An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

July 13, 2012

A Plant Geek in South Florida - Plan C, Fort Lauderdale

After our first two vacation options fell through, fortune smiled and we were able to spend a week with my brother at his new getaway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  As we neared our destination, the driver in the car knew we were not in Kansas (or Virginia) anymore and were entering the land of zone 10 gardening.  God bless my wife and son for graciously putting up with all my excited exclamations as I saw yet another plant only known to me as some small little thing growing in the back of a greenhouse, only now encountered in its full potential and glory.  They must have also quickly gotten sick of me uttering the word Bismarck, every time I saw favorite exotic palm, but they held their tongues.  Once we reached our destination, I did not have to venture far for up-close encounters with foliage, all I had to do was open the condo door and there was...

Giant Spider Lily (Crinum x amabile)

Crinum x amabile - Giant Spider Lily

Variegated Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet 'variegata') and Buddha's Belly Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris 'Wamin')

Bambusa vulgaris 'Wamin' - Buddah's Belly Bamboo (2)

I think this is some sort of Strelitzia.

Strelitzia - maybe

Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera)

Cocos nucifera - Coconut Palm

All this foliage surrounds and softens stark white, modern architecture, making a nice combination.

Pool Gate

Courtyard (3)

Clouds Over Condos (2)

Clouds Over Condos

Up on the 4th floor roof deck, Penny had a conversation with her own ghost.

Penny Sees Her Ghost

Out on the streets of Fort Lauderdale there were other strange encounters, like seeing Schefflera actinophylla also known as Umbrella Tree or Octopus Tree.

Schefflera actinophylla - Umbrella Tree, Octopus Tree (2)

Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)

Phoenix dactylifera

Sausage Tree flowers (Kigelia pinnata)

Kigelia pinnata - Sausage Tree Flowers

Traveler's Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis)

Ravenala madagascariensis - Traveler's Palm

The illusive Mirror Palms

Mirror Palms (3)

I also walked by this hedge of the overused houseplant, Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) several times before I recognized what it was.

Ficus benjamina - Hedge

This was also the first time I had ever seen a Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant Tree (Delonix regia). Being an orange person, I was instantly infatuated and thanks to the Google machine an ID was quickly made. We will be seeing more of these.

Delonix regia - Royal Poinciana (3)

Delonix regia - Royal Poinciana

Here is also the first of several Bismarck Palms (Bismarckia nobilis) we will be seeing in these Florida posts.

Bismarckia nobilis - Bismarck Palm

The first full day we were there, provisions had to be layed-in, and while we were out I got a glimpse of some of the homes we would see later in the week. I half expected to see the ghosts of Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur lounging on the patio.

Golden Girls

And speaking of strange encounters, I fell in love with the Kenann building with its fantastic mosaics, lush plantings and George Jetson inspired details. It was built for Ken Burnstine in 1964. Burnstine was a drug smuggler and pilot who disappeared at an air show, leaving only a thumb behind, leading people to speculate that he faked his death just before he was due to testify in several drug cases.

Kenann Building

Stayed tuned, as there will be future posts from Florida after Bloom Day.


  1. you never disappoint, Les. As usual, great photos, great storyline. I enjoyed them both.

  2. Florida is indeed another world of horticulture. I look forward to exploring each year during baseball spring training. There are so many interesting plants that have been brought in from exotic locations that you have to stop and wonder what it was like before european settlers arrived.
    Your pictures, as usual, are delightful to look at.

  3. What an awesome and inspirational post, Les. Your photos highlight real and classic architecture and landscape design that is often overlooked. Foliage is king in these photographs, a hallmark of good, through design. Refreshing to say the least....

  4. Really neat plants. That date palm is SO cool. Penny had a good time? I bet it was neat seeing all these exotic plants and it's funny to think Floridians don't find it so at all. Our country is so big and diverse it is sometimes mind blowing.

  5. A few more summers like this one and we will be growing these in our backyards, too.

  6. Last snapshot of the citibank monument, absolutely breath taking. I stopped and just observed. I would love to see that in person, you are so fortunate sir.

    -Carlos Hernandez

  7. Really superb pictures. I especially love the spider lilly and flamboyant tree (what an apt and great name)!

  8. BISMARK !!! WOOT !!!

    OK. Love the trees that are mere house plants here in Canada

    BTW if I was going to fake my own death, it wouldn't be my THUMB I left behind. Maybe a pinkie finger but not my opposable THUMB.

    Lovely shots.

  9. Gorgeous plants and love the bank. Your photos are wonderful! What lens were you using on your camera?

  10. I've always said I hated Florida. You photos make me reconsider.

  11. Oh wow, you captured these exotic beauties wonderfully.

  12. One more: The last pic of the very attractive home in the palmy setting is interesting as it is completely alluring. When I was in the heart of the tropics -in Jamaica, in a very non-touristy villa- the surrounding flora was of mostly broadleafs (tropical broadleafs), with very, very few palms. It was a very natural setting, and seemed very "real" to me, and what I would expect of tropical settings. While this last pic you show is a very natural and uncontrived eye-candy (it's great to see palmy settings done well among the multitudes of BAD palmy landscapes) I wonder where and why South Florida diverged from broadleaf use (meaning the native broadleafs too) in landscapes to more dominant palm use.

  13. Wonderful photos! I'd like to travel to Florida some day. I've been to Washington, but nowhere else in USA.

    Satu from Finland

  14. Beautiful photos, as ever. My favorite (besides Penny) the white building and white clouds with the palm waaaay up there.

    Strelitzia more likely a Heliconia, perhaps.

  15. Gina,
    There will be more coming.

    We were able to see a bit of Florida without all the exotics. On the coast, lots of mangroves and a few native palms (one tour guide told us there were not palms native to Florida, I stayed quiet.)

    John P.,
    There will be some architecture heavy and foliage heavy posts to come.

    Penny did have a good time, especially chasing after all the lizards that hung out on the sidewalks. Loretta did not have such a good time, mainly due to the abundant use of fireworks.

    If there is an upside to global warming, that might be it.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I was awestruck by the Poinciana or Flamboyant tree. I took a bunch of seed pods home because they were so cool.

    I hope he was not stupid enough to cut off the thumb he ate and wrote with too.

    I use the lens that came with it, which is a Nikon 18-55mm, for what it's worth.

    I am ready to move there.

    John P.,
    I think what was here in south Florida before development was likely not very diverse. I will go back again, maybe to the big foliage and exotic trade show in January. I can say tax write-off.

    Please do not judge the USA by what you saw in Washington. Thanks for stopping by.

    The white building is where I stayed. It was very clean and crisp with a big green skirt of foliage all around it. Thank you for the ID, I was not sure of mine.