Tuesday, February 5, 2019

My Year of Orchids: I live in a giant terrarium

I live in a giant terrarium. Moving to Florida was such a great idea. I hate the cold and I crave the warmth. I wanted to garden all year. It had to be the right place though, with space for plants. No gated community, no lawn, no pool please. As it turned out we found it. Much better than expected. We fell into a place with mature native trees and shrubs surrounding the property, a good ten or fifteen feet wide on all sides, and higher than the roof line. So I am kind of plunked into a giant sized terrarium.

The trees surrounded me when I first got here, overgrown and with thick branches on the roof. A crew had to come in for some heavy duty trimming. They were happy that I encouraged them to go farther than trim. Cut! Cut! Cut! I knew everything would grow back whether I wanted it to or not. Also, I had just moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts where bogus tree huggers next door wouldn’t respond to my pleas. Their gigantic rotting pine tree was ready to send itself crashing through our roof at the next nor’easter. Its sap was all over the back of our house and squirrels used it as a launching pad onto our roof where they delightedly dug and delved. Didn’t want any of that here in St. Petersburg. But I did remember to talk to my future neighbor Robert, who turned out to be a wonderful person, that I would be going the cutting. “Full speed ahead!” Was his reply. And a few months later he hired the same excellent crew for his big project.

It took a full day and two crews and two trucks to accomplish what had to be done. I was left with a forest border thinner by a barely perceptible margin. Green things were still thick and rife all around my house! Have I told you about the shoulder length weeds? Drought resistant native plants all of them, luxuriant from the twice-weekly irrigation they got for the two years no one lived here. Thick and loaded with pollinators of every sort and beautiful hunting grounds for the black racer snake who lived on the property.

On the outside corner the native plants were so tall and thick they practically invited passing cars to toss out their garbage. Before I could think about orchids I had to do something about the weeds. And the six hundred pound native cactus (also assiduously watered twice a week) that had draped itself across my front steps. And the dozens of Spanish bayonets that scratch a leg or a wrist or get perilously close to the gardener’s eye.

Days I was slave to this garden. Sweating so much and so hard I didn’t realize I was dehydrated, torn and scraped, aching from the pulling and the clipping and the sawing and dragging tons of plant material into the large black garbage container that the St. Petersburg sanitation crew faithfully emptied every Tuesday and Friday. I really appreciate those guys. Not like Cambridge where you fight for a space for your trash on top of a blackening pile of snow and ice as tall as your car. So my Florida sweat was, I reminded myself, a small price to pay.

The orchids came and were placed in their nooks and crannies, mostly inappropriately as I’ve written before. And it was also the height of summer, mid July, and they needed almost constant misting. The heat and sun were intense just as I’d hoped but there was only so much I could accomplish with the sweat pouring off of me concomitant to the volume of water I was giving the orchids. Later things would cool off. Later I would notice the wonderful spaces, the exposed twigs, the excellent perches that the cutting crew left for my orchids. For now the heat made “noticing” too hard to do.

But the humidity, the frequent storms, the wavering warmth of the morning and the stunning clouds reminded me of a balmy blanket. I struggled to find clothing cool enough to wear. A t-shirt was too much. It was a waterous warm world and I was swimming in it with the growing, breathing garden of orchids. I was in a giant terrarium.

1 comment:

  1. Howdy neighbor! Love following your blog and so glad you guys have joined the neighborhood. Did you know you can take your yard waste to Lake Maggiore Recycling center? Yard waste taken there is converted to free mulch (which you can also collect there), and keeps it out of our land fills.

    Carry on! Enjoying the blog!