Tropical South Editor

Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association
Monica Brandies

Tropical South Editor

Monica Brandies
Brandon, FL

One of many shady spots that glows with color: foliage of purple ti plant and variegated devil's backbone, and blooms of pink justicia and bromeliads.

This orange Vireya rhododendron is one of the stars of my garden, an easy and reliable plant.

The bush sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) is rather coarse and tends to overgrow for much of the year. But when it's covered with blooms, it's astounding.

The candle cassia (Senna alata) is attractive even when not in bloom with its large, compound leaves. Butterflies love it.

Monica Brandies has been gardening since she was a child. In college she studied horticulture and landscape design since she figured she wouldn't always have a farm. She went to the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women, which became part of Temple University from which came her degree. She and her husband, David, did very well growing 90 percent of the food for a family of ten on two small acreages in Ohio and Iowa. They were complete flops when they tried to be real farmers.

They were also less than successful in a greenhouse and flower shop business, partly because she kept having babies in the busiest times. Since 1987 she has been gardening on a half acre of sandy yard in Florida sand with some amazing success, and has finally reached her goal of having some fruit, some flowers, and some vegetables to pick almost every day of the year.

She has had a weekly garden column for 25 years, and has written 10 gardening books, many magazine articles, and given many talks. Like most gardeners, she is learning something new all the time. She manages to get her garden decent enough to invite her readers once a year, even though David was afraid it would ruin her credibility. The rest of the time she uses it for experimentation and therapy.

She uses a minimum of water and energy. While her neighbors were manicuring their yards, she was plowing hers up. Her garden tractor only ran for the 15 or 20 years she had a resident son to keep it going. Then she gave it away and resorted to the mulch and newspaper method of turning turf into garden. After there were no more teenagers for lawn mowing, she turned to a lawn man who cost no more, never complained, and didn't want to use her car on weekends. He said she had the only yard he never left hungry.


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