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.

August 9, 2012

A Plant Geek in South Florida - Leisure Time Among the 1%

On our last full day in Florida, we decided to take a gondola tour of Fort Lauderdale's canals and the New River.  Our boat was small, but quite comfortable, and it had a quiet electric motor, making it easy for us to hear what the captain had to say about what we were seeing.  Fort Lauderdale has many canal neighborhoods where you can pull up to the house in a car out front and sail away in the boat out back, or is it the other way round?  Most of this area was once mangrove swamps, and according to our captain, when the canals were dug, the dredgings were piled up and contained within seawalls made from hunks of coral reef taken from just off shore, thus making the neighborhoods possible.  The thought of living coral reefs being destroyed so that vacation and retirement homes could be built, made my heart sink.  I can only take comfort knowing that way back when this happened no one thought they were doing anything wrong.

We'll start our tour at the marina where some of the more modest boats were docked.

Boat Tour

Boat Tour (3)

One of the first houses we neared had a royal poinciana (Delonix regia) blooming next to the water.

Boat Tour (42)

What goes better with an orange flowered tree, than a gold trimmed boat?

Boat Tour (8)

The house where this tree was growing is available for 9.9 million dollars, and our captain said it was most likely a tear-down. The ibis convey.

Boat Tour (9)

Boat Tour (10)

This is the garage end of another home...

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... and the back door.

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This one reminded me of a movie set.

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This house below was once owned by the Anheuser Busch family. It is also on the market at the reduced price 14.9 million, which is about 2,487,479 six-packs of Bud.

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This house came with its own carillon surrounded by a pool.

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I found it interesting that the palms were going in before this house was finished (I guess the homeowners have their priorities straight). I was also intrigued at how they were being established. Look closely and you can see tanks at the base of each tree with a tube leading to the crowns.

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I can't believe I am going to say this, but after a week of staring at full, plant-heavy landscapes, I actually liked the seeing a broad lawn in this one.  I just wish they had been considerate enough to coil their hose so it was not in my photograph.

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Our captain told us that rocks forming the seawall of this home are fossilized coral from the west coast of Florida, which I was OK with since nothing living was destroyed. He also told us that there were no palms native to Florida, but he was nice, so I didn't correct him.

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If I lived here, I know where happy hour would be.

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The swing also offered a nice view of downtown Fort Lauderdale and the New River.

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If you would like to see all my gondola tour photos you can click here

Although I really enjoyed my time on the water, it has left me pondering the nature of wealth, especially now that I am home and much closer to the other America.  I do not begrudge anyone who has come by their wealth honestly, whether it came through hard work, shrewd investments, or even through the dumb luck of the maternity ward.  But how can the same society have people living in a run-down trailers on Appalachian mountainsides, or in a homeless camps here in Norfolk, also have others with vacation homes and pleasure boats worth millions?  I am in no way advocating any kind of redistribution of wealth, but I want to know how we can make it easier for those at the bottom to pull themselves up, just a little. 

This is the last post of my Plant Geek in South Florida series, and I want to thank you all for tagging along and putting up with the occasional opinionated commentary.  I think I may actually have to write about something closer to home next time.


  1. Les,
    These houses are nice. So which one are you going to buy just so you can bull doze it and start over? So much fun having a shit load of money. Remember the poor has too much money and the rich do not have enough money.

  2. The 1% gotta live somewhere and get around somehow.

  3. Interesting how they are keeping the palm crowns hydrated. I have never seen that. They may have gone in during construction because afterwards the tree delivery trucks may not have had access.

    Something I have noticed about many of your Florida landscapes compared to Maui is that in Florida they are simpler and more refined. Less lush more manicured. Yes, less lush. The plant palette is identical. I think in Florida there has been more time to realize just big all this stuff gets and how much rubbish it generates. They don't over plant it seems. And I didn't see bougainvillea every where. Praise be.

  4. It is interesting to see how the other side lives. Like the equation of $=beer, makes it real.
    We agree on much of the issues of the day. Hope people vote after learning the facts..not the rhetoric.

    As for my rocks, have thick leather gloves and will be careful, count on it!!

  5. I 100% agree with your commentary. Hurry home!

  6. Les thank you...I have a dear friend that lives right on the river downtown in an old 2 story apartment building..he is the 99%..he kayaks on that river every day with his dog and hears the boat tours tell outrageous stories.he loves the area and he teaches those yacht owners and their staff at the yachting school. I always wanted to visit....I dont hear from him anymore......

  7. Those orange trees are "Royal Poincianas"

  8. I think the part about the 1% that gets to me is that enough never seems to be enough - the $9mil. "teardown", for example.

  9. Les, "putting up" with your opinionated commentary is enjoyable, mostly since I share those opinions.
    I looked at the pictures of these homes and thought to myself: who lives like that? Who would even want to?

    I only felt envy when I saw the royal poinciana. One of may favorite trees that reminds me of my childhood in Israel. Almost 30 years in Seattle, the royal poinciana tugs at my heart. They are glorious! Thank you.

  10. One can only hope that all these folks are involved in some sort of philanthropy,and of course supporting thier locally owned and operated independent garden centers.

  11. Hmm. On the one hand, I love the idea of being able to drive up to my house at the front and then sail away from the rear. But I agree that such a dramatic display of wealth leaves one with an odd feeling. We have just moved to somewhere that is basically very poor, where only the relatively affluent can afford the large houses, and a lot of them are just holiday homes, leaving the local youth wondering why they don't burn the lot down. Dramatic disparity makes for uncomfortable viewing, and thoughts. Beautiful photos though.

  12. Occupy Fort Lauderdale! Preferably with yachts.

  13. Les, please don't apologize for expressing your political opinions -- I wish you'd dip your toe in that water a bit further. I came here for the plant knowledge and commentary, have been seduced by your fabulous photographic skills, and am left wanting for more about your observations on economic disparity. I am fortunate to have a good job and relative prosperity, but as a lifetime government employee can't imagine the lives of the super-rich nor understand their priorities. Thanking my lucky stars for having a job and a happy family doesn't leave me much time to think about aspiring to the kind of properties and lifestyle you captured here. I suspect you and many of your readers have similar feelings.

  14. How the other half lives! Love the architecture, but don't care for the macho display with big toys. Not at all against wealth, but I'll take my (daily) scenery with a more natural, earth-borne setting and a with twist of the Cracker (culture).

  15. Randy,
    I really don't need one of these houses. I would rather live in my modest bit of hurricane fodder, than in a multi-million dollar piece of hurricane fodder. Just less to lose.

    Yes they do, after all, they are people too.

    I also noticed a slight blue tint to the water in the tubs, so maybe they were being fed as well. I was expecting to see much bougainvillea, but sightings were sparse.

    I have always liked gawking at how other people live, be they millionaires or paupers.

    I have been safely back for weeks, it just seems like I am still there. I took 598 photographs in Florida and it has taken me this long to go through them all.

    I longed for my kayak on several occasions. Some very brave souls were paddle boarding in all that boat traffic.

    The royal poincianas gave me serious zone envy, enough to possibly consider a change in zip codes.

    You should watch more HGTV, or then again maybe you shouldn't. A tear-down is a perfectly good house bought for the purposes of tearing down to build a much bigger home. Kind of like ripping out a completely fine kitchen because it does not have granite counter tops or European cabinetry.

    Thank you for reminding me that many people do spend their wealth wisely.

    The disparity is growing more obvious over here. Please keep your fire extiguisher handy.

    Yachts, and a fine champagne!

    I have made a concious effort to keep the text more brief, don't want too many readers eyes to glaze over. You are right to mention a different kind of wealth, one I have plenty of. I am rich in family, friends, a job I like and an appreciation of the cards I have been dealt and my spot on this planet.


  16. 2 million 6 packs? That is funny. Wow on the wealth. It is truly amazing about class differences in America. Did your gondolier actually have a pole when you strolled along the waterway? I bet it was ever so nice!

  17. The dirt diariesAugust 10, 2012 10:58 PM

    Growing up in that area I remember seeing those massive homes as a youngster. I couldn't imagine why anyone would need so much space.

    Today I live in another wealthy area, this time in the NC mountains. My home is modest, my home growing up was as well. But the natural beauty nearby is/was priceless.

  18. Those little dinghys are so cute! Perhaps they are for the staff. ;)

    Lovely tour, thank you!

  19. John,
    I am glad your comment finely found its way through the internets. I with you on how I like my scenery.

    No pole Tina, but he did have a well-stocked refrigerator and easy-listening music (which I could have done without).

    Yes, the staff. You are welcome for the tour.


  20. There is something just wrong about this kind of conspicuous consumption. I think redistribution of wealth -- also called "sharing" -- would be a good idea. But then I'm a left-leaning, "socialist" Canadian. ;-)

  21. Les, I hope your use of the phrase "redistribution of wealth" was ironic. You know it's commonly used to cast disdain on those who lament the extreme polarity in wealth distribution in the U.S...which I think you were doing with your commentary and photos. I don't call myself a socialista, like Sybil, but...I expect you find much less of this sort of thing in Canada!

    Love you pix.

    Pam in CO

  22. I wonder how these neighborhoods will fare with climate change?

  23. Sybil,
    I know you can't help it, must be your national medical plan that makes you a socialist. That is why so many people here are opposed to it, could lead to other things like socialized education, socialized highways, socialized air traffic control, socialized police and fire control.

    Pam thanks for stopping by. Irony is my middle name.

    Yes it was!

    The increased warmth likely won't be an issue, but if the sea level rises much, some of the homes will be a little more than waterfront.


  24. Your pictures and commentary bring to mnd this quote from Budda "Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, and faithfullness the best relationship."

  25. Hmmm no way to answer your questions without getting into politics. Personally I'd like to go back in my time machine and erase Reagan's policy changes. That's where the ever-increasing rift between rich and poor started.