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Monday, January 31, 2005

Botanical Gardens 

Wherever I've lived (and that hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of places truth be told) I've always been lucky enough to live within reasonable driving distance of beautiful botanical gardens. I grew up in Maryland and on many occasions visited Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. My husband and I along with our friends would drive about 2 hours to arrive at Longwood at opening time. We would then amble through the acres and acres of gardens oohing and aahing along the way. The greenhouse alone was one of the most gorgeous sights we'd ever seen - constantly changing for seasons and holidays. Ladew Topiary Gardens was another treat within an hour's drive. Henry Ladew created beautiful gardens on 15 of his 22 acres. The topiaries by themselves were well worth the visit.

Now that we're in Florida we've learned that there are many great places in fairly close proximity. The most easily accessible is Sunken Gardens. Located in St. Petersburg, this six acre landscape is over 100 years old. It originally belonged to the Turner family and was purchased by the City of St. Pete in 1995 to preserve the beauty for everyone to see. Just over the Skyway Bridge is the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, named after the original owner who donated the grounds to Sarasota. I haven't visited either of these gardens yet but they are on my "to do" list.

Here's the one I really, really want to visit - the Thomas Alva Edison winter estate in Fort Myers. Edison was not only an inventor but a botanist who looked to plants to help solve problems. For instance, did you know that Edison used bamboo fibers in his early light bulb filaments? Or that he used Spanish moss as stuffing for car seats? I sure didn't. There's lots more to be learned and even more impressive, Henry Ford purchased the neighboring property so not only the 14 acres of the Edison estate but also the 3.5 acre Ford estate are readily available for all to see. Edison's estate was donated to Fort Myers in 1947 and the Ford estate did the same in 1988. I have been in Fort Myers but have not yet had the opportunity to visit the Edison and Ford estates. But I promise this. My plan is to take a day off and rook my husband into driving down with me. It's only about 2 1/2 hours from here and a fairly easy drive. If that doesn't work, then plan B is to grab my sister, you know her better as Part Time FLA person, on one of her next visits and talk her into driving down to Fort Myers with me to enjoy these gorgeous gardens. Of course, these gardens are just the tip of the Florida iceberg. I'm sure there are many, many more to learn about. Happy Gardening and look for a botanical garden near you. You'll be very glad you did.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

It's official - it's a zen thing 

I've been under the weather the last few days with the creeping crud. Just walking across the living room floor has felt like running a 10 mile marathon so I have limited my activities to vegging out in front of the tv. Yesterday with tea, tissues and cough drops at the ready I draped myself over the sofa and turned on HGTV, one of my favorite stations.

A new show came on, Rock Gardens, hosted by Michelle Phillips. For those of you who don't remember, she was one of the mamas from The Mamas and the Papas. Michelle started talking about some "rockers" like the guy from Hootie and the Blowfish, Grace Slick from Jefferson Starship, and Micky Dolenz from The Monkees. The first guest was John Oates from Hall and Oates. He and his wife have a big spread up in Colorado and love to work in the gardens. John talked about how he enjoys mowing the lawn and then the words came out of his mouth. "I like mowing," he said. "It's kind of a zen thing." Wow! I couldn't believe my ears. I thought I was the only one who enjoyed mowing the lawn, but now I know. Of course he has 5 acres and uses a John Deere tractor to cut, but there's still some overall similarities. It's relaxing, it's a job that you can see the results of pretty quickly, and it's a back to nature kind of thing. I love it and now I know I'm not the only one. So, it's now official - it's a zen thing. Happy Gardening.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Earthly Goods rocks! 

About a week ago I was contacted by Stephen Brown, owner of Earthly Goods, requesting a link to his site. I visited his website and was so impressed by his product selection that I featured his company on my Plant Resources page. I am now the happy owner of a ceramic tree frog - one of his company's newest additions and I have to tell you that I'm even more impressed.

The picture on the website doesn't do it justice. My tree frog is brown and speckled with blue and gold. The ceramic work is exceptional and the speckles are somewhat translucent against the brown changing intensity with the light. The frog is also much larger than I anticipated. Even though the description mentioned a 6 inch size, it sure seemed larger when I took it out of the box. My husband and I really like the little frog and will probably put it in the new patio area in the backyard. In the meantime, I'm going to have to go back and see what other little goodies I can find. Thanks, Stephen, for telling me about your site so I could share it with everyone. Happy Gardening and be sure to visit Earthly Goods - tell 'em I sent you.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Plant a row 

Have you heard of "Plant a Row"? Well, I had not until I saw Andrew Stenning's article. Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) started in Anchorage, Alaska when Jeff Lowenfels, a garden columnist, asked folks to plant a row of vegetables for the local soup kitchen, Beans Cafe. In five years, a total of one million pounds of veggies had been grown and since that time one million pounds of food is now grown each year. The Garden Writers Foundation now administers the PAR program. The purpose of PAR is "to create and sustain a grassroots program whereby garden writers utilize their media position with local newspapers, magazines and radio/TV programs to encourage their readers/listeners to donate their surplus garden produce to local food banks, soup kitchens and service organizations to help feed America’s hungry." When you visit the GWA site, you can make a donation or even start your own PAR campaign. There's also lots of other worthwhile information listed. So when your seed catalogs arrive, think about planting one more row. Happy Gardening.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Florida Gardening masthead updated 

As promised a few weeks ago, my Florida Gardening masthead has been revised. A big thank you to Andrew Stenning for his fabulous photograph, and kudos to my husband for his redesign assistance. Go visit Andrew's site when you get the opportunity as well as Harlan's. I think you'll enjoy both of them. Happy Gardening.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Thanks to Andrew Stenning who contributed the photograph for our masthead

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