Monday, January 19, 2009

Florida Flora and Fauna

Well here I am in Florida but with no equipment to edit photos... so I will have to paint a picture with my words. Enjoy, especially if you are any of my friends stuck in the arctic cold and snow of the Northeast.

For the past three winters I have come to Florida to visit my boyfriend who has the wherewithal and inclination to escape the worst of the Northeast winters for a couple of months. He returns in March to set up grow lights throughout our house to nurse along his many seedlings. They are the stopgap till the gardening season truly arrives in May. While Florida does not top the list of my dream vacation spots, it does have something to offer a winter weary soul.

Anytime I go someplace new I like to get acclimated by walking. I like to look at people's homes, greet the other walkers, see how they dress, decipher their dialect, look for birds and scope out local gardens. Here are a few vignettes from my walks for your delectation:
  • The first day I discovered the Charlotte County Library- lovely on many levels. It has a large interior courtyard with reading benches. They are shaded by towering palms and bamboo. Such a nice reading hideaway in such a large library. I have been back several times and am impressed with the usership of the library... it is packed! Like most buildings here it some shade of dirt color (sand, terracotta). The front of this building has the most stunning trees... I think. Some sort of Palm with glaucous limey green swords at the top of fibrous trunks. They are grouped in a line of 4, which I normally wouldn't approve of, but they make such imposing sentinels for the entrance.
  • We stopped at History Garden in Punta Gorda yesterday. There are a couple of historical buildings- small cottages really. One was the original Post Office from the 1880's and the other was a home for a cigar factory workers from around 1905. Homesteading didn't occur until the 1880's and it all but came to a halt by the Great Depression. Walt Disney opened his resort in 1971- a time when it was still considered a scam to buy or sell land in Florida. Those were big boom years, so the landscape and architecture are defined by these last 4 decades. And even then many communities were destroyed and redefined by hurricanes. So many towns lack town centers, as I recognize them, and are commercial strips with endless big box stores. But tucked in between these big boxes are smaller strip malls filled with the sort of independent stores that my fair city of Concord, NH can only dream of.... ethnic food stores devoted to spices, a German butcher who makes his own sausage, liverwurst (mmmmm, my favorite!) & smoked roast beef, a very unprepossessing woman at a wine shop who put just about any wine expert I have met or read to shame. I told her what I liked and she recommended a bottle that was PERFECT! There is a bait shop non pareil- well, I'll take the boyfriend's word for it because I don't fish... and the list goes on.
  • The homes are funny here-all packed close together and painted shades of dirt or mother-in-law bridal dress colors. They don't seem to value having a large plot. That might also be because just about everything needs to be brought above sea level & the flood factor with back fill. Canals run everywhere to deal with any excess of moisture. I am sure this makes building expensive. Also- everything seems to be built in the last 20 years. I am not sure what my objection is here..... maybe lacking continuity? Perhaps because the houses seem to take their architectural cues from the big box stores because they lack their own vernacular?
  • The landscaping makes me laugh. I have to remember that the average age here is probably 60 and that many residents have transplanted (pardon the pun) their gardening ideas to this new environment. They still use god awful orange mulch around plantings here! They also insist on foundation plantings which were to cover up ugly foundations- of which they have none. But there is also a surfeit of white rock tutus for trees- the Southeastern analogy to the hosta tutus of the Northeast. What is it about people that they insist on encircling everything? Maybe this is where crop circles originated? But I love the monumental aloes/yuccas and the exotic coloring of the crotons and bougainvilleas. I don't think there is enough stuff for me to fuss over but maybe I could love a garden here. Especially the Spanish Moss- like ever so much tatty linen on a clothesline blowing in the wind.
  • The birds just slay me here. There are Osprey galore because we are located so close to the ocean. The Great Herons are as plentiful as lawn ornaments. They have also learned to overcome their shyness as long as a fisherman's bait bucket is near. I came within 4 feet of one. They have a fearsome gaze and much more subtle coloring than you might expect. I am at a bit of a disadvantage as I forgot my bird book, so a bluish bittern creature remains unnamed. I think I have seen a Bald Eagle.... but I know I have heard and seen many wintering Cardinals.

Well, this is a rather long post, and chockful of stuff. I'll save the rest for another day.


JAF said...

Just reading this made me feel a little warmer. I can't wait until you post some photos (if you can)...everything is described in such a delicious way, it will be interesting to compare the imagination to the real thing...

LYC said...

Glad you're soaking up the sun a bit for all of'll need it when you get back! On a good note: the days are certainly getting longer and the sun is getting stronger too...there's still hope.