FNGLA Royal Palm Chapter

Honoring Helen Hendry

She was a plant pioneer. The first woman landscape architect in Florida (license #3), the first female president of the Royal Palm Chapter of FNGA (1965-1966), grower, landscaper, designer with the largest palm growing nursery in Florida (Everglades Nursery) and namesake to one of the most popular blooming vines in the world: ‘Helen Johnson’ bougainvillea.

Helen Johnson Hendry’s  life and accomplishments were on display at the Edison Ford Winter Estates last night as friends and family gathered to honor our home town historic hero. The highlight of the evening was watching a movie of an interview of Helen Hendry, recorded five years ago.

bad landscape

Crowded Confederates and Faux-meliads

Here we have a couple of peculiar landscape treatments that caught my eye.

Confederate Jasmine is an excellent landscape plant and the variegated version grows a little slower than the green…but it is still a vine that will naturally grow ten to twelve feet high and wide. This landscaper decided to plant ten plants where one would grow too large.

Variegated Confederate Jasmine.

Next, these neon yellow props-from-“Avatar” made me slow down. They are so uniformly unnatural, yet they match the silk plants in the neighboring pots. I understand the goal of property managers to cut costs and lower maintenance but I’m not sure that glowing, plastic vegetation suggests luxury.

Pretty plastic “plants”.
florida gardening flowers Gardening

Do I Have to Get My Hands Dirty?

“Here. It’s a rock.”DSCN8468

My wife held out her hands with hesitation. “Um…thanks?” She wondered what was the big deal with this dirty piece of limestone.

“Look closer” I encouraged her. When she examined the rock she found a crack along its circumference. Then she separated the two halves and discovered the crystals inside.

“Wow, it’s beautiful!” She complimented this hefty geode from Morocco.DSCN8469

If she had not looked closer and explored, it would remain just another rock.

Gardening is like that. If it is only pulling weeds and planting seeds, the average person might respond “No thanks, I’d rather watch TV.”

But if people look closer at all the pleasures of nature, they might want to get their hands dirty. Pleasures like:

  • Discovery. Cutting a vegetable in half should be a cause to pause. No one in the world has ever seen the inside of this bell pepper or this melon, until now.
    tomatoes sliced
    Marvel Stripe and Opalka Tomatoes

    And, what a treat it is to find a new-born Monarch butterfly drying its wings, next to it’s cracked chrysalis shell. How many bird’s nests do you have on your property?

  • butterflies emerge (1)
  • Sensory stimulation. Herbs are the original scratch-and-sniff plants. Smash the leaves of spearmint or peppermint or cardamom ginger for a scent thrill. The full flavor of garlic comes from home-grown bulbs: pungent and not bitter, almost sweet.
  • Fun. It might take two months from seed, but sunflowers always cause a smile, especially when you give them to a friend. You can’t buy, but you can grow your own yellow, seedless watermelon. Have you ever grown the Eyeball plant?
  • Nostalgia. What flowers or vegetables did your grandmother grow? Bring back an era gone by growing sweet peas, gladiolus, zinnias and morning glories.morning glor (2)
  • Self-improvement. You burn more calories gardening than walking. And then you have something to show for your efforts. Home grown vegetables do not contain any mysterious pesticides and are at their peak of antioxidants and vitamins.
  • Solace. Remember the movie “Avatar”? The essence of this science-fictitious blue race was their intimate relationship with insects, animals and plants. That message touched something deep in the souls of busy city-dwellers who long for more than busyness. Spending quiet time surrounded by plants reconnects us to nature.
  • Snob Appeal, AKA Bragging Rights. “Check this out.” Is usually accompanied by a sweeping hand gesture toward a new car or tool or appliance. But how about a rare plant? Everybody in this neighborhood has the same trees and shrubs, but not you! How about a dramatic bed of ‘Rose Wine’ Neoregelias? Forget about regular bougainvilleas, the ‘Surprise’ bougie has pink AND white blooms on the same vine!boug surprise 1.jpg

Gardening has so much to offer people.  The price of admission is perspiration and the rewards far exceed the cost. Just look closer.

florida gardening flowers Gardening God and Gardening

God and Gardening

3VEGTBLSWhat is it that draws us outdoors? What is it that stirs us deeply when we breathe in fresh air? Answer: When we are surrounded by plants, we are reconnected.

Whether you consider the Bible fact or fable, it describes our intimate connection with nature. When God created the universe and the sun, moon, earth, waters and stocked it with fish, He did it by “speaking” them into existence. “The land produced vegetation…and God saw that it was good.”3STOCK

But when it came to the climax of creating, God knelt down in the dirt and made mankind by hand. Mud pies came before Moses. “In the image of God he created them…” Soon, the Master Gardener handed the deed over to Adam and Eve “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth…”

But, there was only one plant in this idyllic landscape that was off limits. “For when you eat from it you will surely die.” We have such a caveat today in every nursery and garden center: The area marked PUFADDER“Employees Only” or the most tempting siren: “Not For Sale”. We can blame the snake but Adam and Eve bet their lives that this fruit was to die for.

If I were God and the only two creatures made in my image broke my one-and-only rule, I think I would just squish them and start over. But, no such drama. Their punishment? Get out. And as a reminder of their trespass, God gave us “thorns and thistles”. Weeds are a result of The Curse.

I believe that is what pulls us out to the fields, the woods, the garden, the golf course, the beach, and the mountains. It is our deep desire to return to the garden, to reconnect to a perfect place.

Scientists tell us there is a part of the brain that releases feel-good hormones when we simply smell organic soil. We are drawn to the dirt because we came from it.

And so many emotions are triggered by the scents of a sweet rose, gardenias,
fresh-cut grass, oak-stoked campfire, burning leaves, lavender, savory geraniums, and musty marigolds.

“…trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.”

Why does our mouth water over the sight of a lemon or long for the full flavor of a morning dew-cooled cantaloupe?3MELON1

Gardening is sensuous. Rich soil feels rich. The smooth-peeling bark of the Gumbo Limbo tree draws our hand like wet paint. Slightly furry leaves of the African violet must be gently caressed.

The wind makes no sound until it weaves between branches and then it clicks, clacks and hisses through a grove of bamboo.  Then there are birds attracted to fruit and seeds and branches for cover. Their songs complete the symphony of the garden.SONGBRDS

Every color of the rainbow is found in the garden: Saffron yellow stamens come from the crocus that match the sulfur yellow of the sunflower. Deep blue Delphiniums mirror the midnight hue of Blueberry Waffle coleus. Pure pink roses subdue the scarlet splatter of geraniums. Cool gray-green algae looks at home on the smooth trunk of the Royal Palm. Pure white iris are the first to be seen at dawn and the last to fade at dusk. We are stirred and soothed by nature’s colors, by design.

To the gardeners out there: That’s why you get satisfaction and such a thrill by digging holes, arranging, watering, and caring for your plants. You are participating in creation.20160525_112426