Still Chilly in Florida
You'll have to love plants, a lot, to understand my excitement at finding the plants I've been searching for, for a very long time. I'd gotten a lead from a horticulturist at the Univ. of Florida, about a nursery in central Florida who is growing the somewhat rare plants I was looking for. Being told by the owners that neither Google Earth nor Mapquest could locate them (something I understand, since neither of those can locate Long Creek Herbs, either), I followed the owners' directions. First to a little town in Seminole country, then miles out of town, first on pavement, then dirt roads. I got lost, really lost, several times. Then a drive through a prison, down more dirt roads, "turn right at the dumpster" then on through Florida scrub and palmetto palms, the road getting smaller and smaller until it was just a path. I ran over a rattlesnake and was about to give up finding the nursery when the owner drove up, looking for me.
But at the end of the trail, was the most amazing, wonderful place, a bit of paradise hidden back in the dry palm landscape. And there, I was shown the very allspice, bay rum, lemon bay rum, jabotacaba, and cinnamon plants I was lusting after. What nice folks they were and excellent plants they grow.
Florida wasn't warm. I'd forgotten that it can be colder there than here in the Ozarks. I was glad to have taken my winter coat because the first 4 days I was there, I was cold nearly all the time. One evening we, Sarah, Neil, Roxana, Tom and I, sat beach side, outdoors, for dinner. The wind blew a gale, the kerosene salamanders (the kind they use in orange groves) did nothing for heat and we all nearly froze. If I wore a hairpiece, it would have taken off in the surf. But we all had good laughs and a good time over dinner and didn't tarry for dessert.
Roxana lead us to one of the best thrift shops I've ever been to, the Women's Center in Sarasota. It's the place the wealthy oldies leave their stuff, when they move, or die, or whatever. Amazing stuff, artwork, antiques, some pricey, some very reasonable. Next time I'll drive there instead of fly so I can load up the truck.
We were on a roll after the Women's Center, so we took in all of the nearby estate sales we could and hit the local thrift shops, as well. None were very impressive but not being worn out yet, we took in the Sea Hagg, which is a tourist place that sells "artwork," tourist junk, some old seafaring articles and more junk. We took pictures of each other, bought nothing but had a great time.
Tom & Roxana, who go to Bradenton each winter, were delightful hosts and showed us all the interesting sights, foods, stores and points of interest in the area. It was great fun. And traveling with Sarah and Neil was fantastic, always up for an adventure.
They left on Friday and I picked up my own rental SUV and took off for plant hunting. But at the urging of my friend, Joe, and several other folks, I planned Sunday around the Thai Temple in Tampa, for lunch. The website said it's one of the few community places for Thai people in the Tampa area, and that it actually feels like being in Thailand. It did! There are lots of food vendors where you choose the foods you want for lunch, then carry your meal to a picnic table under the palm trees, next to the river. Plant vendors sell some very rare Thai plants and I picked up a plant for a friend there.
Then on to the nursery and stopped at Echo Global, a training site for teaching missionaries about growing food in difficult locations. It has a nursery and I took a lot of photos there and bought some seed to bring back home of plants I seldom see: African okra, Roselle, quailgrass, moringa, and others.
After the nursery I checked out the the manatees. This smiling plywood manatee looks nothing like the real thing. They're known as, "sea slugs" and "sea cows" and are slow moving, lethargic and you don't actually see much other than a nose come up occasionally, or a back while they graze in the shallow waters. They are protected because motor boats often hit and kill, or seriously wound these docile sea animals simply because they just don't move out of the way.
All in all, finding a great wholesale nursery with the plants I was hoping for, a couple of days of warmth, some botanical gardens and time with dear friends, made this a really fine trip. And today I worked in the garden, cleaning beds and admiring the jonquils in full bloom.