The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

A Trip to the Nursery

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This is my third winter visiting Cedar Key. For each of those winters, driving up and down the one road into town, I have been taunted by a sign that reads:

NURSERY

FREE PLANT

Gardener, sign reading “free plant,” c’mon! Somewhat unexpectedly, a master gardener friend of mine decided to pay Cedar Key a visit. Two master gardeners and a sign reading “free plant,” c’mon! Guess what happens next? I finally, finally visit this nursery. The name of the nursery is Villa Nursery and it is owned by Harry & Magda Hopwood.

They bought the property when they moved to the area from Tampa, and carved out a home for themselves along with five hand built greenhouses. When I say carved out I mean a helluva lot of scrub (brush) clearing. The greenhouses aren’t heated but offer frost protection because this area does get a little bit of frost now and then. Harry also sells fruit trees such as apple, plum and peach taking advantage of that frost. Now that’s smart gardening.

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I so enjoyed walking around this nursery! They propagate the plants themselves which is increasingly rare of nurseries these days. I can see myself visiting Villa Nursery very often. Let’s walk around!

Here we are entering the first greenhouse. You are seeing asparagus fern, aloe, and what Harry called Bleeding Heart on the trellis – not dicentra but clerodendrum. Below you are seeing impatiens (in January).

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Here is a plant I see quite often around Cedar Key – it grows prolifically hence its common name (also learned from Harry) “Mother of Millions” or Bryophyllum delagoense. It blooms a tubular red flower stalk.

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It’s just so exciting to see all the plant life here in Florida. A second greenhouse we walked into housing Prickly Pear Cactus and Papaya. I learned that Papayas can be dioecious (requiring a male and female plant to produce fruit) as well as monoecious. Apparently a challenge for farmers because it is difficult to tell whether a papaya is male, female or hermaphroditic. Some may even change sexual expression depending on climatic conditions.

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A third greenhouse housing Bougainvillea, Poinsettias and Gardenias – heavenly!

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… And this beautiful Shrimp Plant which I believe is Justicia brandegeeana.

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The fourth greenhouse housed some beautiful variegated Hibiscus which you can catch a glimpse of behind the Angel’s Trumpet, and my favorite, favorite, favorite Flowering Maple! (I’m bummed the photo isn’t quite in focus but still too pretty not share with you.)

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A nice grouping of plants along the way. That’s Oregano in the upper left – the most lush, healthy Oregano I’ve ever seen.

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Well, I saved the “pretty greenhouse” (as Harry called it) for last. It houses several kinds of Crotons, Begonias – Wax, Angel Wing and more – and Orchids.

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Harry called these Night Blooming Orchids. I just call them cool! The leaves are trailing long and cactus-like.

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I loved the leaves of this plant … didn’t have a chance to catch its name!

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Here is a plant that Harry actually doesn’t know the name of! Can you help? It has a tubular flower and the leaf is below that. Anyone? I would sure love to help solve Harry’s mystery.

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Such a great afternoon visit – educational and beautiful, a visit with a fellow master gardener, and I walked away with my “free plant” – a little Miss Medusa (aloe)! I am so excited (blessed).

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What’s that? Moi? Leave a nursery without a purchase? No way! Here she is … a Staghorn Fern! Oh, I have always wanted one of these. Granted I will have to haul her between Florida and New York for awhile but I believe they grow quite slowly.

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This will not be my one and only last trip to Villa Nursery. I’m certain I will visit again – there’s more to learn and there will be more to see.

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Author: Kathy Sturr

Author of the Violet Fern blog, artist, and master gardener.

10 thoughts on “A Trip to the Nursery

  1. Fascinating spot and a free plant….oh yes! I had no idea about Papaya so I certainly learned something….my knowledge of tropical plants is next to nothing.

  2. What fun! I would have been tempted by the bougainvilleas and begonias. I have a very old staghorn fern that I attached to a piece of board so I can hang it and also carry to the sink to water. It looks like yours, but luckily, doesn’t get too big.

    • Oh, Eliza that gives me so much hope for my new little stag horn! TY! I love Begonias and I wish I could post how wonderful that wax begonia smelled! Believe me if ever my dream comes true of owning a house here in Cedar Key, bougainvillea will be in the garden!

      • I think the key to my success is the sphagnum moss, so it gets soggy, then dries out. The little wire basket yours is in is probably perfect for it. Being epiphytes, they do need a lot of air.
        Every time I visit the tropics, I go through a mental list of what I would have in my garden if I lived there. I don’t know how you can stand it all winter…I go nuts just visiting a week or so, itching to create a patch of garden! 🙂

      • Ha ha. It’s tough but I just keep telling myself my day is coming Eliza!

  3. I believe the one you can’t remember the name of is Silver Squill http://www.cactus-art.biz/schede/LEDEBOURIA/Ledebouria_socialis/Ledebouria_socialis/Ledebouria_socialis.htm I have it as a houseplant. But I don’t know the one that Harry doesn’t know.

  4. I loved Cedar Key when we visited the town last year. If I get there again some day I will be sure to look for the nursery! Thanks for the great posting.

  5. Wonderful! I have quite a love affair with Cedar Key. Please do visit the nursery, it is a fun tour and Harry is a polite and wonderful host. And hey, you can get a free plant!

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