On the first weekend of November I attended the Annual Mount Dora Garden Tour, sponsored by the Lakes and Hills Garden Club. The tour showcases five private gardens, and this year the garden tour was truly inspiring, with a wide variety of plantings and styles. The first three gardens were on the same street, and each were very unique. One evoked a tribal Polynesian look with its handmade stone sculptures, while another gave you a relaxed, resort feel with its lounge patio and meditation garden. The third house on the street brought to mind an English cottage garden.

To create one of these styles in your yard or all three in different areas, choosing the right plant material, mulch and garden accents are important. For a Polynesian look, choose tropical plants with large, glossy or bold colored leaves. For example, philodendron selloum displays broad, gleaming leaves and the Hawaiian ti plant provides a pop of hot pink color. Palms such as the Chinese fan palm or our native sabal palm, and meandering paths of wood chips or leaf mulch provide a perfect backbone for tropical plantings. Including a water feature such as a koi pond or landscaping around an existing pool with tropical plants will conjure up feelings of Southeast Asia. To add whimsy and complete the look, add an interesting wood or stone sculpture like a tiki or mask.

For a resort feel, provide plenty of places to relax such as hammocks, café tables or lounges. Layer plantings and plant densely so that the mulch is hardly visible. Group like plants and plant in mass around focal points, like an entrance or a favorite resting spot. Select lots of green foliage plants and soothing, cool colors such as blues and soft purples. Avoid warm colors such as reds, yellows and oranges, as these tend to stimulate the viewer. Don’t forget to add a spot to meditate or let your mind wander. A cozy hidden bench under a large shade tree can provide a sweet escape in your own backyard.

An English cottage garden is almost the opposite of the resort feel with its splashes of warm, exciting colors. Plant lots of pinks, yellows and even the occasional blue or purple to achieve this look. Shrub roses, annuals and perennials provide cheerful explosions of color. Plant a pattern or border of a low growing hedge like boxwood, and fill the rest in with roses, herbs and blooming plants. White lattice, arbor structures and a walkway of decorative pavers or bricks can capture the style.

To find your garden muse, visit botanical gardens here in Central Florida. Check out Harry P. Leu Gardens, Bok Tower, Selby and even our own UF/IFAS Lake County Discovery Gardens.

On Saturday we will be hosting our first Greenhouse Plant Sale featuring butterfly plants, wildflowers and bulbs. The greenhouse will be open for the sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of our “Saturday in the Gardens” speaker series. The speaker series will begin at 10 a.m. and will feature an hour long class on Florida bulb gardening. Bulb gardening class participants will learn about the selection and care of bulbs that can be grown successfully in Central Florida. For information, go to lake.ifas.ufl.edu.

For gardening questions, visit our Master Gardener Plant Clinic. For landscape and garden ideas, visit Discovery Gardens. Both are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the Extension Services Office, 1951 Woodlea Road in Tavares.

Brooke Moffis is the Residential Horticulture Agent of the UF/IFAS Lake County Extension office. Email burnb48@ufl.edu.