Four Fabulous Flower Faces (Part 1)

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.

My eyes immediately landed on a portrait of a twenty-something Elizabeth Taylor. That, naturally, led to a reminiscence of Hollywood glamour and the shop owner recommended a book, Four Fabulous Faces, which celebrates the lives, work, and faces of Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Gloria Swanson — in all of their black and white, dramatic lighting fabulousness.

When I returned home, I looked around my garden and noticed some fabulous faces of my own and I thought they too deserved some time in the spotlight. . .


Anyone who knows me or this blog, knows I have a thing for bromeliads — a bromance, of sorts. Sharp edged or soft, sun or shade, flower spikes or flowers in the cup, I’m aways impressed with their variety and easiness — and I love the surprise of not knowing which variety has which flower.

That’s the case with this bromeliad, the same one on which a moth with its own fabulous face spent some time on. I found this bromeliad years ago, on a neighbor’s bulk trash pile, buried under palm fronds and other yard debris.

I carried it — gently, because of the saw-toothed leaves — and planted it in my yard. And waited. And waited. And waited. It never bloomed, so I wondered if I had picked up a mother plant whose pup-producing days were over. The plant, though, never died — so maybe I had actually picked up an immature pup that needed time.

Quite recently, I moved the bro to an area that received more sun — and the spike appeared. The stalk, dusted in white and looking like a ghost, was covered with small buds. These eventually opened into small yellow flowers that reminded me of straw flowers.

At first, I was disappointed the spike wasn’t more dramatic — but I have slowly come to enjoy its silvery and subtle beauty, especially when that garden area darkens in the evening. It’s as if this bromeliad has taken a cue from All About Eve, an ingenue to outshine the greatest star.

Bleeding Heart Vine

I’ve written about and photographed this plant before, but for new readers, here’s a condensed version of “The Tale of the Bleeding Heart Vine.”

I first spotted this plant in a catalog about 20 years ago, and purchased it as a Christmas gift for my maternal grandfather, who lived in Louisiana. He was a gardener  and if a green thumb gene exists on a strand of DNA, I like to think this is where mine came from.  He loved the plant when it arrived and rooted lots of cuttings. He also gave one to me.

For years, that plant lived in a large pot, which I transported to my office for the fall, winter, and spring, and then returned to my New York backyard for the summer. During this regular chore, an attempt to keep this heat-loving plant alive, my grandfather passed — but the bleeding heart vine always rewarded me with a flush of exotic white flowers with red centers.

When it was time to move to Florida, the potted bleeding heart vine was placed in the moving truck and arrived in a climate more suitable for its life. I transferred it to a much larger pot, and the vining plant climbed higher than it ever had in New York. I have since learned to give it a hard pruning in early to mid-winter. The late-winter/early-spring flood of flowers is a showstopper — and like my grandfather,  I’ve been able to root cuttings for friends, neighbors, and other areas of my own yard. It’s truly a flower that keeps on giving.

One Fabulous Winner

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who took a chance to receive a free copy of my book, Seeing Green. I appreciate all of your kind words and encouragement. That being said, today is the 8th anniversary of my blog — so it seems very appropriate to congratulate Indie of Red House Garden for winning a free copy. I’ll be in touch via email to get your information.

If you’re interested in purchasing your own copy, please visit Blurb — and look for promo codes, which Blurb often announces on its homepage, to save some money.

Two More Fabulous Faces Will Appear In The Next Post!

Field Trip: Tree Tops Park

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.

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Field Trip: Fern Forest Nature Center

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.

Much of Florida sits on limestone. Here, large moss-covered chunks make up the floor of the habitat.

The prairie habitat is adjacent to . . .

. . . the swamp habitat, where the leaves of swamp plants resemble leaves on the reflected branches.

Just about ready to bloom.

A convict caterpillar, which will eventually become a Spanish moth.

Cypress trees make up a large number of the plants growing in the swamp forest. They’re easy to identify because of their “knees.”

A close-up of cypress knees.

Air plant colonies are well established along the branches of many of the trees.

More air plants.

The habitat provides food and shelter for wildlife, either alone . . .

. . . or the whole family.

Fern spores on the underside of a frond.


Vines are quite happy here.

I’m not sure of this plant’s identity (it could be the invasive Brazilian Pepper Tree) — I just thought it looked like it was ready for the holidays.

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.

Bloomin’ Update 60: An Autumnal Interlude

If the transition from winter to spring in South Florida is subtle, the one between summer and fall is practically invisible. While autumn is already a few weeks old — according to the calendar and posts from northern gardeners — the weather forecasters in Zone 10 say that anything resembling fall (temperatures below 70) will not arrive until sometime in November — and that will most likely happen while I’m fast asleep.

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Living And Working In Eden

For decades, Joe and I — first, as tourists; now, as residents — have looked around South Florida and said, “Florida, my Eden.” We’ve said it as we’ve marveled at the lush tree canopy of botanical gardens, as we’ve gazed at tables of flowers and fields of shrubs and trees in local nurseries, as we’ve walked about and worked in our own garden, and as I took photos for this post.

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