Category Archives: Other People’s Gardens

It’s almost Halloween…

And the Southgate snowman is ready.  I’m loving the Spanish moss hair!

The Snowman of Liberty

It may never snow in Sarasota, but there’s always a snowman to cheer me up.  He lives on Arlington Street and is as festive as Frosty but so much more versatile.  Last time I posted his photo, he was covered in shamrocks and drinking a beer for St. Patrick’s Day.

Today, he’s dressed in drag as the Statue of Liberty.  Underneath the dress are two more logs carved from a palm tree.  The ends of each log were tapered with a chainsaw to make them look more rounded like snowballs.  Very clever and easy to do if you have the skills.  People carve tikis with chainsaws; a snowman would be a cinch.  Me, on the other hand, I’ll stay away from the chainsaw, keep all my fingers, and wait to see what this one will be wearing for Halloween.

Even Parking Lots Offer the Opportunity to Picnic

We didn’t splurge on the $17 times three for admission, but we still spent the afternoon enjoying much of what Selby Gardens has to offer - a waterfront view and a variety of plants and trees.  Good thing there were no picnic tables left at Marina Jack or I would have never thought of this spot.  Just beyond the parking lot for Selby Gardens is a surprisingly serene spot overlooking a canal and totally shaded by exotic trees.  

Maybe in other cities, the parking lots are drab, barren slabs of concrete, but this Sarasota lot is complete with a grassy area and wood bench, so it’s basically a miniature park.  Luke and I have been there before because it’s a stop on the recreational trail that runs along Sarasota Bay.  Even when not visiting Selby Gardens, it’s nice to walk the sidewalks outside.  The plants are marked the same as they are inside, and sometimes there are plant displays outside the horticulture building.  

Today’s most talked about tree was the Sausage Tree, more formally known as Kigelia pinnata.  The large orchid-type blooms hanging from the branches are what caught our attention initially, but then we remembered the tree from our visit to the Edison Estate.  

We couldn’t figure out the connection between the common name and the tree until we spotted some fruit hanging.  They look like giant sausage casings and are apparently quite dangerous.  The fruit can weight up to 15 pounds and have not only knocked out car windows but animals and people too.

Lunch was as good as the spot thanks to an old and new menu favorite.  The old favorite, ham and basil pinwheels, are an appetizer I make for parties because they’re such a cinch.  Spread cream cheese on a tortilla and top with raddicchio, basil and Black Forest ham.  Roll, cut and done.  The new favorite, Daily’s Daquiris, are a freezer to cup insta-cocktail.  I said it in my last post, and I’ll say it again…it’s going to be a long, hot summer.  Daily’s will be helping me get through it.

Selby Gardens

Lucky me because I have a friend who volunteers at Selby Gardens, and she gave me her guest pass today.  What a treat!  It was far more enjoyable than my last free visit to Selby when the rest of Sarasota was also invited for free.  I’ll shell out the $17 admission before dragging my family to that mob scene a second time.  But lucky me again since John and Cooper are always such good sports.  

The white flowers in the first photo are commonly known as Musical Notes.  Their less fitting scientific name is Rotheca incisa.  I’ve never seen them before, one reason to never tire of visiting Selby Gardens or any other garden for that matter.  You never know what will be blooming.

Planting Personality in Your Garden

Have you ever thought about what your garden is saying about you?  Because gardening is much more than mere maintenance.  It’s a form of creative expression.  As dogs are said to look like their owners; the same can be said for gardens.  Some are meticulously mulched; others are overgrown.  There are rock gardens and butterfly gardens, exotics requiring high maintenance and xeriscapes requiring no maintenance.  Some hold statues, and some invite birds.  Look around your neighborhood for trinkets, treasures, jokes, and personality traits; they’re hidden in the gardens.  My garden is telling the world I’m a lovable, inventive, drinker? No, recycler.

I disassembled an old 1970′s lamp and turned it into an inexpensive garden globe.  It’s sitting in a bed of sweet potato vine now, but at one point I had the sweet potato vine planted in it.  It trailed quickly and ended up covering too much of the globe.

And of course, there’s my garden border…

Now let me introduce you to some of my neighbors.  This one has a good sense of humor.

Aww, that last one is too cute.  My guess from that garden is that there’s a lot of love in that house.  But I have to end with the more familiar and completely classic Florida garden stamp – the pink flamingo.

What’s in your garden?  And what does it say about you?

Biking Legacy Trail in Venice

John and I took our bikes down to Venice and hit the Legacy Trail today.  While much of the 10-mile trail looks like this… 

…the Southernmost section in Venice meanders past parks, through neighborhoods and over two bays – Dona and Robertson. The trail is under construction at U.S. 41 right now, but a new overpass is expected to be finished by this summer.  We turned around at that point but could have taken a detour to continue on.  Legacy trail picks back up on the other side of 41 and connects with the Venetian Waterway Park trail.  The VWP is another fabulously uninterupted recreation trail; it runs along side the Intracoastal waterway for five miles.  On a warmer day, we’re going to take it to Caspersen Beach

There are seven trailheads for Legacy - Potter Park, Bay Street, Oscar Scherer, Laurel Park, Nokomis Park, Patriots Park, and the Venice Train Depot.  We planned to park at Oscar Scherer State Park but used the trailhead at Laurel Park instead because we didn’t want to be subject to state park hours.  The ranger told us that once the gates lock, you can’t get back to your car.  With our luck, we’d be camping tonight.  It was fun to see what was growing in the community garden at Laurel park anyway.

Cool air combined with a warm sun is the best kind of day.  Accordingly, the trail was bustling.  We passed joggers, bikers, fishermen, dogs, old ladies, little kids, pelicans, and squirrels.  We were all out to play! 


Buy Your Butterfly Plants from CHAC

My story on Community Haven’s plant nursery ran in today’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune.  It’s actually Community Haven for Adults and Children with Disabilities (CHAC), and the story ran today because I said and tweeted it would run Saturday So it goes…every time.  If no one asks the dreaded question, When will it run?, then the story will run the following day.  But if the question is asked, and even worse, if the question is answered, then I can count on a week’s worth of Groundhog Day mornings, which consist of me running to the driveway in my pink bathrobe before brushing my teeth or hair not to find my article in print.  Even with Lucille Ball across the street, it’s not nearly as funny as Bill Murray being binged by the annoying insurance agent Ned Ryerson every morning.  But back to real life as I know it, the old lady across the street looks exactly like an off-her-rocker Lucille Ball.  She’s Lucy meets Kramer, and even though and possibly because she won’t so much as wave to me, she is my all-time favorite neighbor ever.

Anyway, it really doesn’t matter to me when an article is printed as long as it’s printed.  But when I’ve said when it’s going to run, I check because the other person is checking.  Three or four days in and I start thinking, do they think I’m some crazy woman who has no connection to the paper and there is no article?  Who’s the crazy neighbor now?  Lucille Ball or me? 

Besides when, I also have no control over what prints.  This time around, my favorite butterfly tidbit got cut from the final article.  As the workers were about to move a load of parsley, about 75 swallowtail caterpillars were spotted under the leaves.  Around 80% metamorphosized into butterflies.  The experience was turned into an impromptu and ongoing lesson for the Selby preschoolers on the life cycle of butterflies. 

The nursery specializes in butterfly plants and Florida native plants.  This is a table full of newly propagated milkweed…just think of all the Monarchs and lessons!

The article turned out great regardless of timing or edits because CHAC really has something with their plant nursery – the potential for a profitable business that drives a social cause.  It’s smart and it comes from a good place - to provide work and resources to people with disabilities.  And here’s a general observation that I can’t make in a newspaper article: it felt like a happy place to be and work, disabled or not.  Shop there, take a tour, hire the crew for landscaping, donate something, anything, just support their cause.  They are providing programs, food, housing, support, and jobs to our community.  And the more support we give, the quicker they’ll become another reliable, healthy, local food source.  They’re already talking about starting a buyers club.   

The nursery is located at 4405 DeSoto Road; the number is 941-302-1828.

The Best of Bayfront Park

The cold weather today had me wishing for warmer days and thinking of one in particular that I forgot to blog about.  On a sunny day about two weeks ago John was feeling antsy, so he swept me away from the office over to Bayfront Park, better known as Marina Jack.  We did two loops around the park and mostly talked about work anyway, but the conversation was made so much more interesting and upbeat with bay views in the background!  The next warm day, wherever you are, find a spot and enjoy the weather for at least 10 minutes.  It’s too good to pass up.  But that’s not the reason for this blog post, the restroom is.

That’s right, I want to talk bathrooms.  Why?  Because with a garden on the roof and a hand-painted octopus, Sarasota boasts the coolest public restroom around.  The garden is a green roof that reduces and cleans stormwater runoff and also helps keep the building cool.  Planted by Tecta America and funded by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, the flowers and greenery include weeping lantana, wallyberg and aloe. 

Two large cisterns collect the excess rainwater to irrigate the garden, but they’re not your purely functional, plain Jane cisterns.  In pure Sarasota style, the Bayfront Park cisterns were hand-painted by art students from the Ringling College of Art and Design. 

When I finally get a rain barrel, it must have a pink octopus.

Edison’s Christmas Ornaments

Although they’re called the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Thomas Edison was the first of the two to settle in Fort Myers and the estates showcase more of his life than Ford’s.  Two of the three houses are Edison’s, and visitors can also tour his research lab.  Aptly, the Christmas decorations not only celebrate the surrounding landscape but also Edison’s inventiveness.

At $20 a piece, the picture is my souvenir.  I’ll wait for a light bulb to blow around here and make my own.  A small drill bit will poke through the top of the bulb, and a lightweight wire hanger can serve as the hook.  I love how the beads are worked in.  They keep the wire in place but also add some finishing flair.  The garland was finished with citrus and equally charming.

There were lots of natural ornaments on display too…

White Angel’s Trumpet- Brugmansia x candida – Peru

Cluster Fig – Ficus racemosa - Asia

Nagami Kumquat – Fortunella margarita - China

Limequat – Lime x kumquat - China


The Mable Ringling Rose Garden

We visited the Ringling Museum of Art on Saturday.  Beyond Ca’ d’Zan, Mable’s rose garden is my favorite spot. 

The garden was planted in 1913; it was based on the Italian wagon wheel design.  Rows of roses circle around the focal point of a limestone and wrought iron gazebo.  The gazebo is original.

The roses are not.  Only three percent of the roses in the current garden were around in Mable’s day.  She also didn’t enjoy the modern ease of rose disease control.  Mable used to have to replace half her roses every two years because of disease.  Today’s technology has lengthened the average life of a rose to 12-15 years.  Here are a few from the garden:

Christopher Marlow


The Mable Ringling Rose Garden is one of only three accredited public rose gardens in Florida.  The accreditation comes from the American Rose Society and requires that the garden adhere to a number of additional quality controls.  Stop by on Mondays; admission is free