Field Trip: Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve


Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

There was a time, not too long ago, when this part of South Florida — east of the Everglades and west of the Coast — was nothing but white sand, scrub vegetation, saw palmettos, and sand pines. Development and expansion, with all of its blacktop and gated communities and non-native plants, soon overran the place.

Fortunately, the city of Oakland Park thought to preserve this slice of Florida’s natural history with the Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve, a pristine 5.6-acre site nestled between two lakes. This location, in addition to the abundance of native plants, means the park is home to countless birds, anole lizards, and even gopher tortoises, an endangered species.  It’s also a place where the community can come together — volunteers are responsible for the preserve’s upkeep.

I arrived at the preserve after a brief morning shower. As I stepped from my car, I was struck by the silence and solitude in a place that is literally just down the street and over the fence from the trappings of the modern world.

Clouds

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

I began my self-guided tour on the paved walkway and found myself lost in my thoughts. At first, I thought of “Gilligan’s Island” and “Lost” — and then I became aware of the subtle sounds. Below, anoles scurried under the brush, a bouncing leaf the only hint that I had disturbed them from their resting place. Above, birds — blue jays, I think — squawked across the sky, warning one another that an intruder had arrived.

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana.

American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana.

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

By now, the paved walkway gave way to a white sand path that looked as if it had been dusted with snow — and my imaginings of television shows were left behind. Instead, I began to think of the early native Americans and European explorers who wandered through this landscape and carved out an existence without mosquito repellent or air conditioning.

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

The deeper I walked, the more I noticed — particularly the beauty of mosses and lichens and decay.

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

Lakeside Sand Pine Preserve

A bromeliad, an air plant, has a home in the branches of a decaying tree.

A bromeliad, an air plant, has a home in the branches of a decaying tree.

All too soon, the path brought me closer to the fence along the preserve’s border. Just on the other side of the lake, I could see houses and I could hear the faintest sound of traffic. I so badly wanted the path to bring me back into Florida’s past.

The view from the fence.

The view from the fence.

A cactus bloom on the way to the parking lot.

A cactus bloom on the way to the parking lot.

It was time to return home, though, back to the 21st-century world — but how comforting to know that the past is but a short drive away.

Confessions Of A Binge Gardener


Hibiscus

Hibiscus.

Summertime in South Florida, I’m told, is not the best time to plant or to garden. Locals often cite the high heat and high humidity — which leads to an abundance of pests and mildews.

So while gardens — and gardeners — in this hot area cool off, I’ve spent the time researching plants, dreaming up garden plans, and binge-watching television series. “Breaking Bad.” Done. “Orange Is The New Black.” Check.  “Downton Abbey.” Finito.

Everything was moving along nicely until “Downton” introduced a gardener into Violet Crawley’s world, and I found myself hoping for a larger storyline for the young fellow or — even better — a spin-off. “Downton Gardens,” perhaps?

Nevertheless, as I pondered the idea of beginning a gardening program for the inmates on “Orange,” it occurred to me that I had had my fill of fictional gardens. I missed real gardening. There was a burning inside of me — as feverish as those felt by any of Walter White’s meth heads — to dig in the dirt, plant seeds, and root clippings.

So the other day, I caved in to my cravings and embarked on a binge of my very own. A garden binge, if you will.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus.

I had been eyeing this hibiscus in the neighbor’s yard, blooming in the gap between our two houses. Each day, I’d walk by and that flower would wink its stamen at me.  And since I’ve been looking for a Florida plant to take the place of hydrangeas, I wondered if I could root hibiscus the same way I was able to root my favorite shrub in my northern garden.

Out came the clippers, some cell packs, a shovel, and the rooting hormone. I did my best to clip non-bud branches, and then removed the lower leaves. The clippings were immediately placed in water to keep the stems moist.

Rooting

I had also prepared the cell packs with basic garden soil and made holes in the center of each. After dipping the stems in rooting hormone, I slipped them into the pre-made holes, careful to not loosen the powdery rooting hormone. This was followed with a gentle watering, and then the small plants were placed out of direct sunlight.

Once started, though, I couldn’t get enough. I had merely had a sip of gardening and I was still achingly thirsty.

Croton

Croton

From the corner of my eye, I spotted the neighbor’s croton, a shrub with brightly colored foliage. There are many varieties of the plant, but I’m always drawn to the thin, slightly-curled leaf kind, each branch sharing green and red mottled leaves.

I again used the same rooting technique, planting up four small cuttings.

Not quite sated, I thought to myself, “If only I could dig up an actual plant, an off-shoot from a mother plant.” I crouched and crawled across the ground, lifting branches and looking beneath, sending small anoles scurrying.

Chinese Fan Palm

Eventually, I found two small Chinese fan palms (Livistona chinensis) that had sprouted from seeds at the base of the mother tree. In time, this palm, with tiny hooks along the stems of the fronds, will reach up to 50’.  Because of its slow growing habit, however, it’s often used as an understory planting.

I found the jackpot at the base of a Sunshine palm (Veitchia montgomeryana). There, seven smaller palms — resembling tall blades of grass — had sprouted. I carefully pried each one up and gave them a pot of their own.

Sunshine Palm.

Sunshine Palm.

By the end of the day, my hands and fingernails caked with dirt, my clothes and forehead soaked with sweat, I took a look at all I had done to satisfy my gardening hunger.  I had quite the tally: eight hibiscus, four crotons, two Chinese fan palms, and seven Sunshine palms.

At this point, I’m not sure if any of my treasures will survive — and if they do, I’m not sure if I’ll actually use them in the landscape or give them away. I don’t think I’d sell them, though.  I’m not a plant pusher.  I’m a binger.

A Box To Build A Dream On


Birdhouse

A box arrived in the mail the other day — and this is the story of that box and all that it holds.

On Monday nights, I participate in a Twitter conversation called Garden Chat — a very large, hour-long cyber get-together with gardeners from all over. Usually someone hosts the chat, which means that person organizes a theme and related gardening questions. Those questions are tweeted and answered, and those answers are read and retweeted and favorited by all of the participants.

At the same time, there are smaller side conversations — sharing new flower and harvest photos, tweeting tips and words of encouragement, and, of course, laughing.

It’s not unusual for there to be a giveaway during these chats — simply leave a comment attached to the giveaway tweet and you’re entered.  At the end of the chat, a winner is randomly selected and announced.

Continue reading

When Doves Fly


Dove

Exhibit A.

I have a long history with birds — and even though my head has been a target for wings and talons, I still love having them in the yard. Despite the amount of documentation about their intelligence (check out this fascinating documentary on crows), it’s still safe to say that birds can be — well — bird-brained.

Continue reading

Bloomin’ Update 52: Cactus Up Close & Personal


Cactus

As a general garden rule, I do not like — and so steer away from — plants that can hurt me.  Roses are about as close as I get to this thorny issue, which has less to do with the plant and more to do with me.  I know me.  I know that I can be careless and klutzy — and that combination, along with some blood thinners, means I can easily become a human pin cushion.

A few years ago, Joe and I asked a neighbor if he would like our cactus.  It was tall, only one stalk, and never really did anything.  It was just there, slightly askew — a leaning tower of needles, so to speak.

The neighbor gladly accepted the offer, digging up the cactus and replanting it along the property line between him and us — far enough and close enough at the same time.   Since then, that single stalk has expanded to about seven towering stems — and it’s now in bloom, giving a whole new definition to vertical gardening.

Look quickly, though, the flowers — which bees love — only last a day.

Continue reading

All These Crabs Are Making Me Itch


Land Crab Hole

I’m about to say something — words that I never thought would come from my mouth. Ever. It’s the stuff of whispered gossip and scribbled comments on bathroom walls.

I . . . have . . . crabs. Or rather, my lawn does.

Joe first told me about our crab infestation months ago, but I didn’t — wouldn’t — couldn’t — believe him. Sure, our lawn might not be the neatest in the neighborhood and sometimes a little overgrown, but land crabs? I’m not one to talk about the neighbors, but there are some pretty nasty lawns out there –and they’re all crab-free!

Continue reading

Wordless Wednesday: Toilet Brush


Toilet brush.

Toilet brush.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,350 other followers

%d bloggers like this: