Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Galaxy of Holiday LIghts in Largo, Florida

Every year the Pinellas County Botanical Gardens in Largo, Florida, is turned into a wonderland of Holiday lights. Bus tours bring people from far and wide, residents of the area wait for this event and make sure the dates are circled on the calender.

Our very close friends traveled from another county to join us for a quick, all American supper. Nathan's All beef hot dogs, in bakery baked buns, buttered on both sides and roasted in an old fashioned iron skillet. Home made french fries , and salad. Nathan's are the best, in my  humble opinion, no preservatives, or extra added ugly things.Gluten free for those who require that listing .The bottom line is this, they are just darned good, as every New Yorker will tell you. We bundled up and layered up, gloves and all because it was more than a little chilly. We hopped in the car, drove a short distance  and here the evening begins. 
This is the walk way into the Botanical Garden. In the daytime water and tropical flora and fauna are visible.As we walked forward,  We were met with a fairyland of color. Remember this is a huge facility with

acres and acres of tropical's, animals and some of the most beautiful plants species you will see anywhere.,  The well established Master Gardeners program provides not only an education, but constant care of the plants and the gardens. There are separate gardens in different areas. You could visit this place many times and not see it all. Adjoining this area is the County Agricultural center. If you have a problem plant or need a plant to be identified, or care advice, the professionals on staff are very helpful, and if they can't find the answer right away, you can be assured they will find the answer before you leave the facility.

As we walked along we entered what is normally the rose garden, and the wedding garden.

This year they have included a lot of entertainment that is appropriate. Folk singers, stationed in different areas, and a very talented Juggler.  The children were fascinated with his performance. This year the Gingerbread lane was introduced, along with Santa and Mrs. Santa. The line was very long for the wait to sit on Santa's knee, but we did take this picture, of Gingerbread figures and lollypops.There was also a train,

  but so much to see, Flamingos, birds and butterflies and of course this fellow.
When we reached the open pavilion we found the Dance club of Largo dancing to big band music. Young and old alike were really showing the rest of us how to stay fit and young.  Our dear friends  who were once great dancers took to the floor for a little whirl. Mr. Dude and I stayed on the sidelines for that one.
And here are some of the club members dancing. Doesn't that look like fun?

. The beautiful water spout, where we had sat and rested, just a week ago, looked glorious in its splendor of color.
The full moon was shining on us all this evening. We met some wonderful people, there were a lot of oohing and aahing, Mr. Dude took many more pictures, we came prepared to enjoy and enjoy we did.  I have tried to show a few interesting things, but if you are in this area, it would be worth seeing. I believe it will be closing after January 1, but you can check the dates by logging on to the Pinellas County Botanical website to see their full schedule. This site and Heritage Village which adjoin each other are two of the Jewels of this county.

We were very tired at this point, we had walked, lingered, and walked some more and now  it was time to go home, put the coffee on  and have dessert ( YumYum, Lemon Pie). A good time was had by all.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rush! Rush! Rush! Its that time of Year -----Santa is Coming!

I know that every Mother, every Grandmother and all other Sundry relatives are desperately trying to cram into every day, all the things, we have all forgotten. My time management was poor this year and before I knew it that wonderful Yule Tide season is almost at my door step. Have I finished everything I wanted to---NO! Have I decorated the way I usually do---NO!  Do I feel guilty about that---NO!

I had planned a different type of Saturday, but when I saw that a valiant and old orchid plant had fallen over from the wind last night, my attention was diverted .  This is how this root -bound little darling looked,
This plant is 10 years old, loves to be pot bound, but this is just  a little much!  I did not want to disturb the very healthy roots too much, so soaked the root base in a pail of water for 15 minutes. If there were any dead roots or bugs living in there I would soon know about it. It also enables me to plant more easily. There are clay orchid pots that I like to use. They have side slits for drainage and aeration. Most orchids enjoy being  cramped so the next size up should only have 1/2 to 1 inch all around the outer edge.  This plant will not have to be re-potted again for a long time.  I use a combination of small foam peanuts( not the plastic ones) and tiny lava rock in the base of the pot to enhance drainage , then "special orchid Mix" which I have soaked. This usually is a combination of perlite, bark and charcoal.  I use a plant clamp to steady the orchid in the pot and voila!  It is ready to continue living a full life and bring enjoyment.  There are many types of Orchids and some need different combinations of plant material. If you are really interested in these wonderful plants visit a local Orchid club or grower. You will come away with a wealth of information and probably be addicted for life!

While working with the plant I check under the leaves for any "creatures" that shouldn't be there. Everyone has their own way of handling this, but I personally clean the leaves with cotton balls saturated with Hydrogen peroxide.It is inexpensive and effectual. If I have used scissors, or other utensils on plants that have a problem, they must be cleaned ( I use a bleach solution), if you don't do this, it is much too easy to transfer " the bad guy Germs" to all of your other plants. I use a slow- release fertilizer designed for Orchids.

I am not a professional grower, I am a hobbyist Gardner who loves almost all plants. In the beginning of my orchid growing, I nearly drove myself crazy, cleaning, and such. I later found, most of the time they all like to be left alone with minimal care. During the many years of my Orchid addiction Mr. Dude and I  housed and worked on almost 300 plants.  That is not physically possible for us today, so we content ourselves with a few old favorites.My best friend, who is equally addicted and has a magic green thumb, and I still continue to look and often "drool with temptation" and yes, we sometimes buy--after all how can you resist the gorgeous bloom of a Cattleya, which is Mr. Dude's favorite. Unfortunately this orchid only blooms once a year--the wait is filled with anxiety.
This is how this Dendrobium Phalaenopis looks in its new pot. Standing tall and looking pretty healthy. We should have nice new blooms next year.  Did a little watering, filled the bird feeders and went inside to have a cup of coffee.

Now to continue with unfinished knitting projects that must be packed and sent this week. There isn't any time left for new projects,
Shhhhh, please don't tell what I an sending to them, just praying the hats will fit, and that everything arrives in time. It is difficult when you are not near the ones you love at this time of year. I think of our service people who are in other lands, defending our way of life and our country while they are sacrificing their own family life. How grateful I am for everyone of them!

Coffee cup is empty and Now I will go back to finishing one of the projects above.  When you are rushing around, and feel frustrated and anxious about what you haven't done, STOP, and visit your garden, do something you love, read a passage of scripture or your favorite book and you will suddenly feel peace and know the real meaning of it all!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December 8th Sunday in the Park!

In this area of Florida we have a wonderful Botanical Garden, which I have previously  written about and every Christmas they have a light " Bonanza " that boggles the mind.  Mr. Dude and I had made plans to take friends, in the afternoon to an afternoon plant sale and then the night time lighting festivities. My assumption, after hearing an ad on local Television was that this was only a small event---my mistake!!  Sadly my biggest mistake was not taking my camera, and I have been giving my self a mental "shake" ever since!  Must never leave the camera home again, plus I also left my wallet home.  Why not, I didn't need more plants, I said to myself, why be tempted. This was only going to be an introduction to the Gardens, home for dinner and a return for the lights.  Well, it didn't work out that way.

As we walked into the Gardens we all quickly realized that this was a lovely craft, garden and Plant show and there wasn't anything small about it.  The first booth we came to was the wonderful Wool items of Alicia
Chivers. In September of this year I visited her shop and then wrote a blog.  Her partner George Castro was also there and he had brought 2 beautiful brown Alpacas for the public to see.   If you live in this part of Florida her shop is a " must" for the holiday shopper. Socks, blankets, Jackets, shawls, mittens and so much more. The knitter can stand and drool over the alpaca wool and the many wonderful colors. To refresh your memory I will re-introduce you with the pictures below.

My best friend and I ambled along and we came to the Orchid booth of an old Friend, and mentor. When I first began to collect and cultivate orchids, Mr. Dude and I joined several clubs and one night heard an excellent speaker with great knowledge. Michael and Paula Polen own a family business in St. Petersburg Florida. If you are new to Orchid raising or what to buy beautiful Orchids and supplies Art Stone Orchids is one I can recommend. Michael Polen is always willing to share his vast knowledge and is very patient with you while doing it. I remember asking him some very basic questions, and he never made me feel less than adequate.  I didn't buy any Orchids this day, but I did buy a beautiful Christmas Cactus that I needed, doesn't everyone have to have one of those?  My dear friend bought two plants,  I was tempted but I need to visit him for some Orchid potting materials. I know that I will also find a plant that I can't live without.

Now, isn't that a pretty one--when all those wonderful buds open up it will be a stunner!

As many of my friends know, I am a collector of rabbits, I no longer have real ones, so those that I have collected over the years are everywhere. One of the first large rabbits was purchased for me by Mr. Dude from the Polens at Art Stone and that was a long time ago.
Now isn't he cute, He stands pretty tall and is very heavy, made of cement. This year he had a good scrub down and now looks as good as new.  I am also going to show you another one of my favorites.

This is Benjamin and he feeds some of my birds while standing tall.

 In the event you would like to visit this shop yourself, here is his business card information.

 We chatted for awhile and then wandered off to see a number of other craft and plant exhibits. We saw
hand made organic dog biscuits, glass garden objects, bird feeders, jewelry and some very interesting plants.
I questioned one grower and although he does not have an open shop he does have a blogspot which should give you his schedule.What I found so interesting were the unusual and interesting tropicals that he was displaying.Here is his blogspot:

It was getting late in the afternoon at this point and we had decided to leave, when we came to Mr Stan the "Honey" Man. I have been looking for raw honey for awhile and this is a very knowledgeable man when it comes to honey. Representing a honey co-op he travels to several local shows and markets in this area.. The honey is wonderful. He has blends for every season and even has black honey, which will be my next purchase. It tastes almost like Molasses.  I could not resist a purchase here , thank heavens Mr. Dude was ready to put his hand in his pocket, remember, I left my handbag at home-( hmm, I must remember that for the next time)-We tasted several blends, but finally decided that for our needs the Fall blend would be best.

We sat for awhile and watched the fountains in this peaceful place, the weather was superb and we all had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We decided to come home for dinner and visit the light display another time. We were all a little tired, and it was time for dinner and relaxation.

Meatloaf, Mashed potatoes and gravy, candied glazed carrots, string beans and salad. Pumpkin pie, with lots of whipped cream and of course a cuppa of  good coffee.  We sat, talked and talked, as we say in Swedish-prata, prata, prata.  It turned out to be a delightful day spent with old, dear, dear friends. How much better could that be?