There was a time, not too long ago, when this part of South Florida — east of the Everglades and west of the Coast — was nothing but white sand, scrub vegetation, saw palmettos, and sand pines. Development and expansion, with all of its blacktop and gated communities and non-native plants, soon overran the place.
Fortunately, the city of Oakland Park thought to preserve this slice of Florida’s natural history with the Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve, a pristine 5.6-acre site nestled between two lakes. This location, in addition to the abundance of native plants, means the park is home to countless birds, anole lizards, and even gopher tortoises, an endangered species. It’s also a place where the community can come together — volunteers are responsible for the preserve’s upkeep.
I arrived at the preserve after a brief morning shower. As I stepped from my car, I was struck by the silence and solitude in a place that is literally just down the street and over the fence from the trappings of the modern world.
As a general garden rule, I do not like — and so steer away from — plants that can hurt me. Roses are about as close as I get to this thorny issue, which has less to do with the plant and more to do with me. I know me. I know that I can be careless and klutzy — and that combination, along with some blood thinners, means I can easily become a human pin cushion.
A few years ago, Joe and I asked a neighbor if he would like our cactus. It was tall, only one stalk, and never really did anything. It was just there, slightly askew — a leaning tower of needles, so to speak.
The neighbor gladly accepted the offer, digging up the cactus and replanting it along the property line between him and us — far enough and close enough at the same time. Since then, that single stalk has expanded to about seven towering stems — and it’s now in bloom, giving a whole new definition to vertical gardening.
Look quickly, though, the flowers — which bees love — only last a day.
I’m not sure of the name of this plant, but I was charmed by the play of sunlight igniting the leaf’s underside.
Much of my garden time in South Florida is not actually spending time in the garden at all. So far, it’s been about meeting other gardeners, visiting nurseries, reading books, taking notes, and asking questions. I’m a stranger in a strange land here, a zone six-ish gardener in a zone 10 world.
When I learned the local garden club had organized a Saturday field trip to a local nursery, I jumped at the chance to do all of the above — although, I do have to figure out a way to take notes while balancing a camera.
Spring. It’s the word and the season that seems to be on everyone’s lips this year — mine included. Perhaps it’s because this past winter was less wonder and more blunder.
Even the posts of this blog have been overly devoted to thoughts of spring. First there was the lament over the loss of the season as I’ve always known it. Then came the quest to discover spring in my new surroundings.
And now, here is a return — if only for a week — to my Long Island roots, where Joe and I visited family and friends for the Easter holiday. As we spent time at Joe’s sister’s house with her horses, and then at my parents, it was clear that this spring is like no other.
The lingering winter chill seems to have spring pressing the snooze button. The season isn’t too quick to reveal all of the richness and fullness of its colors — but the hints are everywhere. Sunny breezes. Songbirds. Peeks of green that seem to multiply with each new day. And a mid-April snow, winter’s reminder that spring best take its time waking up.
A late-season snow leaves a crunchy coating on the spring landscape.
What a difference a spring day makes.
Rose leaves welcoming the slightest hint of warmth.
An iris shoot pushes its way through winter’s brownness.
Tank enjoys a day without his blanket.
Rowdy, the barnyard cat.
Andromeda’s flower clusters are alive with the sound of . . .
. . . bees, eager to get to work.
The tools are also ready to work.
Autumn Joy in spring.
How exciting to see this bit of green sprouting from the woody stem of a hydrangea.
Who will get more apples this year: my father or the squirrels?
No weeping allowed — it’s spring!
The lilac is green — for now.
Forsythia heralds spring’s awakening.
A few posts ago, I lamented the fact that I was to be a garden blogger without a garden. Imagine my delight, though, when I read in the local paper that Oakland Park, FL, has a weekly Farmers Market. In fact, it’s just one of the many towns in south Florida with a Farmers Market. Suddenly, I’m a garden blogger among gardeners.
Join me for a sunset stroll among the stalls, when the warm light and aromas helped turn what’s usually a vacant field into a painter’s palette of home-grown, home-made, organic food.
Autumn Joy in snow.
This morning, I woke up to snow — and while I may not be a fan of the white stuff, even I must admit that there is something exciting, something magical about snow at this time of year.
Ivy in snow.
On Long Island, a white Christmas is always iffy. More often than not, if there should be any snow, it’s usually washed away by rain or a burst of mild temperatures. Our snowy time arrives after Christmas. Still, the iffiness does nothing to dampen our hope and excitement that this year we will have a “White Christmas.”
Pebbles in snow.
While many performers have put their own stamp on this Christmas standard, I’m always drawn to Diana Krall’s version. Her voice, sultry and intimate, feels like a warm blanket — kind of like the one that’s wrapped around me right now, as I watch sugary powder dust and cover everything.
Bench in snow.
Oak leaf in snow.
Hydrangea in snow.
Chair in snow.
Oak leaves looking like cookies dusted with sugar.
“You spend an awful lot of time agonizing over leaves,” Joe, my partner, said to me the other day as we drove around the neighborhood. His statement was in response to my noticing that some homeowners had bagged their leaves in plastic bags while others had bagged them in recyclable brown paper bags, which the township now requires.