Garden Photo of the Day

Planting a Public Garden in Florida

Succulents that thrive in Florida

Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

Today we’re visiting with Joyce Laubach to see a beautiful project she worked on in a park near her new home in Florida. This is a fun reminder that there are often opportunities to volunteer to create gardens in public spaces, which is a terrific option if you don’t have space to garden at home, have filled that space already, or just want the fun and satisfaction of creating beauty for others to enjoy.

Greetings from sunny southwestern Florida, where I moved three years ago from southeastern Pennsylvania. (See my old garden as featured in GPOD in 2014: Joyce’s Garden in Pennsylvania.) Gardening has been a key ingredient in my acclimation to life in retirement. I became a Florida Master Gardener in 2018, which provided me with the education needed to learn about the new world of gardening in Florida’s Zone 10. I bucked convention somewhat by specializing in succulents. Some people told me that the humidity and rain in summer would prevent succulent success. But when I surveyed other gardens and saw aloes, agaves, and other succulents flourishing, and realized the similarity of growing conditions to the succulent glory of Madagascar, I became determined to follow my heart. The key to success has been essentially the same as with any garden—right plant, right place, plus right soil prep.

Today I wish to share photos of the succulent bed I helped update in the Punta Gorda Nature Park along with Jeri Searle. This park, on formerly vacant and overgrown city property, was created by a dedicated group of volunteers, which I joined, called the Punta Gorda Isles Green Thumbs. The fellowship and gardening passion of this group became another aspect of my happy retirement activities.

Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

Each of the more than twenty separate beds across the park features a somewhat distinct subset of Florida-friendly plant materials. Considering their popularity, succulents were a logical focus for one of the beds. Paths, picnic tables, and signage throughout the park allow visitors to enjoy this green space and the adjacent wetlands, and the undisturbed “old Florida” profusion of plants such as ferns, Sabal and saw palmetto palms, milkweeds, and others.

Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

The succulent bed is backed by a small grove of the popular coastal sea grape trees (Coccoloba uvifera), which provide some protection from the intense sun. Most critically, the bed was mounded and amended with gravel for improved drainage. Most of the plants were donated, and their exact varieties are unknown.

seagrape tree
Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

Close-up of sea grape, showing how it got its name.

Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

The larger accent rocks, limestone embedded with shell, are all native and were obtained on site during park preparation—a testament to the fact that this land was historically a seabed.

Agave Cameron’s Blue
Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

Agave ‘Cameron’s Blue’ accented with a ribbon of red lava rock.

Agave Ivory Curls
Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

Variegated ‘Ivory Curls’ agave

Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

An assortment of succulent plants in a hanging basket.

Cereus peruvianus Monstrose
Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

Cereus peruvianus ‘Monstrose’ is an unusual-looking cactus that can easily be grown as a houseplant in a sunny window in colder climates.

succulent hanging basket
Credit: Sara Weber UF/IFAS

This hanging basket is an upside-down planter intended to mimic a jellyfish or other sea creature and is filled with a wide assortment of contributed succulent cuttings, with Senecio radicans (string of fishhooks) used as the tentacles.


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View Comments


  1. nwphillygardener 09/16/2020

    Building a garden for the community is a commendable activity. This park offer places of interest filled with ideas on gardening that could stimulate visitors for their use at home. And the volunteers that have created it can build relationships and strengthen their own bank of experience in designing and improving their own spaces. Kudos.

  2. User avater
    cynthia2020 09/16/2020

    Joyce - love the story of the garden! I looked at the website, too. Great group of people. I like the jellyfish hanging planter - amazing that a garden like that has hanging planters - must take a lot of coordination to maintain them. I like how you included wide shots and close-up photos. Thank you for sharing!

  3. User avater
    simplesue 09/16/2020

    Such a beautiful public garden! It's a great thing when gardeners volunteer happily to better the land for everyone to enjoy- nice work!

  4. btucker9675 09/16/2020

    Wonderful public garden - even more important during these trying times! I love that 'Ivory Curls' agave, and the jellyfish succulent planter especially. Thank you for sharing this uplifting post!

  5. cheryl_c 09/16/2020

    All of the pictures show great contrasts of texture and color, but your 'jellyfish' planter is the bees knees! Thanks so much for sharing, and for finding such a positive generous way to use your retirement!

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/16/2020

    Love the cactus in the last pic

  7. User avater
    musabasjoosue 09/16/2020

    How wonderful that you have been able to pursue your love of gardening into retirement and in a completely different climate! Love the idea of succulents in hanging baskets. I'm totally copying that next season.

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