Right place, right landscape

Story and Photo by Diana Sageser

When Judy and Bart Lipofsky built their Brevard County home in 1986, the 1-acre plot was covered in pines and palmettos. A berm, created in the 1950s to allow canal water to be channeled in the direction of either the St. John or Indian rivers via locks, was in place in the back of their property. Rather than bulldozing the mound as many of their neighbors did, the Lipofskys decided to incorporate it as part of their landscape. When they saw it, Judy said, they knew that was where the waterfall would be located.

“I’ve been interested in gardening for as long as I can remember,” Judy recalled. “I remember gardening with my mother in the Bronx when I was about 4 years old and being amazed by the crocuses popping up through the snow.”

Although born up north, Judy and her parents moved down to Florida when she was 8 years old.

“I call myself a native,” she laughed. “I’ve been in Brevard County for 47 years now.”

Judy has always kept a patch of violets dug up from her first Florida garden tour even though the family moved to different houses within the state. Her Viola sororia patch still exists, blooming in February and reminding her of gardens past.

“Keep learning, talk to other gardeners. … I enjoy swapping plants with other gardeners because that way I can experiment with what works for me.”

Judy became a master gardener in Brevard County in 2005 after retiring from her teaching job at Florida Institute of Technology. By that time, she and Bart had already designed and created their landscape, incorporating native and pollinator plants and a huge waterfall and pond. Their biggest challenge was shade. 

“We have 1 acre, but have left most of it natural – with oaks (Quercus spp.), pines (Pinus spp.), and palmetto (Sabal spp.),” Judy explained. “I like native plants and butterflies. I (also) grow a few vegetables and culinary herbs so I can combine my interests of gardening and cooking.”

She has created both summer and winter vegetable and herb gardens. These gardens have been host to ‘Celebrity’ and ‘Everglades’ tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, basil, thyme, and more. Surrounding these are hundreds of nasturtiums (Tropaeolum), which reseed themselves every year. 

By far though, the biggest attraction in the landscape is the waterfall, which was built into the existing berm. Water cascades over several rock outcroppings before emptying into a pond. Lilies (Lilium spp.), hyacinths (Hyacinthus), and papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) grow there while goldfish dart around. Bart is in charge of this part of the garden, Judy said with a smile.

When Hurricane Irma came through last year, Judy and Bart watched with tears in their eyes as river otters came up out of the canal and ate their older batch of goldfish. “They were our friends,” she said. “We hated to see that happening to them.”

The landscape also is home to several varieties of crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia sp.) and azaleas (Rhododendron sp.). A riot of color begins exploding in early spring. Judy watches for the crepemyrtles to begin blooming so she knows when to purchase her watermelons. “Red Barber (a famous former baseball announcer) says you shouldn’t buy a watermelon until the crepe myrtles are in bloom,” she explained.

Judy now focuses on attracting pollinators to the yard, with a special interest in butterflies. Porterweed (Stachytarpheta), various Asclepias species, and corky stem passion vine (Passiflora suberosa) grow throughout her landscape. She uses organic products on her vegetables to keep the garden safe, and even tried planting a full bed of French marigolds (Tagetes erecta) in an attempt to kill a bed infested with nematodes. “The experiment didn’t work, but the flowers were pretty,” Judy laughed.

Judy says gardeners in Florida should recognize that in addition to “Right Plant, Right Place,” adding “Right Season” to the mix will help improve garden successes.

“Keep learning,” she added. “Talk to other gardeners. Ag centers (county extension offices) offer many good programs. I enjoy swapping plants with other gardeners because that way I can experiment with what works for me.”

Scroll to Top