It had been a week since I’d visited my favorite place, Bok Tower Gardens. Puttering in my own garden wasn’t enough. I needed to walk in nature too. On the way to the grocery, I took a side trip to the public garden, handed over my membership card at the front gate, drove the winding road past citrus groves, longleaf pine forest, and parked beneath the shade of a live oak. Opening my door in the climate controlled environment I was assaulted by the air heavy with humidity from the previous day’s much-needed rain. Quickly I grabbed my backpack, stuffed in my wallet and pocketed the iPhone.
As I walked under the arch with the quote, “Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it,” I pondered my own life. This quote had been a part of the gardens since it opened in 1928. As a child, I read it in various locations every time my family and I visited. Perhaps it influenced my lifelong love of gardening, especially flowers. Or maybe this place calls me because I have the same philosophy. I just knew I was happy to be in the midst of the beauty this garden offered. As I continued along the walkway outside the visitor center, the “What’s in Bloom” table caught my attention. My head bent, I inhaled the heady aroma of the gardenias in a vase flanked by pentas and firebush, picked that morning from the gardens by one of the many volunteers. Sometimes I would spend my visit hunting for the blooms on the table. Instead I felt I needed to forgo formal gardens and walk among the native plants.
Just past the Pollinator Garden, I entered the large oval, my first intersection. I checked my inner voice for direction. It led me left, fragrance once again pulling me forward toward a towering Southern Magnolia tree. As I continued toward the wild gardens I saw Gulf Fritllary butterflies as they flitted about above the native purple passionflower vine, Passiflora incarnata. I looked under the leaves with holes eaten hoping to find a caterpillar, bright orange with black spines, without success. The adults, however, gifted me with opportunities to photograph them, pausing just long enough to snap these portraits.
On the edge of the Wild Garden I heard the “Chee-wink” call of an Eastern Towhee. It brought back memories of my grandmother who lived next door. She taught me the names of all the flowers in her garden and the feathered visitors. The call of the Towhee always made her smile. As I searched nearby trees I found the less colorful female perched on the limb of a sumac, the male furiously vying for her attention. Next my wanderings led me into the nearby bog where carnivorous pitcher plants fed on hapless flies and ants. A native milkweed bloomed among the native grasses, the leaves a larval food for the Monarch Butterfly progeny. It reminded me how vital it is to include native plants in the home landscape, natives for natives. Bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, and birds are all dependent on native plants for food and shelter. As homes replace the native meadows, bogs, and forests, we help the native animals survive when we add native plants to our gardens.
Pine Ridge Nature Trail. I was surprised to see Turkey Oak leaves turning red in June and realized it was the current drought that forced these trees into early dormancy. The trail wound back into the Edible Garden joining the main trail toward the Visitor Center and entrance. My spirit renewed and a little damp with perspiration, I paused to drink water from my day pack, and turned back toward my car and the resumption of my morning errands.Finishing out my hour in nature, I walked the gravel section of the
As I parked under a strip mall parking lot tree, the prospect of my errands seemed lighter and my smile brighter as I gathered my reusable bags, and entered the local Publix grocery, where “shopping is always a pleasure”, especially after a visit to the garden.