By RENEE FITE
Flowers and their blooms fascinate with intricate details, dazzle with their beauty, and enchant with their fragrance. This appeals to gardeners, whose passion is to tend to flora and fauna in every season.
“It’s amazing how God has made everything so intricate, like the center of a rose,” said Marie LeDoux.
She tends five acres, and loves the peace and beauty her landscape provides her from her front porch or new back deck.
“Every morning, I get up early and go out on the porch, read my Bible then start watering,” LeDoux said.
Gardens with roses surround the house, and beyond them are well-groomed, tree-lined fields, which she mows herself. The oaks were there when she moved in, but the California native, who was born in Java, planted lots of pine trees, pink and white dogwoods and crepe myrtle bushes.
“I keep it like a park so I can play soccer with my grandson,” LeDoux said.
Friends on Facebook can admire her talent with gardening and photography.
“Knock Out roses and nandinas – the deer like it all, and think I planted it just for them. They were here first, and that’s why I moved here,” she said. “The only way I shoot a deer is with my camera.”
Roses are her favorites.
“All us gals, my sisters and my mom, love them,” LeDoux said.
A new favorite addition this year are a couple of giant Calla lilies that look like tall elephant ears, which she bought at the Farmers’ Market.
“The grasshoppers eat everything. There are so many I can’t keep them off,” she said.
Fertilizer is out of the question, because she wants to protect the many birds that hunt her land. A red-tailed hawk that nests on her brothers’ 10 acres also hunts on her five.
“And it keeps away all the things I don’t like, rodents and snakes,” she said. “I pray every night no bugs, rodents or snakes will get into my home.”
The crepe myrtles bloom spring, summer, and most of fall. But the summer’s been so dry, the blooms haven’t been as abundant this year.
The 100-degree temperatures have challenged even the best of gardeners and landscapers. But those who watered twice daily have some gardens to enjoy and plants to prepare for the cooler temperatures autumn will bring.
“In the fall, the leaves of the dogwoods turn blood-red before they fall off,” she said. “And the oleander should survive the snow.”
Elephant ear bulbs stay in the ground, and LeDoux mulches them with cedar mulch to keep the roots moist and protect them from the extremes in temperature. She’s put out about 30 bags of mulch in the garden.
The roses get trimmed down quite a bit, and all the trees’ lower branches will get trimmed about the same height above the ground.
Jim Roaix normally plants extra, and he doesn’t weed.
“I get less tomatoes, for example, but the critters are happy,” he said. “I plant lettuce and cabbage and peas for the rabbit family, and they leave the other stuff alone.”
At the end of the season, he buys from the “ready to rot” section in stores, getting plants for 50 cents to $1 and nursing them back to heath.
In the fall, he trims everything that doesn’t have buds, like trees and the grape arbor with four types of grapes on it. And he doesn’t trim his Knock Out roses.
“I cover the strawberry patch with mesh, and in the fall, I cut off runners for new starts. I put in peat pots that make it easy to water, and come spring, they’re easy to plant,” Roaix said.
Gardening reminds him of the old days, when he was raising his children on the Long Island Sound in Connecticut.
“I used to can close to 1,000 jars of vegetables and fruits, and fish,” he said.
Barbara Hutchinson is so passionate about gardening she winters over about 40 pots in her “Florida room.” Hibiscus, bougainvillea, weeping figs and ferns are among them. She does more gardening in pots since developing arthritis.
She likes oleander and alstroemeria, commonly called Peruvian lily, which makes bouquets of blooms. Roses are a favorite, especially Palatine roses, which she has to order from Canada.
“They’re disease hardy, especially for black spot,” she said. “I have some Knock Out roses and hybrid tea roses with long stems.”
A new favorite is Duranta, a weeping blue flower a friend in Oklahoma City gave her.
“I always like to use fall mums, purple, red, yellow and when I can find them in Arkansas, salmon-colored ones,” Hutchinson said. “And salvia blooms in the fall, and coleus lasts into the fall with pretty colored leaves.”
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