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 mowed the lawn today.
I realize that may not sound extraordinary — but these days, the most ordinary thing can truly be something extraordinary.
Recently, I took a long overdue stroll through a local South Florida nursery. I wasn’t expecting to take photos — this was supposed to be a quick trip to pick up some vinca for some of the pots in the backyard.
A few word: One of my small Tillandsia plants flowered — and now it looks like a fanciful cupcake with a vibrant blue candle.
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. For me, they create too much pressure — and within a week, they’ll be in the trash heap and I’ll be spending the rest of the year beating myself up because I didn’t go to the gym or lose weight or learn a new craft. Besides, in my world, each day gives us a chance to get a fresh start — hence, the sunrise photo at the top of this post.
This year, though, is different.
As 2019 comes to a close, I thought this would be an excellent time to wrap up a few loose ends — or, rather, unwrap a few small packages and share the good things inside.
Small Package #1:
In April 2018, before I left my nursery job in a local box store, I purchased a small vanda orchid. Vandas are incredibly beautiful plants. Flowers are large and plentiful, and the roots hang down from the pot openings in long strands, absorbing moisture from the air. Normally, when these orchids are sold fully grown and in full bloom, they can cost as much as $30 — and that’s on the low end.
It’s always been my gardening opinion to not purchase expensive plants, and to never purchase plants in bloom. Personally, I’d rather have a plant that hasn’t been forced into bloom so that I can enjoy the flowers for a longer period of time.
Such was the case with my vanda, a large purple and white speckled variety. I noticed it on an endcap in the garden center, part of a display of various orchids packaged in small bags made of netting. These are younger plants, grown from award-winning stock, and all that’s needed is time, patience, and about $11.
The plant, though, never seemed to get any larger and I was surprised to see it send up a flower spike. Maybe, I thought, this is what they do. Eventually, the flower buds opened — and the flowers, although lovely, looked nothing like the original package. They were red and they were small. Very small.
Although, I no longer had the receipt, I reached out to the company, Better-Gro, on Facebook. I shared photos of the original packaging, which I had saved, and of the flowers that bloomed. In a true testament to their excellent customer service, they quickly responded with an apology
Good Thing #1:
Within two days, a small package arrived. Inside was a replacement plant that was my original intended purchase, and one which I am now showering with time and patience.
Small Package #2:
At about the same time, another package arrived in the mail. It was from a former colleague of mine, Diana Marik, an English teacher who is now living her retirement as a paranormal romance writer.
Good Thing #2:
This is a surprise, I’m sure… In this trying world a spark of joy is here. Since I’ve already dedicated the first six books to close friends and family, I decided to dedicate this book to you.
When we had worked together, we were both independently thinking — dreaming — of writing a book. At the time, I was playing around with the idea of compiling blog posts and photos into a book format, which eventually became Seeing Green. I had heard through the school grapevine that Diana was also exploring writing.
One day, I visited Diana while she was on hall duty and we had our first book-writing conversation. We spoke of the stresses and time, genres and the possibility of self-publishing. At some point, I mentioned that I had registered for a self-publishing conference in NYC and I gave Diana the information. We met in the city that day, attended various workshops, and shared what each of us had learned.
I never forgot the simple act of kindness of informing me about the Self-Pub Expo in Manhattan and pretty much holding my hand when I was so nervous about discovering this ever-changing, crazy world of publishing.
Isn’t it amazing how simple acts have such a profound rippling effect even when we’re unaware of it?
Amazing, indeed. Uncharacteristically, I found myself at a loss for words. I was touched, honored, humbled, flattered — and none of these words can truly capture the feeling. It was amazing.
Small Package #3:
Joe and I stopped sending paper Christmas cards years ago. As much as we love the idea of sending holiday messages to friends and family, there was something — whether it was the number of trees needed to produce the paper or the money for the cards and the postage, and then to have all of it tossed out at the end of the season… It all seemed wasteful and especially unnecessary in this digital age.
We did, though, have so many peoples’ emails, Facebook contact info, and cell phone numbers. For us, it made better sense to make our own digital card and send it to everyone — and they could print it or delete it. Either way, they would know they were in our thoughts.
Good Thing #3:
So, from Joe and me to all of you:
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.
Today, October 14, 2019, would have been the 120th birthday of Joe’s remarkable grandmother. To many people, she was Marie — but to so many others, she was Nana. To celebrate and honor her, I thought it would be nice to share one of my favorite posts and I hope you enjoy it, too. Today, it’s all about Nana and the tree she planted . . .