In the overnight hours before landscape designer Victor Lazzari opened his English-style garden to members of a local garden club, a cold front made its way down the entire length of the Florida peninsula. Wind and light rain arrived in the darkness, but by morning, a cool breeze had pushed away any lingering clouds, unveiling a brilliantly blue sky. The typical South Florida humidity was yesterday’s memory.
It’s interesting to watch Victor Lazzari in his South Florida garden. At 6’1” and 290 lbs. of muscle and tattoos, he’s certainly a looming presence. It’s also where he happens to be the most comfortable, walking along the garden’s hidden paths, gently cupping roses in hands that are just as capable of lifting 350 lbs. at the gym, and inhaling each bloom’s sweet or subtle scent.
Most strikingly, though, Lazzari’s garden is done in the English style. Yes, an English garden is growing in South Florida.
I long for hydrangea days.
As much as I love living and gardening in South Florida, I can’t help but deeply miss the hydrangeas in my New York garden. I loved photographing them from their first green buds in spring to the fullness of color during their bloom time to the their faded glory in fall to winter’s dried-brown clusters.
This isn’t the post I had planned to write. That original post has to wait for another day because of Hurricane Dorian — and before I get into the meat of this post, please, understand that I am in no way making light of the situation in the Bahamas. That is tragic. That is devastating — and I’m not even sure those words are strong enough to fully capture what the people there have experienced and are continuing to face each day.
A long time ago— May, actually — in a galaxy far, far away— just outside of the front door — an alien-looking seed mustache from space appeared on the tip of a desert rose branch. That was the general gist of an earlier post — but after a couple of months, my sci-fi fantasy that is South Florida gardening has become, “Captain, the pod doors have opened.”
When it comes to fabulous flower faces, orchids are always the scene stealers. They’re the ones that get passersby to stop and stare. They’re the ones that get the awards and command top dollar at flower sales.
Not too long ago, Joe and I stopped into a local antique store. It was a Sunday and the store was supposed to be closed, but the owner had some paperwork to do. When she saw us peering in the window, she invited us in.
Spring in South Florida is plant sale season. Cities and garden clubs throughout the region are hosting sales of flowering shrubs, palms, exotics, and native plants — and very often, gardeners drive a long way to find their perfect plant, a great deal, or both.
When I first heard of Tree Tops Park, I imagined a public park with treehouses and tree walkways to give visitors a bird’s-eye view among the branches and canopy. In reality, the only thing to climb is an observation tower — otherwise, visitors keep their feet on the ground and look upward. No matter how you look at them, though, the trees at Tree Tops Park are tops.
Hidden beneath the asphalt and manicured communities, the condo towers and man-made canals of southeastern Florida, there is Old Florida — very, very Old Florida. It’s the Florida that existed long before Henry Flagler built the railroad that opened this region of the state to developers. It is, perhaps, the Florida that greeted the first settlers.
That idea is what inspired a group of scientists from Florida Atlantic University and Broward Community College. It was 1979, and their article, “A Tropical Fern Grotto In Broward County,” was published in the American Fern Journal. That 247-acre grotto was actually a remnant of how Broward County once looked. More than 30 species of ferns were found living among 200+ species of other plants, all of which inhabited swamp forests, hammocks, pinelands, and prairie ecosystems.
As a result, the land was made a Designated Urban Wilderness Area and named Fern Forest Nature Center. Walking through the habitat, on both boardwalks and natural paths, allows visitors to take a step back in Florida history.
Fern Forest Nature Center is located at 201 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33063. It’s open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., seven days a week, except for some holidays. Check out their calendar for various events.