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.
I’ve been intrigued with Bonnet House ever since a water taxi guide pointed it out while we were on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale during one of our first vacations to South Florida. From the water, the 35 acres look like a jungle, a section of property completely undeveloped and straddling the land between the Intracoastal and the Atlantic Ocean.
Somewhere in all that greenery, though, was a house — an historic house, a legendary house. The story, according to the water taxi guide — who tells tales of all the mansions along the Intracoastal — is the house was the home of two artists, Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett.
On a recent visit to Tampa/St. Pete, as Joe and I ventured away from the metropolitan area, I was reminded of Robert Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken” — specifically the closing lines:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
In 1903, George Turner, Sr., had an idea.
The plumber and garden enthusiast had recently purchased a plot of land with a shallow lake in St. Petersburg, FL. He decided to drain the lake and turn it into his very own sunken garden. By 1935, he started to charge admission, making his Sunken Gardens one of the oldest roadside attractions in the country.
So, let’s jump in the car and take a Sunday drive.
When I garden, I find myself gardening for the enjoyment of others as well as for myself. I think it’s something we all do — no matter if your garden is a collection of pots on a terrace or a sidewalk-hugging border or acres of formal beds, our gardens are an opportunity for someone walking by or stopped at a red light to take a moment to breathe.
When I look at a garden — any garden — I find myself looking at it from two perspectives.
Recently, I was researching quotes from some of my favorite novels, for no other reason than to post them on my personal Facebook page. I was looking for some inspiring words, the kind that resonated with me, the kind that I could share with others.
Someone once said, “Good things come in small packages.” I may not be positive about who should get credit for the phrase, but I’m pretty sure he or she must have been referring to Key West.
Measuring just 7.4 square miles, there’s a lot crammed onto this legendary Florida paradise — from Ernest Hemingway’s house to Fantasy Fest to the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens to the daily sunsets, often met with a liquid toast.
Tucked away among the touristy attractions is one of the last free admissions on the island: the Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower. Since 1955, the garden club, through strokes of luck and vision, dedication and hardwork in the tropical sun, transformed a Civil War-era fort into a walled garden filled with native and exotic trees and plants.
Something strange happens to Florida as you drive toward the Keys. It begins to break apart.
At some point along US 1, the southern tip of the peninsula becomes a mosaic of land and water until it eventually becomes the Keys, a stretch of islands that geologists say are the visible portions of an ancient coral reef. A handful of these islands are linked together by a single highway — and the road leads to Key West.