Garden Festival Gifts

April 13, 2010

We’re having what I’ve come to consider typical April weather in central Florida: sunny, mild and breezy. I love the breezes of April and the clear blue skies dotted with cottony clouds. I spend all the time I can outdoors before the humidity of summer drives me indoors, so it’s fitting that we spent part of Saturday at the University of South Florida Botanical Gardens’ 21st annual Spring Plant Festival.

The gardens themselves looked great, considering the hard winter we had. (I know anyone from the North reading this is snorting their coffee thinking of Florida’s “hard winter,” but truthfully, the landscape here was pretty ravaged.) It’s a pleasure to stroll through the grounds any time, but especially so when booths filled with blooming flowers, herbs, orchids and rare and exotic fruit trees line the walkways. We wandered by the butterfly garden, a newly-installed carnivorous plant area, and a gently tumbling stream.

At the festival (and isn’t “festival” a happy word full of color and music and celebration?), local plant clubs and societies as well as commercial growers from throughout the state sell everything from African violets, orchids, bromeliads and bonsai to bougainvillea, native plants, camellias, tropical fruit trees, palms, carnivorous plants and more. Of course you can purchase plants, but if you have a plant-related question, someone here knows the answer and is happy to share it with you.

I had a list of plants I wanted to buy to replace some of the casualties from our freezing winter, and secretly I hoped to find one or two interesting orchids to add to my ever-growing obsess…—I mean collection. I came home with two orchids, some basil (my seedlings have mysteriously disappeared from their starter flat), chocolate mint, a geranium and a Ptilotus Joey, a plant I’d never heard of before.

The loot

Ptolitus Joey is in the back

I would have bought more, but there was just too much to choose from! I’ve discovered that I become paralyzed and unable to make a decision when faced with too much variety, and end up choosing nothing. Sometimes that happens to me in life, too. I have so many interests and responsibilities that I become overwhelmed and instead of partaking of the delicious abundance available, I shut down and do nothing, letting things pile up around me. I retreat into the safety of a book or a TV show, or I do nothing but the menial and unimportant, neglecting the things that are of real value to me.

Perhaps my word of the year should have been “simplify” instead of “open.” But then I would be going against part of my very nature—the part that wants to taste and touch and explore and learn. The trick is finding a way to do it without overwhelming myself—somehow making my way though the garden festival of life without losing myself in its riot of color and scent.

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  1. What a lovely post, and the last paragraph is my fav (besides the snorting coffee remark!;•))

    I find myself with the same malady - overwhelm from too many choices. Glad to know that I'm in good company.

  2. Thanks, Laure! I can truthfully say that I am rarely, if ever, bored. There's always more than enough vying for my attention.

  3. I love reading your reflections - you sure have a way with words! I can really relate today to your feelings of paralysis when there are too many choices -- too many good things that I "want" to do or responsibilities that I "need" to do. Often I have found myself at a point where I just 'veg out' with a book, TV, or a magazine.... I can really relate!!

  4. Thank you, Claire. It makes me feel slightly better that I'm not the only one with the habit of "vegging out" when she's overwhelmed!

  5. Well, at least you didn't get too overwhelmed to bring back some lovely plants. That orchid is gorgeous, and the basil is making me drool.

    I do not snort when told of Florida's climate woes. I check in on several Florida gardening blogs from time to time, and it's heart-breaking to see decade-old banana trees blackened and beautiful mature palm trees gone forever. :( I know this winter's devastation was not in the short-lived discomfort of the cold for humans -- but the long-term consequences for the landscape. At least it looks as if the Botanical Gardens are recovering fairly quickly. :D

  6. The gardens have some very dedicated volunteers, and I suspect they worked their behinds off getting ready for the festival.

    You're right--the landscape damage has been so sad--I see dead palm trees everywhere, and earlier in the week I passed a neighbor trying to nurse some banana trees back to life. We also had a problem with sinkholes in Plant City because the strawberry farmers used so much well water to try to save their crops! And many local fish farmers lost their fish in the cold as well.

  7. What a strange winter you had, indeed! You aren't supposed to be having our winters. I think at that time, Michigan was actually warmer. My sister lives in southern Florida, so I've heard lots of stories. I hope the tomatoes aren't too expensive this year. Glad you're out of the deep freeze and enjoying the spring weather!

  8. What a lovely post and photos - I feel renewed just dropping by! And what wonderful treasures you found, just the subject matter for many drawings to come. Frankly, one can never have enough orchids! (Unfortunately, my orchids must thrive on the uncertainties of over- and under-care, so my collection is self-limiting)

    Note to Krista: here in South Florida tomatoes have recently shot up in price. Some of our local fast-food restaurants have signs stating that due to the high costs they will serve tomatoes only when requested!

  9. Hi Elizabeth, glad I checked back here! They have those same signs in Michigan too. So sad.

  10. Hey, Krista and Elizabeth--maybe if my tomatoes grow, I'll have to ship you some!

    Actually, there was one day this winter that our area was colder than Alaska! Now THAT'S unusual!

    My orchids seem to thrive on benign neglect, lucky for me. I have a covered lanai that seems to suit them.