Listen, Follow and Enjoy

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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 and parked beneath the shade of a live oak. The early morning was heavy with humidity from the much needed rain the previous day. I brought along my butterfly book, water and 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 I’m drawn to this place because I have the same philosophy. I just knew I was happy to be in the midst of the beauty this garden offered. I continued along the walkway outside the visitor center, paused to enjoy the blossoms picked and identified by volunteers. My head bent, I inhaled the heady aroma of the gardenias, one of my favorite flowers. That day I felt I needed to forgo formal gardens and walk among the native plants.

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Southern Magnolia

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

Just past the Pollinator Garden, I entered the large oval, my first intersection. I checked my inner voice for direction. It led me left, toward the Southern Magnolia. Fragrance once again pulled me forward. Ahead I saw Gulf Fritllary butterflies as they flitted about above the native purple passion flower vine, aka maypop, 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.

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On the edge of the Wild Garden I heard the “Chee-wink” call of an Eastern Towhee. 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. 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.

Native Milkweed

Native Milkweed

Pine Ridge Trail

Pine Ridge Trail

SaveFinishing out my hour in nature, I walked the gravel section of the Pine Ridge Nature Trail, returned to the formal gardens via the Edible Garden.

My spirit renewed and a little damp with perspiration, I paused to drink water from my day pack, and turned back toward my car.

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.

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In Plain Sight

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As I wandered along the paved path at Bok Tower Gardens having just finished leading a garden tour, I slowed as I passed the Tea Olive bushes, sniffing the air to catch the beautiful scent I had enjoyed all winter. But the flowers were gone. I filed away this seasonal change in my plan to add it to my home landscape. Just ahead I saw two young women discussing the blossom on a Monstera deliciosa. Holes speckled the large leaves giving it the common name “Swiss Cheese Plant”. As I passed by I overheard a retired couple slightly ahead discussing the similarities of some of the semi-tropical plants to the temperate ground cover in the native forests near their northern home. They were deep in conversation and walking about the same pace as myself.

As usual, I was looking all around, on the ground, in the distance, down side paths and into the trees hoping to spot an unusual blossom, a butterfly or the source of a bird’s song. I was slightly startled to see a sizable black snake resting on top the bromeliads six inches off the trail just beyond the Monstera. His smooth black body coiled atop the light green plants was a study in contrast, hard to miss. Yet the two women and the older couple had walked right by without seeing him. I felt honored to share a few moments with this Florida native. His tongue was busy flicking in and out, testing for the possibility of prey. As I slowly walked past him to get a good look at his head, he became perfectly still. This lovely reptile appeared to be a black racer, hoping to find a tree frog feeding on mosquito larvae in the cups made by the leaves of the bromeliads. I snapped some photos and then thanked him for being such a great model before heading down the path toward a yummy ice cream cone at the Blue Palmetto Café.