Field Trip: Miami Beach Botanical Garden


It’s time to leave the safety of the capsule to once again set foot on the planet. Now that Joe and I are both fully vaccinated and have waited the two-week post-jab period, this is our exact thought as we make arrangements to re-acclimate ourselves to a COVID-weary world.

Orange ashoka tree.

It’s a weird feeling to re-enter society, especially as my thoughts are with other parts of the world still battling the virus while the anti-mask/anti-vax movement in this country doesn’t exactly make me feel comfortable about leaving our safe space. Since it’s been over a year since Joe and I began our strict self-imposed quarantine/isolation/distance/lockdown/exile, I have to wonder what it’s going to be like to interact with people while keeping COVID anxiety at bay and not feeling the constant need to breathe into a brown paper bag.

To date, we’ve taken small steps, smaller than those of the turtle above. Our first one was Thai takeout, eaten in our backyard. It was the first meal that neither Joe nor I have cooked since we removed ourselves from the outside world. Then, a fully vaccinated friend invited us to a backyard BBQ with about six other fully vaccinated people. We actually hugged other people and saw smiles not hidden behind masks. With light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, it’s the small things that truly matter.

Our next major outing was a field trip to the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, a 3-acre subtropical jewel hidden in plain sight across from the convention center in that city. Good things, it’s been said, come to those who wait — and this was quite the wait. We had planned on visiting here in April 2020!

Orchids are everywhere.

With a Japanese garden, native garden, orchids galore, as well as space for a small nursery, boutique, and rooms for cultural, art, and educational events, the MBBG packs a lot into a relatively small space. Because of COVID, it also has limited access and strongly suggests masks.

Cuban petticoat palm.

One of the most impressive and mesmerizing areas was the native garden, which hosts the largest number of  Atala butterflies, a Florida native, I’ve ever seen at one time — fluttering, flittering, and flying. This picture (below)  captures only a few of the black-winged beauties.

Atala butterflies.

About a hundred years ago, when Miami Beach gained popularity as a playground with palm trees, the property was actually a golf course. Over time, though, it became an overgrown, vacant lot. In ’62, the city re-developed it into the Garden Center, a city park across from the newly constructed Miami Beach Convention Center.

Justicia spicigera or Mexican honeysuckle.

The site again deteriorated. Then in ’96, a group of concerned residents and gardeners approached the city to create the Miami Beach Garden Conservancy, a non-profit group charged with restoring the garden. The effort is now a public/private partnership that embraces the environment through education, stewardship, and sustainability.

Giant milkweed, Calotropis gigantea.

It took us just under two hours to finish the visit. Although the calendar said April, it felt more like a white-hot, mid-summer day. Fortunately, for us, a canopy of tall trees, hats, some SPF protection, and an ocean breeze kept us cool as we wandered the garden path and discovered that life could feel almost normal.

Milestone: 10-Year Blogoversary

In the midst of putting this post together, I was notified by WordPress that my blog had reached a milestone: Nitty Gritty Dirt Man turned 10. That’s a lot of plants and pictures and words — lots and lots of words.

The first photo on my blog.

A lot has changed over these ten years. I’m gardening in a whole new zone, for one thing. I also have a lot more gray hair, so much so that when I catch a glimpse of myself in full sun, my head looks like it’s glowing. I also think it’s becoming more difficult to stay focused, particularly on this blog — and I wonder if this could be the result of retiree brain.

Still, Nitty Gritty Dirt Man has been a wonderful adventure. After staking my small plot in blogland, I quickly learned that I was joining this incredible neighborhood — and how rewarding it’s been to have talked to other gardeners and bloggers over the garden gate. Many I now consider friends.

Me & Joe.

I’m also happy to say that after ten years, this blog still amazes me. Recently, a writer from Celtic Life International contacted me for her cover story. The magazine was putting together a Pride issue, and she was assigned the task of writing about the LGBTQ+ community and Celtic culture. She needed someone to represent the bagpipe angle and had hit a brick wall — until she discovered an old blog post of mine — because old posts never die. The issue is now available, and I’m so proud and humbled to have been a small part of her article.

An anole hanging out in the rain chain after an early morning shower.

I guess what I really want to say, no matter if you’re an old friend or a new reader, is thank you. I have truly loved sharing my life and garden with you, and I look forward to continuing — retiree brain permitting.

14 thoughts on “Field Trip: Miami Beach Botanical Garden

  1. Congratulations, Kevin! Heartfelt thanks for a decade of touching, inspiring posts! And you and Joe look handsomer than ever — silver hair is so becomingly fashionable! Hugs across the miles, Cathey

  2. Not so easy to trust the outside world after a year of fearing it. But we’ll get there. Thanks for all the posts and sharing your thoughts, experience, and now plants that I can’t grow in 7b.

    • Good morning… I have faith that we’ll get there. I think the biggest issue for me is my own anxiety/fear about Covid and my inability to trust others to do the right thing. Right now, I’m learning to find some sort of balance as I walk out into the world. I smile with your zone 7b reference… There are many days I miss the plants I grew in zone 6/7… even annuals. Since moving to FL, I’ve had to learn that northern annuals will do well here in the winter… that annuals can’t become ever-blooming with heat (they tend to peter away)… that even perennials have a blooming period… and that northern houseplants do well outside here. I hope you and yours are well and safe. Happy gardening.

  3. Congratulations on 10 years of blogging! I have read and enjoyed every post! You two look wonderful, and I hope we can get together, in person, in the not too distant future!

  4. I consider you a friend, Kevin, and in some ways, an old friend! We both starting blogging about the same time, I think, and I feel like I know you. These blogging relationships are fascinating to me, but I do remember your move from New York to Florida, your health scares, the bagpipe stories, and lots of in-betweens. And I’m so glad you’ve shared such a truly special photo of you and Joe.

    Congratulations on contributing to the magazine. It is kind of interesting to note that the contact was affirmed through the interest in a blog post!

    I think I may borrow the idea of “leaving the capsule” as that’s a perfect way to say it! We were under such strict personal restrictions for more than a year, too, with the added fear that my daughter, going through chemo, was so vulnerable on top of our “old age fears” LOL! Now that we’re all vaccinated we’re just trying to figure it all out, and hoping we can trust ourselves to be wise! It feels so odd. Thanks for a wonderful post. On top of a beautiful botanical garden, it was just lovely to hear about you and Joe, and to know how your’e doing. Continue to be well!

    • Hi Debra. First… xoxo. Second… I hope your daughter is doing well. I’ve kept all of you in my thoughts… I know CA has been especially strict… here in FL, it’s been quite the opposite. Without trying to get too political about it, South Florida has been the COVIZD hotspot in the state since the beginning. Local municipalities instituted their own curfews, mask mandates, and distancing protocols. Our governor overrode each one. On top of that, we have had our share of anti-maskers and anti-vaxers and those who start coughing on anyone who asks someone to wear a mask. Some businesses even caved, rarely enforcing their own mask requirements. Several times, Joe and I took drives to the more touristy areas of Ft. Lauderdale. While restaurants had outdoor seating and tables were 6-feet-ish apart, most people on the sidewalks were massless. I saw mask-less joggers run through groups of mask-less people on the sidewalks and packed happy hour venues. The truth is that all I could see were tiny red dots circling in the air. It’s strange to re-enter that world — and if the year has taught me anything is that we are each responsible for ourselves. So, I will gladly wear my mask and wash my hands for myself & others. As you leave your capsule, take baby steps. It’s a strange planet out there. 🙂

      • Thank you so much Kevin. We are doing well after a year that has taught me a lot. I think that we are on an even keel right now, and there are things I will never again take for granted. As much as we were affected by Aimee’s cancer, we never once had the idea that we were alone in our suffering. I truly think we are all a bit traumatized by this year. Here in California, I have to admit, there was a lot of curiosity about Florida specifically. Our two governors couldn’t be any more different, could they? I wish we could sit down together and discuss politics, Kevin. I’d be so interested in your perspectives. Someday! LOL! But thank you so much for your kind remembrance of us, and I hope the coming months are simply kinder to us alll. ox

  5. Congratulations Kevin! Well done on getting the jab – my first one is due in a couple of weeks! Can’t believe it’s been ten years of writing – loved reading your stories and inspiring words over the years – so much has happened to all of us. Enjoy your re-emergence into the sunshine! Sending you both many good wishes. xxx

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