Friday, March 30, 2007

Life's A Beach

We fly home later today, so this morning, Romie and I got up early and drove to Holmes Beach. This is probably the first trip we've taken to Florida that we didn't go to the beach in the heat of the day. Romie isn't comfortable doing that anymore, due to his current situation with squamous cell carcinoma, and I no longer have the desire to get burned, sweaty and sandy. So we went early, and we enjoyed a stroll along the water's edge.

The pier was open, so we walked out to the end of it and mingled with the fishermen. Romie saw a stingray flutter by under the surface of the water and a little too close to shore. Several years ago, I almost picked one up. I had looked down and thought it was a sand dollar peeking out of the sand, so I bent over to pick it up and it swam away. I'm grateful for large favors.

We've found lots of shark's teeth on previous visits to this beach. The girls and I used to make a game of it and see who could find the most. Jenna had a good eye for them and so did I. But I didn't find any today.
I did see lots of seaweed washing up as the tide was coming in, and I had the thought that God was doing some weeding and tidying up of the gulf floor.

We got a kick out of the cute little sandpipers moving their legs at hyperspeed to run away from the approaching tide as the waves crashed in. They were a little more skittish than the gulls, who were just looking for a handout.
We stood and watched a couple of gulls who seemed to be engaged in some sort of mating ritual. One would throw his head back and caw and then the other one would do the same, in answer. This went on for several minutes and then...yes, it definitely was a mating ritual.

We were short on time, so we got back in the car and went to our favorite little shops on the island. A couple of them are tacky little souvenir joints, but you just never know when you might find something you can't live without. The other two are at the north end of the island in the little village of Anna Maria. There's a shop that carries tropical design clothing that has large cages outside the front door that have parrots, mynahs, and other talking birds. It's always fun to stand in front of them and carry on a conversation, even if the vocabulary is limited to 'hello' and sexy whistles.

The Sand Dollar is at the opposite end as the birds and it's a unique boutique that carries all kinds of unusual items of home and garden decor, as well as jewelry and clothing. Here, I bought a cast iron cat figure for Kara, as well as one for myself. Kara is taking care of our animals and plants. They gift wrap every purchase and in our case, the paper gave a hint as to the contents of the package. I love this store!

We got back to Two Rivers around 11:00, and we finished packing. I had purchased a lady-slipper orchid at Lowe's and a bougainvillea at Home Depot, so I made sure they were secured in my carry-on. I got a couple of packages of caladium bulbs and a blood lily bulb, too, but I packed those away in my suitcase with the amaryllis bulbs. You know, you just can't plop down a northern gardener in the tropics and expect them to look and not touch!

We should be home by 10:00 tonight. We had a wonderful time here, but there's no place like home.

I (Heart) Lobster

One of the things I wanted to do while in Florida was to eat lobster. I love lobster and if it's in my power to know that I'm about to eat my last meal on earth, I'd want it to be lobster. I've only ever had it a handful of times because it's so pricey, but it has never disappointed me. Until now.

When you only get to have something you really love once every five years or so, it takes on a taste that you either remember being better than it actually was, or it really was just that good and you start salivating at the mere thought of getting to eat it again.

I began salivating sometime last week, when Grandma and I were discussing the details of this trip. She said she was going to buy lunches and dinners, and we could go pretty much anywhere we'd like. I'm a pretty picky eater, so I'm not all that adventurous when it comes to food. Oh, I'll try anything once. I ate cuy (guinea pig) and caldo de pata, a soup made of the inside of cow's hooves while in Ecuador. But I mostly order the same thing every time at my favorite restaurants. Now we were going to Florida, and the first thing that comes to my culinary mind when I think of Florida is seafood. And when I think of seafood, I think of lobster.

Grandma said I could have some. I know - you're thinking I'm just a bit spoiled, aren't you? But of course! It's my GRANDMA! That's what grandparents DO! I'll never forget the time we were eating at my mom and dad's and my dad took Kara to get french fries at McDonald's because she didn't like what Mom had fixed for dinner. I started to protest as they walked out the door, and then I realized that Dad was just doing his job. He never would have done that for me when I was growing up in his house.

We went to Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Ellenton for this lobster I had to have. It was a gorgeous night and we decided to eat out on the patio. I looked at the menu and saw that they not only had lobster, they had two kinds of it. A 1¼-pound whole steamed Maine lobster at market price ($14.95) and baked lobster tail (8 oz. for $22.49) from Florida. What to do? Is there a big difference between Maine lobster and Florida lobster?

I asked our waitress about this. She preferred the Florida lobster. She was a native and had grown up on Florida lobster and had just had her first Maine lobster last week. She didn't care for it. Tasted funny, she said. I asked her if she knew what kind of lobster Red Lobster restaurants served, because I know I like theirs. She didn't know.

At this point, I went into Who Wants To Be a Millionaire mode and tried to use logic in deciding which one to order. I considered that the whole lobster deal would be lots of work getting the meat out of the shell while the tail would be splayed out there for lazy me in all its glory. If our waitress grew up on Florida lobster, then of course she would like that better, but that didn't mean I would. Does the 1½ pounds of whole lobster include the shell? If not, then I'd be better off ordering the Maine because I'd get more bang for Grandma's buck. (I try to be a smart shopper, even when spending someone else's money.) I didn't want to order the wrong thing because I didn't know when I'd get to have it again. Who knew ordering lobster could be so difficult?

But wait, there's more!

I finally decided on the Florida lobster. I'm in Florida, right? And our waitress recommended it. Whew. Glad that part's over. Can you tell I have a problem making decisions?

Aunt Kay ordered Maine lobster and they brought hers first. She took a bite and declared it scrumptious. I started thinking that I should have ordered the Maine. Next came my Florida lobster tail. Ooooooh, it looked so fluffy and tasty. And there was the drawn butter that was going to make it just melt in my mouth with yummy goodness. I took my fork and pierced the meat, then twisted it and pulled it toward me. It wouldn't budge. I tugged and pulled some more, but it just wouldn't let go.

I watched Aunt Kay using her cracker and tiny fork to get her lobster meat out and eat it. I was working way harder than she was and I still hadn't managed to get any of mine in my mouth. Finally, I picked up the knife and cut a piece off, dipped it in the butter, then closed my tongue and teeth around the white morsel. Morsel? MORSEL?? That word is reserved for those treasures that tantalize our tastebuds like...say...chocolate. Lobster should be morsel-like, but mine not only was tougher than shoe leather, but it had absolutely no taste. I think maybe that cow's hoof soup tasted better, but I'm not sure, because the main ingredient in that only stayed in my mouth for about five seconds before I spit it out.

I was sick. Here I'd ordered $22.49 lobster and it wasn't good. I didn't even want to go through the motions of eating it and pretending I liked it. To add insult to injury, Aunt Kay let me have a taste of hers and THERE WAS THE LOBSTER I KNEW AND LOVED. On her plate.

About this time, our waitress came by and asked how I liked my lobster. For half a second, I wasn't sure what to say, but then I wrinkled up my nose and told her it really wasn't very good. We had the best waitress in the world, because she took it and said, "You know, sometimes we get a tough one. You must have gotten Grandpa. I'll take this back and get you a steamed one." I don't even remember her name, but I know I love her.

I loved the lobster, too.

Photo by Kay Mawhorter

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Enthusiastic? Passionate? Addicted? Compulsive? Obsessed?

I was recently accused of being obsessed with gardening/plants/flowers. And the person said this like it was a bad thing. Huh.

It's no secret that I get great enjoyment out of digging in the dirt, pulling weeds, going to garden shows, and looking for new and unusual things to grow in my garden. I love to talk shop with fellow gardeners. I like to see what others are growing and am happy to give tours of my own garden. It's nothing fancy, but it's mine and it keeps me busy doing what I love. I enjoy getting up close and personal with a blossom to study the intricacies of its design. If that's obsession, then hang an "O" around my neck. There are worse things.

But really, when does a hobby become an obsession? There's probably a fine line dividing the two and how do we know when we've crossed over it? I've come up with some key things to ask yourself to help determine if you might have a problem...

1. Do you find it hard to throw away a seed catalog, even when you have no intention of ever ordering from the company? (It's good reference material.)

2. When traveling, do you get out the hotel phone book and look for nurseries and garden centers there might be nearby?

3. Do you just have to have that zone 7 plant even though you live in zone 5 and you delude yourself by thinking you can create a microclimate for its survival? (Oh, and mulch for the winter will help, too.)

4. Can you walk out of places like Walmart without at least browsing through the garden section? (If you can, just skip the rest of the quiz. You're not even close to being addicted.)

5. Do you have a makeshift greenhouse set up in your basement so you can continue to garden throughout the winter, because you know you'll go mad by spring if you don't? (Give yourself extra points if your 'greenhouse' occupies your guest bathroom.)

6. Have you ever eaten a nasturtium?

7. Do you become intoxicated by the smell of mulch?

8. Have you ever mourned the loss of a plant after a brutal winter? (Be honest now.)

9. Do you know what a cotyledon is? And why it's important?

10. Do strangers ask you for advice when you're in the garden center, because they see you every time they are there and think you work there?

11. Do you spend more on plants each summer than you do on food to feed your family? (Or want to?)

12. Do people walk in your house and ask you if you like flowers? (And you say, "I guess so. But I only have 176 house plants." )

13. The names of your cats are Lily, Posey, Rose, Daisy, Fern, Violet, Poppy, and Iris. (Wait ... let's deal with one obsession at a time, shall we?)

14. Do you choose the vehicle you drive by how many plants you can haul in the back of it?

15. Do you Tivo Rebecca's Garden, The Victory Garden, Martha Stewart, Gardener's Diary, World Garden Tour, Secret Gardens Of..., Garden Sense, Grounds For Improvement, Fresh From the Garden, and Weekend Gardening?

16. Did you not even have to take this quiz to know that you are obsessed?

Okay, so you've crossed the line. Never fear; you're not alone. There are plenty of us out there and if the day ever comes that we need to be committed because of our enthusiasm/passion/addiction/compulsion/obsession, you know darn well that our gardens will be the envy of all the 'normal' people out there.

Let them eat cake. We'll be having a heck of a salad. Pass the dressing, please.

Far Away Friends

Kat and I met online about ten years ago, through our mutual interest in vintage Winnie-the-Pooh. I can't remember who contacted whom first - I think it was Kat who e-mailed me - but it didn't take long for us to realize we would become more than mere acquaintances. Over the years, we e-mailed, telephoned, snail-mailed, and visited each other several times. We even spent a couple of our meetings at her parents' home in Arkansas.

It's an interesting friendship that has to be maintained in such a long distance way. But when you have one like we do, it doesn't matter how long it's been since you've seen each other, you just pick right up where you left off.

Kat likes to say we are twin daughters of separate mothers, with me being the older twin by 58 days and some-odd minutes. Heaven help either of our parents had we truly been born into the same family. I have no doubt we could have wreaked some really good havoc together during our growing up years.

I went to Kat's home in Zephyrhills today. I've never been here before. She got married in January and she moved to Timmy's house. It's on a fabulous property that I could have tons of fun landscaping and planting oodles of those tropical wonders they grow down here. Kat says she has a brown thumb (that's one thing we don't have in common), but I doubt if that's true. Gardening just isn't one of her things. She is, however, very artistic and creative. She's even left-handed. Last year for my birthday, she surprised me with this:

We had a wonderful visit in her screened-in porch, where I'd spend all the time I could if I lived there. It was so cozy sitting in the wicker chairs and catching up on things. I watched the video of her wedding and we walked down to the property she owns but will be selling shortly. Again, a fabulous piece of ground. There was a house, but I was drooling over the vegetation.

I spied some more of those in-the-ground amaryllis and once again, I was the lucky recipient of bulbs. I plan to put them in the ground up north for the summer, then pot them all up together in a large pot for winter bloom inside. I can see it already... And when I am enjoying their crimson loveliness, I'll remember the day I visited with my friend.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's Not Just For Senior Citizens Anymore!

Shuffleboard. Have you ever seen an under-55 with a shuffle cue in their hands? It's a rarity, and I can't figure out why that is. Even though it had been more than 25 years since I'd played a game of shuffleboard, I remember how fun it was and jumped at the chance to play again while we are down here.

The rules are pretty simple and it doesn't require a buff physique to play.
You have a cue, which is a long stick with a semi-circle on the end for pushing the discs down the court. The court is 52 feet long and six feet wide. The idea is to 'shove' four weighted discs from one end of the court to the other, into the scoring area. The scoring area is triangular, with five sections for scoring points: 10, 8, 7 and -10. Each player shoves their discs to the other end eight times and scores are tallied. Discs touching a line don't count. The player with the most points wins.

Uncle Bob got the cue sticks out, including one that belonged to my Grandpa. It made me smile when I looked at it and I thought to myself, "My grandpa's fingerprints are probably still on this." He was killed in 1968 in a car accident, the day before my 11th birthday. It was a very sad day in my life, since I spent a great deal of time at my grandma and grandpa's house. He was a very good shuffleboard player and even won some tournaments down here.

We went down to the court, which is just half a block from my aunt and uncle's place and we drew numbers to see who we got to play with. There are some die-hard shufflers here and I'm sure they didn't want to have to play with me. Romie is pretty good at whatever sport he attempts, so no worries there. But it was all just for fun today and we kept individual scores instead of the usual team scoring. Everyone was really nice and helped me relearn the game.

I won't go into all the miserable gutter shots I had, or the ones where I ended up in the kitchen (the -10 area), and most of all I won't tell you about the times I knocked my good-score discs out of the scoring area. I am my own worst enemy, I tell ya. And my last partner's best friend. He had the highest score he's ever had while playing with me. He's a very good player, but I gave him half his points. I couldn't knock myself into scoring position, but I was pretty good at doing that for him. He thanked me very kindly.

The mailman stopped by while we were playing and I think he felt sorry for me, because he whispered in my ear that he'd help me. Okay. I needed all the help I could get. When I started the final game, he stood on the court and formed a 'V' with his feet so my discs would go right into the small triangle that scores 10. When I got three of my discs in that triangle, there wasn't room for any more. No problem. Did you know that you can still score a disc if it's on top of another disc? In the first frame, I had 40 points! They wouldn't let me keep those points, though. Geesh. Even with them, I wouldn't have won.

I ended up with a grand total of -4. But the fun factor was way up there.

Sunset on the Beach

In all the times I've been down here over the years, I've never gone out to Anna Maria Island to watch the sun set. We've talked about doing it several times, but it kept getting put off and when we'd decide that tonight was the night, it would rain or something else came up and it just never happened.

Tonight, we all loaded up in the car and headed west for Holmes Beach out on the island. We ate at Cafe on the Beach, where I had some sort of fried fish and lemonade. It was just okay - heavy on the breading, light on the fish inside it. When you eat on the beach, they don't give you straws for your drinks, because they're especially bad for the birds if they become litter. They also have plastic cording strung across the top of the patio to keep the birds from stealing your food. They aren't foolproof, though, because a couple of years ago, I was eating my fish and a sea gull swooped in and took an entire filet right off my plate!

Photo by Kay Mawhorter

After we finished our meal, we parked our chairs down by the water and
it wasn't too long before the sun presented us with the end of the day in technicolor. We snapped several pictures, but my aunt won the prize for the best capture of it all. The air temperature, even with the slight breeze, was delightful and not chilling at all. We walked a short length of the beach before heading for home.

We took a slight detour about halfway, at SweetBerries. As you might guess, it's a wonderful ice cream shop. Well, not ice cream exactly, but frozen custard. It tastes just like ice cream to me though and my Caramel Crunch Concrete really hit the spot. Romie had some strawberry banana thing like a sundae. It had a clever name, but I can't remember what it was now.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Walk in the Park

Our place of residence for this week is my aunt and uncle's mobile home in Two Rivers Park. It's so named because it sits at the confluence of the Braden and Manatee Rivers. Lovely location, about ten miles east of Anna Maria Island, where we go to the beach. This was not our first trip here together and not my first trip here personally, by a long shot.

My grandparents first started going to Florida in the winters, in the farming off-season, back in the '50s. They liked it here and eventually purchased their mobile home in 1961. I can remember coming down here as a child, with my mom. I specifically recall going to Cypress Gardens one time (1964 - I was six years old) and we took our own girls there about 25 years later. (Actually, I think Jenna was the only one who went there, because that trip, Kara had to stay home for basketball.) I can still remember the beautiful azaleas and the pretty girls in their Southern Belle gowns.

Life in an over-55 mobile home park in Florida is a far cry from the daily grind of going to work and certainly different than the blustery cold weather of the midwest winter, which is why people come here.
They're called 'snowbirds,' these seasonal residents, and I heard a new moniker while we were here this time - 'Q-Tips' (white hair, white tennies). There is a community hall where everyone gathers for breakfast on Saturday mornings and various other activities take place here, too.

Our first night here, there was a luau, and we enjoyed good food and good conversation with the park's residents. There was music and dancing. Not us, though. My grandma and grandpa used to go to square dances all the time, both here and in neighboring Braden Castle.

We bought lottery tickets at the luau and we won a $20 gift certificate to Gecko's Grill & Pub and several coupons for free food at Sonic. M-m-m-m-m-m-m ... Sonic burgers and strawberry Cream Slushes.

We are taking walks around the park and into the Braden Castle community. I especially enjoy walking through Braden Castle, as it's an historical part of town and has the cutest little cottages lining the narrow streets. It just oozes with nostalgia. About 200 little bungalows were built from 1924 to 1929 by the Camping Tourists of America on 40-by-40 foot lots to accommodate tourists. You can still see what's left of the actual Braden Castle, which was constructed in 1850 of tabby, a lime/sand/crushed shells/water mixture, but each time we come, it has deteriorated more. I wonder what they'll do when it's gone. Today, there was jasmine blooming on the fence surrounding the ruins and I lingered a minute, inhaling its sweet scent.

The weather is absolutely perfect. We couldn't have ordered anything better. Sunny blue skies, light gulf breezes, and mid- to high-80s (°F). The warmth of the sun feels so good and to not need a jacket, even at night, is a joy all in itself. I'm sure that there's always something in bloom here in Florida, but the consistently warm temperatures that this time of the year brings down here is undoubtedly a factor in the gorgeous tropical flowers we are seeing as we walk through the park.

The two prominent blooms we're seeing are bougainvillea and hibiscus. Last year when we were here in February, I bought one of each to take home on the plane. You can buy these for a song here! And I don't think I've even seen bougainvillea for sale anywhere in our nurseries. When it got warm enough last summer, I put both of them outside in the garden, sinking the clay pots entirely down into the soil. The hibiscus did great (although it dropped all its leaves about a month after I brought it back in this fall) and was a luscious peachy-pink color. The bougainvillea grew, but has never bloomed. Maybe this summer...

I also noticed a few azaleas and what I think are native amaryllis. They're a very pure orangy-red color and smaller than the Dutch or South African amaryllis. The foliage and plants themselves are the same size, but the blooms are smaller.
Across the street from my aunt and uncle's, Bea is growing an 'Apple Blossom' hybrid. In the ground. Oh, to be able to do that in Ohio! While I do plant my bulbs in the ground for summer, to allow them to grow and gain strength for the next winter's blooms, I have to bring them in before frost or I'll lose them. I'm definitely suffering a bout of zone envy here.

As we walked along and recognized other tropicals that we raise up north as house plants, I'm struck by the fact that these plants do so much better in their native environment.
Some of them I don't hardly recognize, they're so much more lush and large than the ones we have in containers back home. A couple of times, I said to Romie, "We have that one," and he looks at it, puzzled, and says, "Where?" Down here, they are quite remarkable-looking things. Back home, they're a little more ho-hum. I feel like we're raising them in captivity. They live, but not the life they were meant to live.

Last night, I was walking along the street, taking pictures of the amaryllis nearby and a woman called out to me from her porch, "What are you taking pictures of?"
I told her amaryllis and she said, "Oh, you have to see the one on the corner and also the lilies by the vacant house down there." I told her I had just taken a couple pictures of some red amaryllis and was on my way to the ones on the corner, and she wondered where I'd seen red amaryllis. I told her and she said,"Oh, I thought those were lilies! Well, anyway, would you like some?"

Okay, now my ears really perked up and I tried to contain my excitement. "Yes, I absolutely would LOVE to have some!" She grabbed a shovel and we walked down to the house where she dug up four nice-sized bulbs for me. I took them back to the trailer, cut the flowers and put them in water on the kitchen table, and put the bulbs in a plastic bag for transporting back to Ohio.

The surprise gift of these red amaryllis pretty much made my day.

Only God...

...can create perfection in a living thing quite like this...

I saw this Pilea involucrata at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens yesterday. It's sometimes called the Friendship Plant, because it's so easy to propagate. I have an all-green one (P. nummulariifolia) and I can testify to the truth of that. I bought a small hanging pot of it at Lowe's last year and this year I have two pots, as a result of taking cuttings and rooting them.

Join Green Thumb Sunday

*I am one week behind in my blogging, due to my trip to Florida, and I'll be playing catch-up for the next few days.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The first day of our Florida vacation, we journeyed a bit farther south to Sarasota. The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, located on Sarasota Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, is just one of Florida's treasures and though I visited them last year, Romie went golfing that day and I wanted him to see them for himself. Neither of us was disappointed, as they lived up to their reputation of being voted the #1 botanical gardens in the state by Florida Monthly and one of the top ten botanical gardens in the country by Country Living Gardener magazine.

The gardens are the result of Marie Selby's "Passion For Plants" and 180,000 visitors a year are the benefactors. Mrs. Selby led a fascinating life with her husband, William, and because of his fascination with the first cross-country automobile race, she accompanied her husband on a cross-country trip by car and was the first woman to do so.

After entering the visitor's center and having the $12 admission fee waived because we are both members of the American Horticultural Society, we walked into the conservatory, which houses more than 6000 orchids. There had apparently been an orchid show of sorts prior to our arrival, as there were displays of orchid specimens with award ribbons attached to them. The scent upon entering the conservatory was definitely tropical and deliciously ambrosial. The different scents of the various species of orchids created a blend that was intoxicating and indescribable. Romie said to me, "Could you imagine living here and having this to go to in the dead of winter?" No ... really, I couldn't. It was too heavenly.

We spent quite a bit of time in the conservatory, which had trickling waterfalls along one side, that emptied into a small pond. Pennies and other coins had been tossed in. There was a buddha carved into the wall which was covered in green moss. Some of the more valuable orchids were in a glass cabinet of sorts, but the rest were as close as you wanted to get to them.

There were other plants in the conservatory, of course, such as bromeliads, carnivorous plants, and vines of all kinds. But the focus was on orchids. As we were perusing and discussing the incredible detail in some of these, I overheard one woman say to her friend, "So many people come in here and take so many pictures that they don't stop and just enjoy the flowers themselves." I wanted to tell her that some people do both. We were not in a hurry and we spent enough time in there and in the rest of the gardens that we took in the sights and the smells in great detail. The photos I was taking were so that I could enjoy the visit again, once I returned home to Ohio. And when I see these pictures, I have excellent peripheral vision. In my mind's eye, I can remember what it was like when I was standing there and can see beyond the borders of the photo.

It was a beautiful sunny day today, with temperatures in the mid-80s (°F) and a slight breeze coming off the Gulf of Mexico to our west.
We spent considerable time strolling through the outside gardens, which included a fragrance garden, a butterfly garden, a banyan grove, a bamboo garden, a cactus and succulent garden, a Koi pond, and a boardwalk through the mangroves. Somehow we managed to miss Wild Things, which was a small building housing poison dart frogs. I guess we'll just have to make a return visit to see them!

There are two residence buildings on the property. The mansion where William and Marie Selby lived, and the Christy Payne mansion. You can enter both of them, and see examples of southern architecture.
They house art displays and today, we saw the Rainforest Masks, carved by the Borucan Indians of Costa Rica. The art of three-dimensional mask carving, which is done in balsa or cedar, began before the Spanish Conquest (1524 A.D.) and is one of the few indigenous crafts still being practiced. The detail in these carved masks was incredible! All were available for purchase, with a large one, measuring approximately 7" by 24", selling for about $725.

Marie Selby Gardens maintains a weather station, which is part of the Global Canopy Program. "The Selby Gardens weather monitoring station logs local weather adjacent to Sarasota Bay. Data from ground and canopy levels include temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind direction and wind speed, solar radiation, soil moisture, and precipitation."¹ Growing conditions at the top of the forest canopy can vary widely from those on the forest floor and scientists at the gardens document those conditions and study the data.

There are two customer shops on the premises, The Rainforest Store/Garden Shop, which sells a large number of gardening books, garden decor, and many, many orchids.
Banyan Treasures is a more traditional gift shop with fine art, home decor, ceramic pottery, Venetian glass, and unusual jewelry pieces. I somehow managed to make purchases at both stores, and enjoyed a 10% discount, again, courtesy of my AHS membership.

It's impossible for me to recount every beautiful flower blossom, every wonderful view of the harbor, and each charming vignette that we encountered today while leisurely walking down the paths criss-crossing the 9.5 acres, but I hope some of my pictures will give you an idea of the beauty at 811 South Palm Avenue in Sarasota.

* Just click on any picture to view it full-sized.

Note the bromeliads and orchids growing in this tree behind the Christy Payne mansion.

Bee gathering nectar from white alyssum

Arbor in the Butterfly Garden

Buddha and the Bromeliad

Unknown orchid I

Pitcher Plant

The little anoles were everywhere!

Roots of a banyan tree

Can someone ID this beauty?

Blooms on a tapeworm plant

Great white egret in the backwater

Cedar masks

"Two Teeth" carved in cedar

Detail of carved mask

Unknown orchid II

Sarasota Bay View

Unknown orchid III

Unknown orchid IV

One of many different colored tropical hibiscus in bloom

The Fragrance Garden

Unknown orchid V

Pothos as a ground cover

I'm not familiar with this one...

¹Selby Weather Station

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