Family Friday: The Year-Round Christmas Colors of South Florida

On my morning walk with Kumba, our loyal black Lab rescue, I noticed this berry bush that reminded me of Northern climes’ holly. The coral ardesia is pretty but a problem: with no insect predators, it has displaced native plants. See more about berries in Florida in Susan Barnes’ Tallahassee Democrat article “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

South Florida berry bush

Spotting the berry bush, it occurred to me that there are a lot of holiday colorings to our year-round plantings. Here are some examples from our garden this week.

Crown of thorns, impossible to deter
Hibiscus, crown of thorns, and milkweed
Milkweed, foodstuff of Majestics
Caladium, which goes underground in the summer.
Croton, a hardy ornamental bush.
Hibiscus, just splendid. Pinks, too.
Cordyline, tall spikes of leaves.
Paddle plant
Paddle plant, a succulent.
Bleeding heart vine. Such bursts of color on our two arbors!

We have joined the neighborhood in adding even more red and green to our outdoor decor, [Along with the great doormat Levi-the-therapy-dog and Julie and Raul gave to Kumba!]

Christmas decor

This weekend, our community will enjoy all the neighbors’ holiday lights when Santa and his hayride/sleigh come to visit. And we are going to see the Lights 4 Hope display at Okeeheelee Park. Footage to follow!

In the meantime, happy holidays from our red-and-green garden!

Here are other posts about gardening that you may enjoy: Five ways that gardening is good for you; Rebecca Mead’s meditations on gardening; and Monet’s gardens in Giverny.

Family Friday: My Easter Orchids

These orchids bloom once a year. They watched us leave home in 2019 to cross the Atlantic on that fateful cruise and they bloomed again last year as I marked my one-year anniversary of surviving a near-death illness in Amsterdam. As Christians commemorate Jesus’ death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday, I bow my head to the powers that made it possible for me to be here.

My husband brought these bunny-enhanced orchids home as a present on Palm Sunday, the 43rd anniversary of the day we went to a Spanish-speaking Mass in Jackson Heights — even then one of the world’s most diverse neighborhood — followed by an elegant lunch at White Castle. Ah, Queens!

The blooms on this white orchid, with tints of yellow and pink, look like fine linen haute couture Easter frock.

The blooms on this white and yellow orchid look like layers of fine linen.

Five Ways That Gardening is Good for You

One of my winter projects has been planting a little vegetable garden in my side yard. With temperatures that range between a nighttime low of 60 degrees and and a daytime high of 80, South Florida’s fall-to-spring growing season is the inverse of that “up north.” While I’m feeling a little chilly as I write on this unusually cool 50 degree early morning on my screened-in porch, my old home community of Albany in upstate New York is registering a windchill temperature of minus 15.

My garden is tiny: five little cherry tomato plants, a couple of green peppers plants, and parsley, cilantro, and basil. And my husband recently replaced a diseased lime tree with a small Meyer lemon tree, and the dear little thing has already bloomed and begun growing teeny fruits.

In her recent article for the Fremont News Messenger, master gardener Susan La Fountaine lists five ways in which gardening is good for you.

Gardening gets YOU OUTDOORS

Although I get outside quite a bit, all but an hour or so tends to be sedentary. After my daily morning walk with Kumba, our rescue black Lab, I can sit for hours in my favorite writing room, the porch. My new veggie plot gets me out to the side yard every day to water, snip, and admire what nature is doing.

Gardening Increases your Strength and Flexibility

From clearing the old flower bed to enriching the soil, I’ve used different muscles to prepare for and tend my small plot. My husband takes on bigger projects, most recently clearing out a palm tree plot and adding mulch and decorative stone. You can imagine the body work involved in creating this amazing backyard retreat.

Gardening helps you Lose Weight

Researchers have found that carrying mulch bags, pushing a wheelbarrow, hoeing, picking weeds, planting seeds, toting your gardening equipment, moving pots, pushing a mower, and all the other gardening tasks suggest that women can lose 11 pounds and men 16 during the growing season.

Susan La Fountaine

Gardening Adds Fresh Food to Your Diet

There is nothing better than picking a couple of sun-warmed tomatoes and basil for a salad. A handful of parsley adds vitamins A and B and a full daily dose of Vitamin K to just about anything.

Gardening Increases your hope for the future

From planning my little plot on a piece of paper, to planting the seedlings, to nurturing their growth, to popping that first sweet tomato into my mouth, gardening is an act of hope.

The two fruit trees that stand in our side yard are a shining example of this: the mango tree and the avocado tree both began as pits which I coaxed into rooting, planted in small containers as they grew into seedlings, and planted in the ground as the tree emerged. The avocado has produced for three years, and I’ve told the mango I want it to catch up and give us fruit this year.

Gardening improves your physical and mental health

From getting us outdoors, to working our bodies, to improving our mental outlook, gardening is good for us. Wishing my readers in northern climes a cheery planning season and the hope that warmer days are ahead!