Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snowbird in Paradise -- Florida's Tropical Flowers

Sure could use a little paradise right now.  The snow’s just not quaint anymore here in the Mitten.  Christmas lights no longer twinkle or are frozen in place.  A gloomy outlook can certainly be adjusted by a journey to a warmer climate.  Pale skin, hidden by layers of wool desperately needs some vitamin D. It’s time to head to the other lower peninsula. 
Seed catalogues and tool oiling can only take the gardener so far during solitary midwinter days.   The grower’s eye, hungry for color, might need a tropical boost.  Down south in the double digit zones, spring’s arrived in spectral colors.  Winter interest below the Mason Dixon line means hot hues and big, bold dinner plate sized blooms. 
Florida was first encountered by Ponce de Leon on Palm Sunday, April 2, 1513.  Presumably following a nice brunch at the Breakers, he named the giant peninsula "Pascua de Florida," meaning "Feast of Flowers" thereby claiming it for Spain.

While the beaches and sparkling oceans surrounding the Sunshine State have their magic, the brilliant hues of the winter flora were what sparked a seasoned explorer when choosing a name.  First impressions always matter.

Plate sized hibiscus, in cheerful shades of pink, yellow and orange proliferate along walkways. Hot pink azalea shrubs the size of junipers grow along the freeways, in yards, and along church paths. 
Delicate cyclamen fare far better than under the purple lights of the local Kroger.
The traditional tropicales thrive year-round, but it’s those familiar blossoms that grace northern yards in the warmth of northern springs and summers that are so engaging in the February southern spring. 
Where else do Poinsettia grow as shrubs?

Yet nowhere north appears a floret like the Bird of Paradise.  Jutting from slender deep green stems, these rainbow blooms are inimitable.   Hardy and long flourishing floral fowl with personality plus.  If ever I have a Zone Ten garden, these birds will roost throughout. 
Returning north after a short respite, the exultant blooms remind of what is to come.

And in the heat of summertime, when fair Florida’s more brown than green, a trip to the upper peninsulas might offer a reciprocal antidote to heat staved residents. 

For had Mr. de Leon first arrived in August, the state might've had a far less colorful name? 
Marron perhaps? 

More Articles of Interest:
Perpetual Poinsettia

Prehistoric Petasite and Other Native Plants of Michigan

Water, Warmth and Nitrogen Smoothies