated, thus reducing requirements for water or chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Rain barrels and water features are popular additions.  Mulches, such as shells, pine needles or the shredded yard waste available in some cities, are common.  Colorful ground cover, such as the pink powderpuff or sunshine mimosa, blue-flowered trailing porterweed and  purple-blossomed twinflower, lure bees and other pollinators.
Offering nectar for hummingbirds are the brilliant hues of easy-to-grow tropical sage, firebush and coral honeysuckle.
The latter was among the most popular of at least 155 species of native plants included in landscapes on the tour.  Most sites also contained the palm-like coontie and clumps of hardy muhly grass. 
One site, a park-like estate in Seminole, featured 129 of the most popular species on the tour’s plant list.  In the late 1980s, the couple self-built the home amidst the pine, oak and cedar trees on an acre of land and have added native plants over the past several years. 
Pine trees contribute their bounty of shed needles to the wide paths that allow close-up views of uncommon plantings of narrowleaf sunflower, wild white indigo and liatris or blazing star.  A small trickling stream offers a respite near a shady canopy.
The Florida Native Plant Society’s mission is “to preserve, conserve and restore the native plants and native plant communities of Florida.”  People interested in learning more about indigenous plants, and landscapes that area environmentally and wildlife-friendly are invited to local chapter meetings at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month at the Pinellas County Extension office, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo.  
 The society reminds residents that the perfect time to garden in Florida is fall.  Find out why at the Fall Native Plant Festival on Saturday when presentations will cover several native plant landscaping topics, including butterfly gardening.
 The event is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Wilcox Nursery, 12501 Indian Rocks Road, Largo. More information is available at
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