Orchids Against The Fence

The thing is that here in South Florida, natural beauty is all around us.

Remember the place is named after Flowers after all .

Given the right conditions, a seed dropped on the ground will grow, flourish, and eventually bloom and bare fruit.   It’s fairly easy here to grow plants that people in London need to build a whole infrastructure around.

That Greenhouse is a bit of a trial to maintain, isn’t it?

Here, my orchids grow in a mundane spot.  They please me from my window in the kitchen.  They flower against the fence or the shed in the back.  I don’t do anything more than give them water every day.  I suppose I should fertilize them but I forget.

Every day at 7:30 in the Morning, I am outside inspecting my plants.  Inspecting them, fussing over them, tweaking their irrigation, getting myself soaked when I pull a sprinkler head, and generally enjoying the experience.

I was that “weird kid” that had set up tables in his pre-teen bedroom so that I could grow plants.  From the mundane to the exotic, simply because they pleased me.  I once had a thimble sized terracotta pot once that I managed to grow a Marigold that bloomed a little flower about the size of your thumbnail.

Now that I am in Florida, I can simply put a box with a little bit of mulch tied to my fence, drip feed watered daily for fifteen minutes, and wait for beauty to occur in different spots in different times of the year.

It is now June.  We are all here waiting for Hurricane Season to get started.  Doing our Hurricane Shopping for Hurricane Food and Hurricane Water (beer).  This season means that while I can enjoy those flowers, I will be looking over my shoulder and seeing if things are quite right to survive a tropical storm force wind.

Once in place, these plants and the others, do not like to be moved.  They grow their roots between the fence boards and become happy in their place.

They bloom where they are planted.  Hopefully we all can say that of ourselves.

May you bloom where you are planted.  After all, you can grow into the sunshine as well.  Now check your place and make sure it will survive a storm.  May as well, you just might find some beauty in a forgotten corner.

Yellow Flowers, Green Leaves, Nearby Park

I’m out, therefore I take pictures.

I don’t know what I will use them for, but I take them anyway.

It pleases me.

It makes me feel creative.

And sometimes I even get some that I like.

This one is saved out to my Backgrounds directory at the moment, and I may even get some use out of it professionally.  After all, some of those little yellow flowers look amazing close up and blown to make them full screen.

But never mind all that.

They’re just pretty.

It’s over at the nearby M.E. DePalma park.

Knowing M.E., I’m expect anything in there to be native, or at least “endemic”.  That endemic stuff, she works hard to keep out.  Not knowing the difference, I just like the beauty.

Since I walk past the place a couple times a day, I’m able to take it in.

Having the flowers there, and the ever changing display, is one of many nice things about living in Wilton Manors.

But for now, I’m just enjoying the colors.

This picture was taken Mid September, so these blooms are long gone, but there are many others there.

I will say that my Monarch Butterflies are enjoying it too.  The Mexican Milkweed that is in there is always eaten to sticks, just like in my backyard.  Some of it may even be some that I planted, some not, but there are always a few nearby for the butterflies to eat.  I’m able to sit in my dining room, look out the big picture window and eventually a Monarch will float past.

All because someone had the forethought, common sense, and appreciation of beauty to plant a garden on a corner property too small to put up Yet Another McMansion in the land named after flowers.

Two Roses By The Fence

I just wanted to send someone some roses.

No real reason.

Other than they’re by my fence and looked rather nice up against the background of the wood and the purple ruellia.

I’ve had rose bushes in my yard for each of the houses I’ve owned.  I will let you in on a secret, I have no idea what to do with the things.

You see, they grow in an area and you have to create a “safe zone” around them.  Then if you get too close, they get all nasty and bite you.

But what happens is they require care and some shaping.

I’m trying to train mine.  The plant, and it is only one, ended up getting to about 8 feet tall.  I started cutting the plant back and now it’s about 6 feet tall, eye level.

Ok, Eye Level for me.  For you, well, your mileage may vary.

Pretty things though.

So if you have a rose plant in the yard and can’t figure out what to do with it, do what I do.  Take a picture, then snip the roses off and put them in a little vase by the kitchen window.  You’ll have something to look at while you’re working in there.

It’s not all snakes and lizards here in South Florida.  Sometimes you get flowers.  After all, the place is named after them.

Mint In Bloom – Or How To Survive Boiled Water

I remember taking a trip to Tijuana Mexico with a good friend, Tim, once.

After hearing horror stories about never drinking the water in Mexico for years, I went all weird and paranoid.  I have no idea whether the Agua Potable was really Potable but I didn’t take a chance.

After driving down from Los Angeles in his Blazer, parking in a rather pretty neighborhood and walking to the downtown area, I needed something to drink.  Eventually I did what every traveler does, I found a bottle of soda and stopped fretting.

Finishing the bottle, my friend told me that the water was fine here in “TJ” and I shouldn’t worry.  Then he drank a sip from a fountain in the Woolworths.

I think it was a Woolworths.  At least.

We both survived.

Just like I survived the boil water order.  Actually everyone was hammering me about not drinking the water despite the fact that we double filter the water that comes out of the refrigerator, blah blah blah.

But it gets boring drinking boiled water and so forth.

When I walked outside that morning for a romp with Mr Dog, Rack the Mc Nab SuperDog (TM), I spotted my crop of Mint.  The stuff is spilling over the pot and trying to attach itself to the garden where it will grow Borg Like and assimilate the yard, the island and all of South Florida.  For now, I keep it “reasonable” by growing it in one pot only and cutting great fist fulls of the stuff and boiling the heck out of it.

Hence the Boil Water angle. 

Oh sure, I could make mountains of Mojitos, Glaciers of Gelato, and Bazillions of Baked Goods, but I chose not to.

One goodly sized container of Mint Iced Tea, thank you very much.

But I noticed, the little thing had a flower on it.  It’s getting ready to attack.  Actually, if my Botany serves me well, that’s not strictly a Flower but an Inflorescence.  Assuming the inflorescence is only one seed per tiny blossom, it will put out a bazillion of seeds per head.

Oh sure, my garden will be a carpet of mint, but it will smell great.  Want something different?  Come on out back with an oil drum worth of boiling water.  Sure, it will look like we’re storming the castle, but that will be what we need when the Mint Overlord takes over and swallows up my 2 bedroom 1 bath house here on my quirky little island.  The neighborhood will be carpeted by a pleasant scent of spearmint while people are swallowed up and little dogs no longer yap because the mint has grown over them. 

Dining on a carpet of mint to keep the windows clear means that you will no longer need scented soaps and deodorant as the natural oils will leech out of your skin and you slowly turn green due to the chlorophyll that keeps you healthy and minty fresh.

Or I could just go out there with the scissors and snip!

Someone check in in a couple days.  If I’m missing, blame the mint.

The Tale Of The Cactus In A Shoe

Once upon a time, there was a man.

This man lived in the Fabled Land of South Florida.  Since he was in South Florida, he was subjected to all sorts of conditions. 

Now, being a rugged, rough and tumble sort of person, this man would go out into those conditions and simply shrug.  After all, he had two of the most precious friends in the world.  One was a good friend, strong and pure, the other had four legs and was a SuperDog.

While the SuperDog did not like to go out into some of those conditions, mostly the ones that included lightning, She did not seem to mind such things as wind and heavy rains.  Our Superdog was not completely fearless, but she was also a rugged, rough and tumble sort herself.

Our pack of three walked many miles in all conditions.  That was their way because those from the land of the City of Brotherly Love have that in their own constitution.  They enjoyed being in the great outdoors.  The kiss of the sun on their brow, the wisp of the wind lifting their hair and gently placing them back where they belonged, and the occasional cool droplets of rain were all things that they looked forward to and enjoyed with gusto.

There was, of course, a minor problem.  While the SuperDog was happy to walk through puddles that could have supported aquatic life, the two men did not enjoy it as much.  This being South Florida, they had to walk around those puddles or else suffer the indignity of having their shoes turn into buckets and carry water far from where it was placed by Mother Nature.

That Mother was a bit of a capricious soul, as we all know.

They searched for a solution.

First they tried something called Sandals.  They did not work since they offered no protection against stones getting under the toes, and that was bad.

Then they tried simply wearing older shoes, but the older shoes would wear out quickly and stop being useful.

Finally they hit upon a solution of a special footwear that was created to accept and then remove the water from the inside.  These special shoes were full of channels to make sure that you did not keep too much water in and create some problems.

Life was good.  The special shoes kept our heroes comfortable and dry.  When through, these shoes could be drained and allowed to dry indoors quickly since there were no fibers known to be natural to man in them.  In fact they were a construction made completely of the refined dinosaurs, and thus were older than 65 Million Years in origin!

However these sainted footwear had a useful lifespan just like any other artifice.  They ended their use by having the sole of the shoe separate in a strip of rubbery material.  That was it.

But to honor the sacrifices of the long deceased dino-warriors that were reduced to synthetic fabrics to clad our heroes’ feet, the shoes were repurposed.  They accepted a bit of soil and a pear from a cactus, since they are everywhere in South Florida and were placed lovingly in a spot in their domain.

To this day, the Cactus thrives in their footwear home under the hedges, being kissed by the same rain that the two men and the SuperDog would wait for.  Grabbing moisture, and oxygen from the air, and sunlight from the skies, this Cactus would show its gratitude by putting forth a bloom in Spring, it’s own contribution to the beauty that is the natural world.

The End.

Vanda Orchids On The Fence

These usually wait for the cold weather to come and then pass before they finally break open and bloom.

I’ve got two different pots of these vanda orchids, this one and a purple one that will bloom a little later.  The plant has grown into the fence, so when we have that next tropical storm in season, it will have to be left there.  I’m not brave enough to cut the roots off the wall since there are just too many.

It’s on my irrigation chain getting its half gallon of mist a day.  When I repotted the thing, I made the point to use some live Spanish Moss to hold the bark in the wooden frame.  The Spanish Moss likes the same “stuff” that the orchids do so I am either getting symbiosis or they’re fighting.  I’m not sure but since I have flowers I’m going to leave things as they go.

They’re a beautiful plant, and I like the flowers enough that the picture will end up on the wall or in the wallpapers folders for my machines.

I remember being told that these things are so finicky and have to have just the right conditions to bloom.  I must have them because the last time they were fertilized was about 4 years ago when I was able to pry them off the wall for a hurricane.  I guess that the old wood on the wall is perfect for them which is perfect for me.

Rose and Buzzard Season

Rose and Buzzard.

Despite it sounding like a British Pub somewhere in the Southwest, it isn’t.

It’s the busy season, dry season, and buzzard season.

Everywhere else it’s cold and snowy but I’m below the freeze line, and I thought I might share a little sunshine with my friends.

Even if you don’t have a security camera system to look into to see the sun, you can catch some here.

The season isn’t as dramatic as it was last year.

Oh sure the roses are in bloom but so is the wildlife.   Last year there were hundreds of buzzards making lazy circles in the skies.  They would float on air, sometimes low enough that you would be interesting to them.  Wildlife encounters, I am used to, but having a bird that looks like it’s as big as you are turn its head from 50 feet or more up so it can size YOU up is an amusing and unsettling prospect.

Hey, buzzard, back off, I’m a bit gristly. 

Besides you don’t want to startle them.  They’ve been known to barf up whatever road kill they have been eating and you may be wearing it.

But the weather has been crisp and clear.  Good day to watch the buzzards, and sniff the roses.  Mine are in perpetual bloom, and each time one gets just right, it comes in to the kitchen to sit in a glass so I can enjoy it.

Better that than have it pass unnoticed.

I keep hoping that cutting the plant back will make it grow in more bushy but I’m having no luck with that.

Shamrocks In The Sun

When someone goes away, you try to keep contact.

Then if they’re gone long enough you try to have a bit of fun with it.

In this case, I started getting texts while I was out back.  Rack was boring holes through my soul with those brown puppy eyes of his.

Doggy Telepathy:  “I want out.  I want out.  I want out.”

I’m thinking somethings up… Maybe I should ask Rack what he wants?

” Show me boy, show me what you want”.

Skid marks in my Florida room as he ran to the back door.  He probably wanted to visit his other family on the other side of the wormhole behind the shed.  I grabbed the phone, checked that the front door was closed, and let him out back.

Yes, really, the door sometimes opens on its own.  It could be me, or it could be Rack’s wormhole family, but I do need to make special effort to keep the door locked.  If it is locked, it won’t open on its own.

Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! Betel…!

Don’t say it three times.  House guest from hell would arrive.

The texts began. 

“Its cold”

Yes, you are in Douglas, Isle of Man, UK.  It isn’t summer yet.  Summer is scheduled for August 13th from 11:43am to 4:27pm and it may indeed hit 70F.

“I know.  Rack is enjoying it.”  Picture sent of Rack watching over the swimming pool in full sunlight.  The light making diffraction patterns in his jet black fur shining in deep blues, vibrant reds, and …

“You’re mean.  It’s beautiful there, I miss it!”.

I was walking to the back of the yard.  The pool water was a wee bit low.  May as well give it a hot foot and raise the level a bit.

“I thought you might enjoy a little sunshine.  Everything there looked so cold and grey.  It is the UK you know.  Lovely people, fascinating culture, I’d love to visit some day, just not in the middle of the coldest week of the year”

I get back a single word “Shaddap”.

I send back the picture of the shamrocks.   They’re Wood-Sorrel.  It grows as a weed in my turf in the back yard.  Technically it’s Oxalis.  They grow little tubers, just like the potatoes that are sprouting in the kitchen, and can be cooked or eaten raw.   The tubers are sweet, and edible.  Although they do contain Oxalic Acid, so do many of your foods, and as long as your Wood Sorrel is cleaned well, the risk is considered minimal.

But I will let someone else try first.

Yes, I am channeling some of those oddball survivalists.  You know the guys who say “Every part of the pine tree is edible” – and I pipe up telling them to go to the lumber yard and eat a plank.  But Pignolas are simply the seeds of a pine tree, and every pine tree has seeds that are edible.

Blah blah blah.

The sun caught the pink flowers just so, five minutes later it would be dark.   The mosquito sunning itself on the top flower realized that she might be able to find her own meal and started after my feet first.

Snap off a few more shots, and go away from the little flowers.  Rack was returning from a visit from the wormhole family and tearing up the turf while running circles around the bougainvillea, coleus, and big palm trees in the yard.

“I know you didn’t choose to go to Douglas in this time of year.  Maybe some other time.  It does look like a pretty place.  Bring a Parka.”

I’m getting a lecture of a street that is called “Athol” street in the central business district.  I read the word rudely, and realize it is his favorite new word.  Probably named after some oddball British Admiral that conquered some obscure island somewhere.

Every picture he sends me has a splat from a passing sea bird.  It now becomes The Isle of Poop.  Douglas, Isle of Poop.  Not nice of me but there is rather a lot of it, and that is a part of being near the ocean.

It’s time to go back in.  The mosquito is zooming in for the kill.  My right hand was getting attention as I try for one last picture of the Wood-Sorrel Shamrocky thing.  Pretty flowers.  I look at the display on the camera and back to the flowers.  They’re in shade now.

“I’ll see you later, I have to go to the pub.”
“Try the Fish and Chips.  Proper British Fish and Chips served in a proper British Pub!”

Maybe not.  He hates fish, loves the chips, and there’s no way I can suggest that.  Maybe some fried wood sorrel chips.  I won’t tell him what they are!

“Enjoy dinner and stay warm!”

Orchids Against The Shed

I would come down here every year, just like all the other snowbirds.

I actually got to enjoy what many would have seen as foolhardy, or simply difficult.  That drive.  1200 miles of it, one way.  Plus another 200 miles if I were going to Key West.

Or so.

Usually I’d stop off and get some things for people left behind Back Home.  It’s always said like that “Back Home”, in capitals.  I’m not completely sure, but if you listen to a tourist, they’re always stressing things, including themselves.  The people out in California tended to use the phrase Back East in the same way.

Gone, not forgotten, not completely sure what to do about them.

All of that and none of it.  Language, it’s a strange art.

One of my habits was to stop off at a big box store that sells plants, and pick up some Orchids to take back.  Plants that would cost at least $50 if not $100 could sometimes be found on a street corner here if you knew where to look.  Out of the back of a pickup in a scruffy part of town, 4 for $10 as the scrawl would say.

That’s crept up to $4 for 20 more recently.

The plants were never that pricey to begin with.  I also knew they wouldn’t last long once they got where they were going.  Those little seedlings rarely did.

That was because the plants were being put into a climate they didn’t belong in.  Centrally heated air held little of the humidity they needed, and the drafts falling off of a 1950s tract home’s single pane glass would freeze a dish of water if the conditions were right.

This was the same kind of plant. I picked it up in a mesh bag as a seedling.  No more than a few leaves and a stem or two.  I was promised beauty of an exotic flower, if the conditions were right.

Stuck into a wooden frame with some bits of bark, it grew well and put forth flowers.

That was a couple years ago.  I had noticed that that pot was getting sad.  The wood was now riddled with weak spots and there was practically nothing left of the Orchid Bark.

Whatever plants they get to chip up to make Orchid Bark that is

It got re-potted, and it did well.   Some of that mystery bark.  I also got creative with the Spanish Moss.  Great beards of the stuff grow in my nasty bougainvillea and need to be cut back.

The Spanish Moss now could play for ZZ Top, I tell you!

Fist fulls of the packing material like moss went into the Orchid pots as well as that sad lingering staghorn fern that we have back under the giant sea grape tree.

I think it liked it.  It stopped blooming for a while.  Simply paused.  Then it started sending out blossoms like it was going out of style.

All this from a seedling we didn’t expect to survive.  Go fig!

Four and a Half Years Later – M.E. DePalma Park

The South Florida environment that we know, tourists and most locals, is almost entirely artificial.

The green grass that grows as thick as a fine oriental rug under your feet needs fertilizer and constant watering.

The Hibiscus hedges need training and watering.

Palm Trees that grow in long rows down the streets of our cities aren’t from here.  Native Palms don’t tend to be planted locally and are mostly shorter growing.  When the natives grow, it’s because a bird has eaten the seed and dropped it somewhere and it will get pulled from the cultivated garden, just like I did an hour before now.

The point is that it’s also easy to tell when you end up in a natural environment here.  You literally can hear it.  The sounds of life are loud and plentiful.

When the rapacious developers leave some land alone, it’s because forward thinking municipalities have written into their codes that a certain area must be set aside as a preserve or a park. 

Even Natural areas need care here because we’ve made such a mess of things.

When there was a property left over from a developer here in Wilton Manors too small to build anything on it, the City moved to take ownership in part to repair some of the damage done by that developer to native species.  This was to become a vest pocket park devoted to Natives.

I remember sitting at the dedication of the park in February 2010 on a lawn chair in the middle of NE 7th Avenue thinking that this will be beautiful when it grows in.  At that point, it was an open expanse of a few pre-existing slash pine trees and a lot of mulch.

The story of that day is better left to the original tellers at the East Side Neighbor’s Association.

But it was created and cared for by M.E. DePalma, her friends and family, and the City of Wilton Manors.  It slowly grew to become an island of natural beauty.

I have the pleasure of walking past it almost every day.  The singing of birds, flocks of butterflies, and croaking of frogs is a constant companion to anyone who takes the time to walk to the back of that park and sit at the butterfly chair and commune with the place.

Even if you don’t take the time, this is a place where Florida’s wildlife has been allowed to return and it will visit you if you let it.  Just ask the little lizard that lives near the plinth who followed me around that day in September 2014.

But cared for it was.  In fact, I’m shocked just how beautiful the place has become over the years. 

It has become a riot of colors.  Flowers beyond my own knowledge nod their heads in the sun.  Spider webs dance on the breezes.  A chorus of Tree Frogs chip their greetings. 

This is a small reminder of the Florida that once was, and could be again.  In some areas, it has returned because some well educated people have allowed it.  Besides, it takes much less effort to allow Nature to reclaim what belongs than to force endless carpets of St. Augustine Grass to suck up the waters from the aquifers.

I am just fortunate enough to have this near me so that I can visit when I need to.