Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Marvellous Manatees

A friend and I went to the Museum of South Florida, a picturesque Spanish-style bulding up in Bradenton 

to see a photographic exhibition. National Geographic's best photos. Some of then were excellent but elsewhere in the museum was this wonderful sight.

Yes the first time I'd seen a real live manatee, or sea cow. The pair had their own swimming pool with a coastal scene painted on the wall to make them feel at home.

 The piled up boxes contain lettuce, which they like to eat, hence all the lettuce leaves floating on the water's surface. Then you can go downstairs and see them swimming under water.

They are truly almost the size of cows, charming and cumbersome and apparently very tame if you can get close to them. In the winter, they like to congregate in warm water, around power plants and such. And are sadly very endangered, suffering constant collisions with power boats and other hazards. I'm all for saving them. Meanwhile you can buy manatee souvenirs in the shop but I was quite taken with these pink flamingo slippers.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Marie Selby's Little Eden Part 2

The elegant white house in the post below used to be owned by one Christy Payne. It had been his retirement home. Can't be bad. It was later added to the Marie Selby Gardens. I was intrigued by what looked like a collection of orchid flowers floating in jam jars above the fireplace. I had visions of Victorian explorers snagging orchids (along with beetles and such) and sticking them in alcohol to preserve them.

In fact, it was a very modern way of studying the structure of the orchids. Also at the Gardens was a lily pond. The very slim egret is trying to be invisible.

In the background is a tree festooned with ribbons, possibly carrying hopes and wishes. A little new-agey, along with the various exotic deities about the place. I preferred some straightforward  Monet-esque waterlilies.

This is about the nearest they come to a beach but you look at that view and wonder if it's changed over the centuries.

Another bird enjoying the view and possibility of lunch.

Pleasant paths meandered through exotic vegetation.

And I assume this was another epiphyte (see post below).

As was this.

But not this. The paths were still decorated with Christmas lights. It would all look gorgeous at night.

I like these wooden walkways. This led through mangrove swamps. Mangroves, (which sound like something out of Lewis Carroll but actually come from mangue-grove in the English sense) have their roots in salty water and are home to all kinds of wildlife, stop the coast from eroding and are a good place to park your boat in a hurricane. They are being sadly depleted, what with the gallloping waterfront development all over Florida.

This was a gorgeous shrub. Brunfelsia pauciflora. All the way from Brazil. I want one.

And there were a lot of the famous banyan trees with their enormous roots, like gargantuan writhing serpents, great for kids to play among.

 And this was the children's rainforest area - note the steamy mist rising from the waterfall.

 A pond full of overfed goldfish - or koi carp.

A grounded yellow blossom fallen from a tree.

We watched this chap walking out into the bay to fish.

Another timeless scene - apart from the multimillion dollar houses across the way. This is Florida after all.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Surf's Up

On Golden Beach.  

You can hear the surf at night, the mornings are chilly again and someone's getting

a roller-coaster ride

His friend, spotted outside a neighbour's house, has a more leisurely stroll

Time to revisit some warmer memories. More on the Botanical Gardens shortly.....

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Marie Selby's Little Eden

We'd gone past the entrance many times and never actually visited. It's not cheap to get in and you need enough time. But the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, right in urban Sarasota, is one of the must-see places in our area. So we finally picked a day to do it thoroughly. The first exhibit we saw  saw was inside the glass house.

An exquisite orchid display.

I just couldn't get enough of those orchids.

Each one was different. I loved this spotty specimen.

And these were gracefully languid.

The vibrant colours fitting right in with the tropical temperatures.

I couldn't tell you what they were all called. Labelling was something they could do a little better.

But there were plenty of volunteers on hand to explain things. One of them did say that too many labels might detract from the display, so they have to strike a balance. How's this one for an interesting colour?

The Gardens specialise in epiphytes (see the Christmas tree in a post below) - plants that grow on other plants without harming them, getting their nutrition from the air and water (just like that Australian woman who thought she could do the same, without success.) Which goes along with their dainty, aristocratic look. No parasitic chomping for them - that would be vulgar in the extreme.

Here was a very politically-correct ice cream van.

The sign on the side read, "All Natural Gluten Free Low in Sugar Low in Calories Vegan Options." To paraphrase someone else, c'est magnifique mais c'est n'est pas ice cream."
  While on the subject of foodstuffs, this was my first sight of a coffee bush. An arabica with origins in Ethiopia and Yemen.

Marie Selby was one of those typical wealthy Americans who gave her home over to a good cause after her death. This, however, was not her, more unassuming, house but one belonging to a neighbour, who also bequeathed it to extend the Gardens.

The house, built in the 1930s, would have suited me down to the ground.

Especially as it had a beautiful view over Sarasota Bay. But I could console myself with one thing - unlike ours, it's not near the beach.

to be continued.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Big Almost Freeze

Dateline: Venice, Florida

  It just shows how all things are relative.  We are cold here. We are shivering. The heating's come on but it's not enough - I think it still thinks it's air-conditioning. And of course the ducts are in the ceiling, not much use for heat. Heat rises. Duh.  The robot on the Marine Weather Radio is telling people, in nanny state fashion, to put on warm clothes and bring pets indoors. I noticed that a neighbour had thrown sheets over his garden shrubs, something I neglected to do.  Thankfully we missed a frost last night by a few degrees. (The previous owners of our house said it snowed here once). Florida and cold doesn't go together. Everything is geared to shorts and sunshine.
  "At least it's a chance to wear some of my sweaters and scarves", a friend remarked. Others, who, on retiring to Florida full time, had gleefully tossed out their winter woollies as one puts away childish things, are starting to regret it.
  There was a sweet story though, of a dad in Tampa who studied the weather, found out there were going to be a few snowflakes in northern Florida and packed up his kids in the car to drive up there and give them a chance to play in the snow for the first time in their lives.
   But why are we complaining?  When Up North is suffering its worst winter since time immemorial. Erie, Pennsylvania, just down the motorway from our western New York home, had over five feet of snow in a day.
  It's the wind that's really bad", said my Cattaraugus County neighbour on the phone this morning, "We are just hunkering down in the house."
For once I share the view of a certain incumbent of the White House.  Bring on that ol' Global Warming. Bring it on!