It's been nearly 25 years since Nolen and Daisy Freeman were awarded for Garden of the Month, but the garden is completely different since their last win. Their first Garden of the Month award came after they had landscaped with 91 beautifully arranged planted pots. Yet, that garden only lasted a few short years because the landscaping was not with native or Cedar Key weather tolerant plants. In fact, during cold spells, all 91 plants had to be brought inside their home to wait out the unforgiving weather ... even when it spoiled their get-away plans. What a way to find out that Native and drought tolerant plants were the way to garden?! Since then, the Freemans have "done their homework" to make an easy to care for, more sustainable garden.
This time the Garden of the Month award comes in a large part due to the Freeman's choice of easy to care for, native and drought tolerant plants, including their lawn of Centipede Grass, which according to www.CentepedeGrass.com, "is probably the lowest maintenance of the warm season grasses." The same site says, "This creeping perennial is well adapted to the sandy, acidic soils of low fertility and requires low maintenance." The installation of sidewalks inspired Nolen to take great care in his lawn ... making sure the grass is trimmed to the sidewalk in order to accentuate it.
A blanket of Lush Spreading Dwarf Jasmine accentuates their attractive home. This Asiatic Jasmine is often used in the south. Though maintenance is needed to keep the fast growing plant in bounds and edged, and an annual mowing, is beneficial, it takes only a "fraction of the upkeep required by lawns," according to Southern Gardening: An Environmentally Sensitive Approach by Marie Harrison.
There are three "xeriscaped" or "xeroscaped" areas in the front yard, with Cypress Mulch surrounding plants like Short-needed pines, Texas Sage, a Date Palm Tree, Sable Palm Trees, a Dogwood Tree, a Gardenia Bush, Rosemary (two varieties), and Crown of Thorns, Century Plants, and a native Coffee Plant. "Xeriscaping" is a method of gardening that reduces water usage, hence the drought tolerant plant choices. The Cypress Mulch was chosen due to its resistance to bugs, ability to hold up longer, and nice color. Large white clam shells outline the xeriscaped vicinities ... all from clams the Freemans gathered and ate themselves.
Of course, the Freemans have had much help with their landscaping and gardening over the years. For instance, Police Chief Virgil Sandlin put in the sprinkling system for their lawn that runs 30 minutes in the very early mornings three days a week. The late Mike McCain brought over the Palm which now stands in the middle of the Freeman yard from across the road before it was destroyed. It was also Mr. McCain that helped bring some of the Railroad ties (though most replaced now) which outline the Freeman's crushed rock driveway.
Of course, like other fellow Cedar Key residents, the Freeman property has had it's share of hurricanes. One of their Short-needle Pines is a testament to Tropical Storm Juan. It was blown over by the winds, it's roots came up, but never broke. So now it lays on it's side with its limbs growing up vertically. Sadly, Hurricane Elena of 1985 broke a beautiful native Cedar.
An interesting note, Nolen once belonged to the "original" Cedar Key Garden Club. They met nearly every day at 6:30 AM at the old John's Restaurant. The small group, which also included Herman Allen, a deputy sheriff and husband of Jan Allen, called themselves the "Cedar Key Garden Club." During their meetings Nolen and Herman would drink three cups of coffee each.
Congratulations, Nolen and Daisy!