February 28, 2007
From 5 to 9
Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a lily-livered chicken. I escaped the weekend wintry blast in Chicago and went down to Florida to visit my friends, Sara and Al , near Tampa Bay. From Zone 5 to Zone 9 is a tremendous change, both for people and plants.
It was an education unto itself. The above photo is of Al's Live Oak ( that's what they call them -can you believe they're evergreen ? ) right outside the Lanai. He just stuck a houseplant in the ground and created a living work of art. It must be a trend because I saw quite a few houseplants growing in the ground. The Live Oaks are a very artistic-looking tree with a lot of odd shaped, contorted branches, some growing low to the ground.
In my observation, two things almost every house in the area have, not counting Palm trees are a Lanai (screened gazebo-like structure) and a swimming pool. Must- have's I guess for the climate and the huge bugs. They say that the Palmetto bugs get so big that if you try to squash them with you foot they'll twist your ankle.
Florida has a severe drought at the moment and watering is restricted. Due to the heat they can't grow regular grass, and the kind they can is like the quake grass we pull out for weeds in Chicago. It's awful looking and not pleasant to walk on and a lot of lawns were brown from lack of moisture. But, it seems everyone has a lawn and most lawns get really thirsty.
I was disappointed that not more homeowners in the area didn't use Xeriscaping to conserve water and maintenance. Rock gardens look very natural and would be perfect for the climate but most landscapes were very formal and surprisingly, without much color. So much for conservation. I heard a news report today that Al Gore's energy bill for one day is more than the average American in one week. It's enough to make you lose faith in your fellow man.
It's amazing to see orange and lemon trees with fruit, azaleas in bloom, annuals already planted, tomatoes and herbs, and an assortment of beautiful palm trees. Ahhhh, it's Spring in Tampa Bay!
On the way back we got a rude wake-up call in St. Louis from the airlines : It's snowing in Chicago and your flight will be four hours late. That's the price of going from 9 to 5. I don't think I want to sit down again for a very long time.