Right after Christmas my wife and I drove down to Fort Lauderdale to spend some time with my brother. The last time we visited it was in the summer, when the entire southeast was in the grip of an epic heatwave, but ironically it was actually cooler and more pleasant in south Florida than it was back in Virginia. On this trip we left dreary gray and cold to find what so many migrating snowbirds seek, sun and warmth. However, it's not the weather per se that lures me to Florida; it's the foliage and flowers. This part of the state is USDA zone 10b, and on average, 63" of rain fall annually, so many things grow easily and abundantly here. On top of that, it appears that gardening and landscaping are more of a priority, and few spaces remain unplanted. I don't know if this is due to city ordinance, civic pride, or just for the love of it, but I appreciate it.
On our first morning we rode out to Living Color Garden Center to hunt for something green that could live in a container on my brother's deck. He does not live there year-round, so it had to be something very drought tolerant that could survive on whatever falls from the sky. I was thinking an agave, which we found, and a great price too, but there were so many other things to look at, and I left with serious zone envy.
Near the front door I was stopped by a hug-worthy rainbow eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) with what I think was Clerodendrum splendens climbing through it.
Adjacent to the main building is a large courtyard where plants and pots are displayed. In the center a neckid-lady statue is surrounded by a series of remarkable bougainvillea archways.
Beyond the courtyard, plants were laid out on the ground in large blocks sorted by type, and interspersed with trees I can't grow, including many palms. I was attracted to the hips on this bottle palm (Hyphorbe lagenicaulis).
I first heard about the golden penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) tree from Australian blogger Onslow and Miss B when she highlighted it during my 2013 Winter Walk-Off. The tree below was only about 6', but apparently in their native Queensland they can reach over 40' tall.
Living Color also sells the species that really aggravates my zone envy, the Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis). You can't really tell from this photo, but this plant will eventually have huge 3-4' wide silvery blue fronds on a very symmetrical plant. When planted in rows, they can give Parris Island graduates pointers on uniformity.
Living Color grows much of what they sell, and the place stretched on forever, to the point I couldn't see where it ended.