There are cold-blooded stalkers among us, watching everything we do, knowing when we’re not around, taunting us with their teeth and tails. “They” are iguanas, and as many of you know, they and they’re insatiable appetites are a constant battle for my garden and me.
There have been times while learning to garden in zone 10 when I’ve felt less like a gardener and more like a member of a landing party from the Starship Enterprise.
With winters that feel like summers, armies of iguanas feasting their way through yard after yard, warnings of Burmese pythons in the Everglades, and giant African-snails eating the stucco off of buildings, I sometimes wonder on what planet Florida is actually located and why Scotty isn’t beaming me up.
It’s the same thing with plants. They’re different and they’re big in this subtropical world — and each time I step outside, I might as well be boldly gardening where no one has gardened before.
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.
With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and me tuning up my bagpipes, it suddenly occurred to me how appropriate it is that this most Irish of celebrations, where green is the color of the day, is held in March. This third month, after all, is the time when green returns to the landscape.
Irish eyes may be smiling, but on a recent walk through the garden, as I brushed aside brown winter leaves, I found my gardener’s eyes smiling at the excitement and promise of once again seeing green.
The forecasters have predicted all week about spring-like temperatures this weekend. So when Saturday morning arrived, I jumped out of bed like a kid eager to hear news that school was closed for a snow day. I know mild January temperatures are out of the ordinary — unless this is the new ordinary — but I had big plans for this weekend, even if it was just some basic tidying up of fallen twigs and leaves.
Imagine my surprise, though, when I looked outside and saw nothing but gray and wet. I don’t know if the forecasters neglected to mention rain with the spring-like temps or if I just stopped listening to the forecast when I heard spring.
In any event, I decided to make the best of it — because when life gives you rain on your garden, grab a camera and take some pictures.
There is a certain sadness when I look about the waning October garden. So many blooms have faded and turned to seed; so many leaves have dulled.
And then there are the red hot flowers, looking a bit out of place and overly made-up amid the first flush of autumn’s golds and yellows and rusts.
And that’s when my imagination takes hold.