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Sunday, August 11, 2019

How to Have a Tropical Garden in a Non-Tropical Zone - Arkansas

                                                                                                     (Photo: early Summer)
I love to travel and have big dreams of living in a tropical location one day, but until then I will make my paradise in Arkansas.

                                                                                                   (Photo: mid-summer)

This is my fifth year having a "tropical" garden in Arkansas (border of zone 7b & 8a). Let's start with just facing the facts though, you cannot have true tropical plants lower than zone 10. So how do I have a tropical garden? Lots of creativity and thought. Many different plants have come and gone over the years.

                                                                                                                 (Photo:early summer)

The first step is to find cold hardy plants and trees that look tropical but are cold tolerant. The key to a tropical look is something with large colorful leaves. If you can't spot the plant from across the garden center, it is not going to work. 😀 Think of the flowers on the plant as a bonus and just look at the foliage.

Some of my cold tolerant trees and plants:

                                                                                                               (Photo: early Summer)
Loquat tree 

Hardy from zone 7-10

Medium growth rate
Looks very tropical
Does not require much care
Some of the leaves turn yellow and fall off in the hot summer no matter how much you water it!

                                                                                                        (Photo: mid Summer) 
Windmill  Palm Tree

Cold tolerant down to zone 7
The snow doesn't seem to bother them here.
This is the only palm that I have found to survive the winters here.
Put a little slow release fertilizer on them in spring for extra growth. They will do fine without it.

                                                                                                (Photo: early to mid Summer)
Banana Trees

Three varieties of cold hardy banana tress grow here: Musa basjoo, Musella lasiocarpa or dwarf banana, and Musa velutina. All will die completely back to the ground in the winter, but will put up new trees from the roots in the spring. The stem will live if you cut it back and wrap in the fall.

                                                                                                            (Photo: mid Summer)
Cyperus Alternifolius Plant  (Umbrella Palm)

Hardy to zone 7
Easy care
Dies back to the ground in the winter, but returns with vigor
   and will grow to about six feet by then end of summer

                                                                                                                      (Photo: early Summer)
Lily Turf

Hardy to zone 5
Easy care
Fairly drought tolerant, I only have to water occasionally

                                                                                                       (Photo: late spring)
Canna Lily

Hardy to zone 7 or more
They come is many colors, flowers and foliage
Die back to ground in winter
I fight with leaf rollers all spring and summer on these, but they are worth it.

                                                                                                                     (Photo: early Summer)
Hardy Hibiscus

Some are cold tolerant to zone 4
They die back in the winter and put out new growth in the spring.
Insects love them
If it's a really humid summer, mine get a black mold/fungus on them sometimes.


Most hard ginger grow in 7 - 10

I have peach, white, and a variegated. All multiply like crazy without any care other than an occasional watering.

Calla Lily

Cold tolerant to zone 8, but they do fine here
Available in many colors
Bloom in spring only


Hardy to zone 9. With that being said, I do have these in the ground and they come back without being mulched for me.

                                                                                                                (Photo: late spring)
Quick Fire Hydrangea

Hardiness Zones 3a - 8b
Bloom out white then turn pink

                                                                                              (Photo: early summer) Pineapple Lily

Hardy to zone 8, but they do fine in the ground here

                                                                                                             (Photo: late spring)

Bush Clematis

Hardy 3b-7b
They are a little picky about the heat here. They don't look great by the end of summer.

Variegated Yucca

Hardy to -30 to -35 Fahrenheit (-34 to -37 C.)

                                                                                                                    (Photo: late spring)
Next, if you are like me, you will find the cold tolerant plants didn't quite give that resort feel you were looking for, so you go for the true topicals. I fell in love with Aechmea blanchetiana bromelaids (the big orange ones) my first trip to the Florida Keys. They are not easy to find for sale, even in Florida. I finally found a lady selling them from her yard and got one. Since then, I have order different kinds from Florida Nurseries and Puerto Rico. I feel like these bromeliads have made the biggest impact in the garden. They are fairly easy to grow and are easy to move indoors in the winter. I am writing a post on their care soon and will share the link here when I post. My mother lives next door, so I can put most of my plants in there. Some of them I bring into my sunroom.

Some of my favorite tropicals: 

                                                                                                                (Photo: early summer)
Aechmea blanchetiana bromelaids

Aechmea blanchetiana bromelaid and Neoregelia Petra bromeliad

                                                                                                                               (Photo: early summer)
Aechmea Blanchetiana 'Lemonade'

Neoregelia  Maria Bromeliad

The bromeliads are in pot in the ground. I just move the mulch back, loosen the pot, and take them inside for the winter.


Purple Turmeric

Pineapple plant

These can easily be grown from a pineapple purchased at the store. Just cut the top off and plant in a pot. I put the pot in the ground for the summer.


Coleuses are one of my favorite ways to add a huge pop of color. They can easily be rooted from cuttings and carried inside for the winter.

Lastly, add accents that give the feel you want. My taste is a mix between Florida and Bali (with a few other counties thrown in). 😁 Don't be afraid to mix looks! It's your garden and if it makes you happy, use it!

My garden decor: Planters, torches, statues, bamboo wind chimes, bird baths, and lanterns


I use a slow release fertilizer in the spring and again in the middle of summer. In addition to that, I use liquid Miracle Gro every two weeks during the middle of the summer when it’s so hot and humid. This may sound like way too much, but the plants get so stressed and need these extra nutrients. Crazy, I know, but it helps! On the banana trees, I add about a tablespoon of Epsom salt to the fertilizer mixture once a month or when they look  a little yellow and wilted. This is just what works for where I live and will need to be adjusted for your area.

The plants listed above are just some of the many in my garden. If you see something that I didn't mention and have a question, just ask. 😊 Hope you get inspired to create your own paradise! 

Happy Gardening! 

*Link to blog post two years ago to see more plants

* Updated garden tour post

2020  Garden Tour here

2021   Garden Tour here

Monday, July 15, 2019

Fairhope, Alabama: A Charming Escape by the Bay

Nestled along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, Fairhope, Alabama is a small, picturesque city that offers visitors a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With its beautiful natural scenery, quaint streets, and charming attractions, Fairhope is a true hidden gem in the South. In this post, we'll explore some of the best places to visit in Fairhope and share some recommendations for places to stay and eat during your visit.

Fairhope Municipal Pier

One of the most iconic landmarks in Fairhope is the Municipal Pier. The pier extends out into Mobile Bay and provides visitors with stunning views of the water and surrounding landscape. Whether you're looking to fish, take a leisurely stroll, or simply relax and soak in the sun, the Municipal Pier is a must-visit destination. 


Located at the end of Fairhope Avenue where it meets North Beach Road

North Beach Park

Adjacent to the pier, North Beach Park is a popular spot for picnics, swimming, and other outdoor activities.

 Fairhope Avenue

Fairhope Avenue is the main street in the city and is lined with a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Visitors can enjoy browsing local boutiques, sampling homemade ice cream, or taking a guided walking tour to learn more about the history of Fairhope.

Fairy tale Castles

Fairhope is known for its whimsical architecture, and one of the most enchanting examples is the Fairy Tale Castles. These unique structures were built in the 1930s and feature turrets, gables, and other fairy tale-inspired details. Although the castles are privately owned and not open to the public, visitors can still admire them from a distance.

Sheldon Storybook Castle

Here is the Air BnB link

Mosher Castle

Tolstoy Park, The Henry Stuart House

Tolstoy Park is a historic landmark that was once the home of Henry Stuart, a writer and philosopher who lived in Fairhope during the early 1900s. Today, visitors can tour the park and see the cottage where Stuart lived and worked. Adjacent to Tolstoy Park is The Henry Stuart House, a museum that houses a collection of Stuart's writings and personal effects.


22787 US-98, Fairhope, AL 36532

Turn west onto Parker road and then turn right into the first driveway. It is located among offices that look like apartment. The GPS will take you into the other end of the area and get you lost!


Free and open all the time

Fairhope French Quarter

The French Quarter is a historic district with a distinctive European-inspired architecture, featuring buildings with wrought-iron balconies, colorful shutters, and stucco walls. It is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, offering a variety of unique shops, restaurants, and cafes


40 S Section St, Fairhope, AL 36532


Fairhope offers a variety of lodging options, from cozy bed and breakfasts to luxury hotels. For a unique experience, check out The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa, a historic property that offers stunning views of Mobile Bay and a variety of amenities, including a golf course, spa, and multiple dining options. 

Fairhope has a vibrant food scene that offers something for every taste. For a casual meal, check out Panini Pete's, a popular spot for sandwiches and other deli-style fare. For a more upscale dining experience, try The Wash House, which serves seafood and other Southern specialties in a charming, restored house.

In conclusion, Fairhope, Alabama is a charming destination that offers visitors a delightful blend of natural beauty, historic landmarks, and modern conveniences. Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway or a fun family vacation, Fairhope is sure to please.

Enjoy Your Visit!