Making a case for planters

This month, contributing columnist Mimi Simmons, Mimi Simmons Design, discusses Baldwin Park’s unique plant palette.

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  • | 9:00 a.m. May 1, 2024
Once permitted in the plant list, Gold Mound Duranta no longer makes the cut.
Once permitted in the plant list, Gold Mound Duranta no longer makes the cut.
Photo courtesy of Mimi Simmons
  • Baldwin Park Living
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I grew up attending an elementary school where I was required to wear a uniform, which consisted of a navy and forest green plaid jumper with a compulsory pressed white collared shirt. For excitement — wait for it — the tartan pattern on the jumper had a faint yellow line running through its grid. 

Mimi Simmons owns Mimi Simmons Designs.
Photo courtesy of Mimi Simmons

Can you imagine wearing the same thing each and every day? Self-expression was limited to a single wardrobe element: socks. Officially, as long as the style came up to the knee, anything was allowed, including solids, stripes, argyle and even tube socks. Socks became status symbols and conversation pieces that could make or break one’s tenuous pre-teen social standing. 

Some see living in Baldwin Park as tantamount to a private school’s wardrobe directives when it comes to home exteriors and yards. On the surface, there appears to be a “uniformity” to the community fabric defined by our distinctive architecture and landscape styles. Indeed, there are rules to be followed. As a property owner, the key to required conformity is to educate yourself on Baldwin Park’s design policies and review procedures. Within the rules, however, you can find plenty of opportunities to express your personality.


For instance, Baldwin Park’s plant palette sets our community apart from the surrounding neighborhoods of Winter Park Pines, Audubon Park and others. Within just a short drive, a variety of vegetative varieties can be seen that are not so common in our own front yards, including Autograph Plant, Duranta, Copperleaf, Plumeria, Crown of Thorns and Bromeliads. So, be forewarned: When contemplating a change or an upgrade to your landscape, a visit to your local garden or home improvement center might be a great way to get inspired, but not everything sold in stores is approved for planting here.

Anything goes when it comes to plants in pots in Baldwin Park.
Photo courtesy of Mimi Simmons


The founders of this community (aka “The Declarant”), assembled architects, planners, urban designers and landscape architects to cooperatively craft a future vision for the community called, “Baldwin Park Residential Design Guidelines.” Every property owner should be aware of this document available through the Residential Owner’s Association’s portal or linked through the city of Orlando’s website. 


Section 3.4 of the guidelines contains a list of plants that The Declarant and its consultants deemed appropriate for Baldwin Park divided into categories according to plant type and size: trees (canopy and accent); shrubs (large, medium, small and accent); ground covers; and turf.

The list includes both scientific and common names, minimum plant sizes required for installation, size at maturity and recommended spacing. Although it is a helpful starting point citing many of our commonly specified plants, this section was never meant to be fully inclusive of all species that are likely to thrive here.

If your plant didn’t make the cut, pot it!
Photo courtesy of Mimi Simmons


The University of Florida created recently a statewide resource called the “Florida-Friendly Landscaping Plant Guide” that is available online and downloadable as an app. This handy tool offers a considerably larger list of plants that work in Florida backed by the opinion of educators and professional experts. 

Rather than categorizing plants by USDA Hardiness Zone (Central Florida is now Zone 10A), the app employs a more user-friendly ZIP code filter. According to the staff that created and now manages this program, it also is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of every plant that flourishes in Florida. However, it packs a wealth of information for citizens of the state and fans of its flora.


So, what are you allowed to plant in Baldwin Park? Ultimately, that is up to the ROA and its Architecture Review Committee. As of the writing of this article, the proposed plant list that is part of your Application for Landscape Changes will be evaluated according to each plant’s inclusion in either the guidelines or the Florida-Friendly Guide (filtered for ZIP code 32814). If not on either of these lists, the plant may not be approved.

Mimi Simmons is the owner of Mimi Simmons Design.


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