In the upside-down world of Florida’s climate, winter is the time to be outside – and celebrate the art of gardening.
We asked a range of artists to share a favorite place or plant or natural moment – and as ever, received a beautiful bloom of responses.
. . .
If you’ve got some favorite greenery to share,
you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
and we’ll keep updating this feature.
. . .
With Ukraine on our minds, I wanted to share with you my humble garden tribute last spring. With full confidence I planted a whole package of dwarf sunflower seeds on a mound in our front yard – which yielded only this one valiant and surprisingly resilient bloom on a very tough stalk.
After adding the border of Ukrainian flags, there were a few nods from neighbors in our reserved suburb north of Chicago, but also some powerful conversations with friends who had fled Russia in the mid ’80s. The couple shared memories of growing up in Kharkiv, “once a very beautiful city.”
. . ..
My very favorite bloom is Siam Tulip (Botanical Name – Curcuma alismatifolia). It lives in a pot on my patio.
When in bloom, I just marvel at the beauty, colors, and complexity of flowers nestled in flowers.
. . .
When I was a mere boy, I saw the film My Fair Lady and became obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. After that, I had to see her in everything.
One of my favorite shows on PBS was Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn. While I have no luck growing and maintaining flowers, I love to look at them. I take frequent trips to Sunken Gardens, Bok Tower Gardens and the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. A few years ago, George and I went to Victoria, BC to see the incredible Butchart Gardens. I can’t recommend it enough.
I try to make time for flowers on all my travels for work and play. The pic here is from a trip to Highlands NC where Scott and Patti performed in 2019.
. . .
Growing up in the South, you knew it was spring when gardenias began to bloom. The sweet fragrance filled the air. Ladies would gather a few to place inside on a table or a bedroom dresser.
My Dunedin backyard had a gardenia bloom fest in March 2022 so I hope for the same this year. I love the scent.
. . .
Here’s picture from my back porch where I often sit looking at Tampa’s Flatwoods Park that butts up to my townhome development.
While I live in a development where all the landscape is common property maintained by a lawn service, it connects to Flatwoods Park – where it becomes my backyard.
I frequent its boardwalks over flooded wetlands leading to trails upturned by rooting wild boars midst plentiful seasonal flowers, plus other flora and fauna like clumps of moss, splotches of multicolored lichen, armadillos, rabbits, snakes, moths…
But more often I simply sit gazing endlessly into the park from my back porch. All that greenery swaying in windy days – especially dramatic during a hurricane.
This one time, a deer grazing looked back.
Tony Wong Palms
There’s not a garden that I frequent but I do stroll through St. Pete’s Roser Park occasionally and love basking in the sunlight like a little lizard on a log.
One of my favorite things is to feel small, and that’s exactly what happens when I’m under the royal palms found throughout the winding park. For a time, I get to feel like a kid again and I wander around like some stray cat.
Some time ago, I wrote a poem dedicated to the royal palms which I thought looked like giant’s legs. I imagined a neighborhood giant that lives in the park, safeguarding lost (or stolen?) books, feeding the turtles – and painting her humongous toes some sort of green or blue.
The Giant of Roser Park
A giant lives in Roser Park.
Her legs are royal palms, stories high
wide, hairy, forgotten columns.
She doesn’t do much
she stands around
scratches her butt
she watches things that flutter
birds, leaves, butterflies
cars jostling by
on the cobblestone alleys.
She listens to people,
hears allllll the sticky gossip
but won’t share any of it–unless
you’ve got just the right book
to get her talkin’.
She’s a voracious reader
borrowing books from the Little Free Library
sometimes she forgets to give them back
and you’ll find a few in her beanie bag pockets.
Though, the words in our books are pretty tiny
so she keeps reading glasses
somewhere in her canopy of hair.
Around her neck she’s got a lichen locket,
though, she forgot where she got it,
she has strong arms like giant mossy bars
and a grip that can rip a bush from its roots like a daisy
and toenails and fingernails always painted
some shade of blue or green. She’s a simple lady,
she likes company,
moving or not moving, reptile or mammal,
she can’t stand shoes, so she reclines in sandals.
She’s been known to flirt with trees and anything green on the planet
she flirts with a Live Oak named Tommy and a pine called Janet.
Do they listen? I don’t know. I wish I could say.
When I visit, I read her poetry and show her atlases,
we gasp at faraway lands, animals, peoples with strange practices.
I show her my chameleon named Time,
we snack on water, on mangoes we dine
she never says too much, we’re a simple crowd
though in a storm she does get quite loud.
She likes it when I read to her
she rocks her feet, or lies on her back, relaxed
and hums with the breeze.
. . .
Last week our daughter turned 2 years old. Where does the time go?
Our farm leader Juan reminded us that on the night our daughter was born, he was at the farm lighting greenhouse heaters for a freeze. It was the last freezing weather of that season.
As farmers, we mark the moment with seasonal reminders. The tulips blooming will forever mark the birth of our daughter.
For days after her birth, in the dead of winter, we spent many hours quietly bundled under the sun in a tomato greenhouse. We closed up the sides to the wind and cold, allowing the air to warm, where we could soak in the vitamin D through the shadow of towering tomato plants.
This year, she is running through that same greenhouse, again planted with tomatoes. She’s harvesting the ripest, pinkest fruits to devour.
And so the seasons go on, and much of it feels the same. Still picking tomatoes, still lighting greenhouses when it’s freezing. Last week, we wrote about false spring, a seasonal marker that comes back year after year and always brings us back to a particular moment and feeling.
We experience the crops this way, too. Savoring them most when they are ripe and ready. The lettuce and greens in false spring, the frost-sweetened carrots of winter, the tomatoes bursting with warmth from the field in May.
Each moment of every season is an opportunity for something new – abundance, lack, triumph, possibility, dreaming, hoping, recovering, tending, reaping, and sowing again.
So we invite you to experience this seasonal moment with us – tulips blooming, greens glowing, warm air blowing, a nip in the breeze, days lengthening as we barrel on towards springtime.
Ellen and Cole
Little Pond Farm
. . .
My favorite is the Bok Tower Gardens.
. . .. . .
. . .
. . .
I love this tree in St. Pete’s Abercrombie Park! It is a favorite of mine because it has been allowed to flourish and grow freely in this protected space. Its branches twist and turn reaching upward as well as gracefully touching the Earth.
That sense of freedom and resulting splendor reminds me that as humans, we too can grow to our full potential if we are supported and protected in life. It reminds me to always see the possibility and potential in everyone and that I can help provide a supportive and safe space to encourage and protect their unique emerging beauty.
. . .
This is a tree branch that I adore by my studio.
The tree is next to a flood control creek/channel that makes a real scar on the land.
I made a “zen style” work on paper inspired by this unexpected element of nature.
. . .
. . .
I’m a fan of glass gardens.
No, that’s not a typo. I do mean glass not grass.
The first time I saw a garden where glass was growing (and, come to think of it, glowing) was at the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. Petersburg where glass installations by Dale Chihuly were set up throughout the museum, including the ceiling and the gardens.
That exhibit was so popular Chihuly created a permanent museum for his work here, now in the Morean’s expanded quarters at 720 Central Ave. There you can see a boatload of glass — literally. One of his installations is a canoe filled with colored glass balls of various sizes.
So imagine my delight when I took out-of-town guests to see the Duncan McClellan Gallery at 2342 Emerson Ave. South and discovered a sculpture garden there.
Marble, limestone, glass and ceramic sculptures are placed along a wooden walkway, popping up amid the trees and plants as if they had organically grown there.
McClellan’s signature etched vases are set on pedestals throughout. A glass version of Salvador Dalí’s melted clock without the clock face hangs over a tree branch. Joan Jaskevich sculptures made from limestone and marble are also on view.
My favorites though were ceramics installations of figures by Mark Chatterley, especially the huge blue bird-like creature which looked like it flew into the garden and decided to stay, rooting its slender foot deep into the Earth.
In addition to the lovely sculpture garden, the gallery also features rotating exhibits of nationally and internationally recognized glass artists (as well as McClellan’s own work). It’s free and all the work is for sale. You can even watch glass-blowing demonstrations there.
This architectural sculpture presents the prototypical image of “home” with trees growing through the roof. It asks the question – is the house one with nature, or is nature reclaiming humankind’s creation?
The iconic steel house hovers above the ground, magically suspended by a flickering simulated “fire” light that emanates from within. The house has no foundation – the trees, no roots.
This first photo is of a mango tree, when I first bought my Gulfport cottage. It was growing against the house, so my only option was to uproot it and put it in the compost bin – or try to plant it and see if it would grow.
After 20 years of no blooms and no fruit, I was ready to take it down.
Miracle! Here it is today full of blooms and ready for a bumper crop of tropical mangos.
Moral is never give up on life!
. . .
This is the last of the very first lemons given to us by a tree I grew from a seed.
The seeds came from a house we rented with my brother, when we visited the place where he and I were kids, after almost 40 years. Seven of us in a small sprawling damp house surrounded by green. And over the door, this towering tree, swollen with fruit that we ate every day.
I brought back the seeds from one lemon. Over the last 8 years, one sapling thrived and is now almost 20 feet high right outside our back door – in a huge pot, ’cause it’s not from around here.
Suddenly last June there was a green lemon, then another. When it tipped over in a sudden summer storm, we lost about 8 in the bushes. So I learned how to make green lemon marmalade.
Starting slowly in September we got the gift of 18 lemons, one or two at a time until this last one late in January – all so sweet you could enjoy the flesh. This was the first to show up and the last to let go – hanging so low we ducked past it for months, and now the view seems empty. But that tree makes me think of my brother and that lovely moist green time when we were all together.
[Disclaimer – Managing
Editor of this magazine]