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.

January 24, 2015

Stranahan Botanical Garden - A Troubled Paradise

     Have you ever traveled to place you enjoyed so much, that once home, your visit prompted you to learn more, and you were surprised by what you found? That was the case for me when I visited the Stranahan Botanical Garden in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Though the garden is planted under a canopy of mature bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), it is only about two years old, and looking at all the lush thick growth, you might have trouble guessing it is so newly planted. As cities go, Fort Lauderdale itself is also young, barely a century. The "mother and father" of Fort Lauderdale, Frank and Ivy Stranahan, deeded what was once a cypress swamp to the city for recreational use, and after it was filled in with soil from Seminole Indian burial mounds, this land became Stranahan Park. Part of the land was also given to the Fort Lauderdale Women's Club, an institution older than the city itself, and one who over the years has championed a number of progressive causes including the rights of women, African Americans, and ironically the Seminole Indians.

Women's Club (1)

Dioon spinulosum, Alcantarea odorata, Anthurium 'Marie'

Odontonema strictum (1)

Philodendrron giganteum


Stranahan Park (2)

Massage Envy (2)

     In more recent years, Stranahan Park was made notorious by the many homeless who spent the day here enjoying the shady lawn, and using the services of the adjacent Broward County Main Library. Those of us who are not homeless may take for granted things like restrooms, air conditioning, and access to media and the internet that libraries offer. Many people avoided the park because of the homeless, and it became increasingly difficult for the Women's Club to utilize their facility to its fullest. To resolve this issue, a push was made for transforming the park's shady open lawns into a gated botanical garden. The effort was spearheaded by the Women's Club with complete support from the city, surrounding businesses, and an army of volunteers. The plant geek in me says the resulting garden is spectacular. The rest of me is a little conflicted.

Alcantarea odorata

Opuntia (cochenillifera perhaps)

Stranahan Park (4)

Red Flowerd Alpinia Ginger (perhaps)

Codiaeum (Croton) (2)

Broward Main Library (4)

Broward Main Library (5)

Broward Main Library (6)

Broward Main Library (1)

     I might be a little less torn if I knew more about what efforts are being made in the city of Fort Lauderdale to assist the homeless, but with apologies to my readers, I don't know all that is being done. I do know there is lot of homelessness evident, more than I have seen in most cities I've been to. Can you blame the homeless? Given the choice of sleeping on the streets of some cold northern city, or on those in a tropical climate, which would you pick? One thing the city of Fort Lauderdale does do to address homelessness, is to aggressively discourage the homeless from using Stranahan Botanical Garden. In October of 2014 the city commission passed an ordinance restricting locations where the homeless can be fed, requiring aid organizations to get property owner's permission, and to provide portable restrooms. In November two members of the clergy and a 90 year-old activist, Arnold Abbott, were charged with violating this ordinance in Stranahan Botanical Garden, and their effort to provide lunch that day was shut down. Apparently feeding the homeless only encourages homelessness.

Osmoxylon lineare (Miagos Bush)

Pandanus (1)

Cananga odorata var. fruticosa (Ylang Ylang)

Sanchezia speciosa (1)

Strangler Fig (Ficus)

Wodyetia bifurcata

Euphorbia stenoclada (Silver Thicket)

Colocasia (1)

Spathoglottis hybrid (Ground Orchid)


     Obviously the issue of homelessness is complicated and joined at the hip with many other issues of our day including substance abuse, mental health, veterans rights, and economic disparity. I don't blame the Women's Club for what has been done in Stranahan Park. I applaud them; it is a beautiful spot, and it did solve their problem with homelessness, but only by pushing it somewhere else.
(I really had to harness the powers of the internets to ID some of these plants. None of them were labeled in the garden, and as I was two zones from home, I am not entirely sure all of the names are correct. I welcome your comments and corrections for anything in need of it. If you would like to see all of my photos from the garden, click here for my Flickr page.)

January 19, 2015

Living Color

     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.
Front Entrance (1)

Front Entrance (2)

Coverd Porch

     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.
Clerodendrum splendens and Eucalyptus deglupta  (2)

Clerodendrum splendens and Eucalyptus deglupta

     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.
Bougainvillea Arches (3)

Bougainvillea Arches (2)

Bougainvillea and Calliandra surinamensis

Matched Pots and Foliage (2)

Matched Pots and Foliage


     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).
Hyphorbe lagenicaulis (2)


Alternanthera and Acalypha?

Mossy Palm



     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.
Xanthostemon chrysanthus (1)

     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.
Bismarckia nobilis

Up on Duck

     Living Color grows much of what they sell, and the place stretched on forever, to the point I couldn't see where it ended.
Growing Fields

January 7, 2015

Roxborough State Park

     Before we travelled to Colorado this past summer, I asked one of my co-workers, who happens to be a native, to recommend some of his favorite places to visit. Consulting with our hosts, the Sherpa Girls, we opted for Roxborough State Park just south of Denver, and it was a good choice. The park is sort of indicative of the state as a whole, in that it is a mix of prairie and mountains. You enter Roxborough through the prairie, and as dramatic as mountains are, I also appreciate these wide exposed places, with their broad skies and bending grasses.

Roxborough Park (3)

Roxborough Park (4)


     With the prairie at your back, you enter the rest of the park through a cleft in the rock.
Roxborough Park - The Cleft

     Once inside, ancient red rocks reveal themselves. These are part of the same formation that form Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, and Red Rocks Park just west of Denver, only Roxborough lacks the crowds of these better known places.
Roxborough Park (12)

Roxborough Park (13)

Roxborough Park (9)

Roxborough Park (33)

Roxborough Park (8)

    The rains had been more generous than normal, benefitting the grasses and wildflowers, including a few non-native interlopers.
Roxborough Park (15)

Roxborough Park - Erigeron

Roxborough Park (20)

Roxborough Park - Monarda fistulosa

Roxborough Park (22)

Roxborough Park (14)

Roxborough Park - Carduus nutans

Roxborough Park - Cirsium arvense

          I think I could live here, even for just one summer afternoon.
Roxborough Park (28)

Roxborough Park (26)