Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Other Camellias

The Thomas Center had a semi-abandoned period at some point in its history. There is a vague recollection of sneaking in and catching pigeons that lived in the attics.

Today it is fully restored and used by the city as offices and a cultural center.

Out at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens it is camellia season.

I looked for camellias that were different from my grandmother's.

A new pond has been constructed since my last visit. The flagstone bottom with river rock accents was intriguing.

Aloe arborescens was in bloom and I could hear the sandhill cranes out on the marshy Lake Kanapaha

There was a whole garden dedicated to camellias and azaleas.

It was feeling a bit like daffodil season further north.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another World

Another Time

Sitting on top of my sister's dresser.
My two sisters, two cousins and me.

A Short Walk Through The Solar System

The relative distance of the planets from the sun is laid out on a long flat stretch of the 8th Avenue flood plain in Gainesville, Florida. Right after Mars is an entrance to hiking trails in this mesic hammock.

The confluence of Hogtown and Possum Creeks can be found in the shaded interior.

This flood plain is surrounded on all sides by typical houses of suburban Florida.

In the land where I grew up.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The White Camellia

My grandmother was planting camellias in her garden long before I was born, probably before my own mother was born. Transplants from Kansas and Nebraska, my grandparents bought about ten acres of land along the St. Johns River in the 1920's.

In 1932 or so, the real house my grandfather built was finished. Before that they had lived in a single room apartment over the garage and before that they had lived in small wooden cabin. There have been many improvements and changes to the house since the building contractor retired and moved into the house where his wife grew up.

The features we expect in a home now a days are quite different than what was expected in a home in 1932.

The back part of the garden was sold off recently, joined to the back part of my great aunt's property next door and turned into an office condo complex. A long time ago my grandfather actually farmed the land my grandmother had not claimed for her three acre garden. They had sold this farmed portion of the land long before I was born. What they kept was the house and my grandmother's huge garden. This was the garden I knew a a child.

This is the garden that has now shrunk from three acres to a bit over one as my parents have subdivided and sold a piece of it on each side of them. Still this aging garden is almost too much to maintain. The comfort it continues to give can't be replaced though. Even in it's vine encrusted condition, a gardener's will is one of optimism and perseverance.

A maple tree in Florida contemplates fall, while camellias gather steam to bloom in profusion.

The white camellia bloomed for me this morning

before I headed further south to the town where I grew up.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Grandmother's Camellias

Are just beginning to bloom.

The flowers will be more noticeable as the season progresses and now that many of the shrubs have had their vining shrouds removed.

Every old garden needs another new camellia, a gift for the resident gardeners from their gardening son.

There are more. I saw an unopened white one out there and several others still tightly budded.

Friday, December 26, 2008

An Old Garden Gone Bad

The resident gardeners winter retreat has been invaded. It occurred slowly and steadily. The invaders had the advantage of a singleness of purpose and decades of time. Natives and aliens have combined forces in an attempt to engulf the gardens in a kudzu like grip of an impenetrable, twining and tangled mat.

The alien invasive Dioscorea bulbifera, the Air Potato only appears to be the worst. Its distinct leaf shape and color stand out better against the darker foliage of the azaleas it engulfs.

Despite the fact that the tended grounds have shrunk from three acres to just a bit over one, the invaders have steadily gained the upper hand.

The Air potato is not alone.

The guiding hand of a gardener is temporal at best and the force with which that direction is applied can ebb with time and circumstance. The aging garden itself cooperates with the invaders. Eighty year old beds of azaleas have closed ranks to form thickets thirty feet deep and twelve feet high. Any thing that sprouts in the interior is difficult to reach or even see until it has broken through the top. By then roots do not pull from the ground if they can even be reached.

Smilax does not show itself as boldly as the Dioscorea. You find it just as thick and tightly wrapped and piled on top of shrubs when you grab the Potato Vine to pull and the Smilax thorns stab you. This is a native vine. It has become just as invasive in the dense stands of azalea as the foreigner and is a tad more vicious. It prefers to spread by seed and runners, but the underground tuber that supports it and makes eradication close to impossible is every bit as potato like as the air borne and underground tubers of the Dioscorea.

These two brutes are joined by another native vine, Macfadyena unguis-cati, the Cat's Claw Vine. It hides beneath the Smilax and Dioscorea, the bottom layer of a tangled mat. Often it creeps along the ground in the bottom of the beds rooting along its entire length, sending solitary fat ropes of vine to mingle in the upper layer.

The vines are not the only invader seeking domination. Nephrolepis cordifolia, the Sword Fern, a cousin to the native Nephrolepis exaltata, the Boston fern attempts to fill any bed it enters.

The lack of a good hard freeze or freezes in North Florida in the last five to six years has allowed the more tropical Dioscorea and Nephrolepsis to continue their rampage unimpeded.

There are still others out of control and unwanted in a garden that receives caring and knowledgeable attention only in the winter months. Bidens bipinatta most likely, definitely a Bidens species that is here likes to grow five feet tall and swallow entire paths that wind through giant drifts of azaleas.

Finding a reliable gardener up to the daunting task of regaining control of the grounds has proven impossible for the resident gardeners so far. The ones that have tried don't last long, but from what I have heard none of them have had the heart of a gardener. They were laborers who couldn't tell the difference between an oak and an azalea and people who needed cash money.

They keep trying to find a real gardener to assist them who will last and is true to their word.

There are many jewels hidden in vine encrusted garden that is making a valiant attempt to return to a forest condition. There is a hope that the tide can be turned and a garden can re-emerge for at least the shorter final part of a long life time.

I pull and cut vines while I am here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

River Road

Yes this is a river, a three mile wide or more river in places. There are no damns making lakes. It is just fairly flat in Florida.

The original house of my mother's neighbors across the street when she was a small girl. The lot can now be had for a million bucks or so.

Looking back through the ancient oaks to the house my grandfather built.

Docks on the river.

Fine houses along the river. For a long stretch, the road is between the river and the houses.

A fine dock.

River flotsam.

Docks, docks, docks.

A southern sensibility.

Bald Cypress

Stand guard over placid tea colored waters, down by the river.

Warm Up

To a morning walk along the St. Johns River

Right now, it's Show Time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mele Kalikimaka

To one and all from Outside Clyde.
Currently on location in the other down under.

Where the stairs are decorated with gifts for a crowd.

And camellias are blooming in a garden of childhood memories.

The halls are decked and there is a tree in every room. My that wall color looks close to one called Wildfire. Bold!

Beware the unedited photos though. They are full size.

Happy Holidays You all!