At the entrance of the Bayou neighborhood in Bay Isles, there’s a lot more color than there used to be.
Last year, the board decided to redo the entryway to add more color and try to enhance property values, maintenance chair Frank Pack said. They chose a company that knows the island and its soil well — Wilhelm Brothers. Grant Beatt (also of Grant’s Gardens) designed the popping new entryway, which is in its second year and maturing nicely. Residents seem happy and home buyers seem intrigued, Pack said.
“Totally — no pun intended — from the ground up, we redid the entryway,” Pack said.
After a water and soil analysis, Beatt and his company determined that the area had a lot of problems with salty soil and water holding, so a restructuring of the soil, plus a change from well water to potable, was in order.
“They’d had water bills in the past that were $1,200,” Beatt said. “(Now) we actually don't have a very high water bill. We're conserving resources by working with soil structure and soil building.”
Issues with salt isn't surprising for an island, but on Longboat Key, the soil isn't always from the island. A lot of soils are introduced from other areas, and aren't the indigenous makeup, Beatt said.
"It's sometimes tough for these natives to to get themselves established and and to look idyllic in the in the landscape," Beatt said.
Though it might seem logical that native plants would be the most hardy, adaptable choices to create a long-lasting, eye-popping display, there are no natives in the design, partly because native plants are often a huge draw for pests. The plants there are all Florida-friendly, drought-tolerant plants, though they're not from here.
It’s all about matching the plants to the site, Beatt said. The board at Bayou also wanted an entryway with plenty of eye candy, so perennial color was needed. Blues, pinks and oranges dominate the display.
In total, the project cost about $22,000 for a new irrigation system, sod, drainage and the landscaping itself, said Beatt. Though the irrigation was an integral part of the new design, it wasn't the majority of the cost, as irrigation can run from 30-40% of a project.