Thursday, June 2, 2011

Potager at Pinewood Estates


Pinewood's about the garden views from inside the house!

In the 1970's Pinewood Estate came on the market. At the top of Mountain Lake Estates, it ajoined the Bok Tower Garden and the BT Board decided to purchase it. It was built by a captain of industry, C Austin Buck, a vice-president of Bethlehem Steel. Homesites in Mountain Lake Estate were hard to come by and if you didn't build within 6 months of purchase you forfeit the property. I have by word-of-mouth, that this (unbuilt) property became available in 1929 when its then owner committed suicide after the Stock Market Crash. I haven't done the research to verify this but it makes sense and fits into the time scheme. The story goes that Buck's sister called him on hearing the sad news and he came down immediately and made the purchase.

The house is in the Mediterranean Revival Style, which apparently was a US phenomenon that lasted only a few decades. I love the house; it's loaded with tile and what I like most about it is the views. The landscape designer and the architect worked in concert to achieve that effect. In fact, the gardens were designed before the house. As a garden designer I've gotta love that! Of course the garden is primary! Construction started in 1930 and took a bit more than two years to complete. If you happen to have money during an economic depression your dollars go a lot farther than they would have otherwise. I suspect Buck had the funds notwithstanding but evidence of the expert craftsmanship he afforded himself is evident everywhere. Tile is a huge element in the design from the roof to the floors and everywhere in between.

An abundance of colors and textures at Bok Tower Garden

from the top: I know this plant but it's escaping me!; Justicia aurea; Belamcanda chinensis; Justicia spicigera; fine textures clumping? bamboo; Mussaenda sp.

There was a great plant everywhere you looked.....and in the context of a wonderful garden. It hardly gets any better than this.

Bok Tower: they do a lot with Bromeliads and Cycads

You've got to love that Tillandsia screen! Actually the horticulture is very good in this garden including both maintenance and design. While it's clear that the vast majority of the plantings are original, including the backbone plants, there are accents here and there that must represent contributions of current gardeners. Hey, I can remember when some of them were introduced. It doen't have that stale dated feel that occasionally comes through in period gardens where the original plants have outgrown the design.

Went to Bok Tower Gardens

We visited Bok Tower Gardens yesterday. Located in central Florida on Lake Wales Ridge, it is the Creation of Edward W Bok, Bok emigrated from the Netherlands to the US in the late 1870's at the age of six. He rose from the position of office boy to become the editor of the Ladies Home Journal and is credited with having coined the term "living room". Wow. Anyway he had a winter home in the gated community in Mountain Lake Estates. Apparently it's still a gated community of between 50 amd 100, multimillion dollar homes. I was advised not to try to see the Bok house because the guards are armed and visitors are not welcome!

At any rate, Bok decided to make a public garden on property near by, and commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted to design the gardens, Milton Medary to design the 205 foot Carrilon, and Lee Lawrie to design the sculpture. Those were heavy hitters and the product stands today and works for me! I like the fact that the used local materials in construction of the tower, Georgia Marble and Florida Coquina. I would guess that native plants comprise between 1/4 and 1/3 of the plantings.

The gardens are informal with winding trails, ponds, and oddly enough, an overlook! Florida in general is a pretty flat state, not a lot of topography: this garden includes the highest elevation in the state. The plant material is varied and wonderful. Palms, bamboos, a large planting of azaleas and camellias, bromeliads, cycads, and a variety of flowering tropical plants are spectacular. There are mass planting of Florida natives including Hamelia patens and Psychotria nervosa. Lake Wales Ridge is the epicenter for the evolution of the extraordinary Florida scrub endemic flora and there was an area dedicated to those plants....well labeled.

Gomphoarpus physocarpus/Asclepias physocarpa.....Pufferfish Milkweed at Bok Tower Gardens

It was easy to identify this plant; I just googled pufferfish milkweed and sure enough, that's the common name. I keep thinking I've seen this plant before but where escapes me. Hey, I'm old. It's definitely distinctive.....the odd seed pods explain "Family jewels milkweed" and "Hairy balls plant". You didn't hear that from me.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Heron is pretty harmless

But we have heard there's a 5-6 foot gator in the pond so the dog has to be leashed at all times. We've only seen a small one but the big guys pretty much stay under water when it's hot. The come out at night but I can't bring myself to let Jigs run free even in the day. She's taking it pretty well.

One of the sightings involved a big wader, a white egret, I suppose an American Egret. Bill saw the gator motionless in the pond, saw the Egret about twenty feet away. The gator submerged and a short time later there was an explosion of white feathers and that was the end of the Egret. I don't want Jigs to go that way. I guess it would be better than having to put her down for some horrible cancer, but we're going to forge ahead and hope for the best.

From the picture, the pond is down a couple of feet; we're way short on rainfall. It's rained about three times in the last two months. I must have finally figured out the plant material because everything is fine. Even some snapdragons we threw in at New Year's for a week's color are going strong. Who knew? Just standard dwarf snapdragons are xeric perennials. Live and learn.

Plumeria porn: these are not your grandmother's Plumerias

Do you believe those flowers?!

I met this cool guy at the Marion Flea Market. We went there to buy produce; I always buy too much cause it costs....well, it's inexpensive. Asparagus the size of pencils for a dollar a pound, fresh sweet pineapples for a dollar and a half, blackberries, blueberries.... But these Plumerias caught my eye. He's always been there but in the past I remember him selling unrooted cuttings and somehow there's always too much to do to root cutting down here. But I stopped to talk today. Dana tells me he's got a guy in Thailand that tissue cultures these crazy ones. Hey, when did Thailand become such a center of horticulture? I suppose I ought to have listened to Barry Yinger. Anyway I bought these three selections: Ceris, Cindy Schmidt, and hey, unlabeled! Oh well next year I'll be more conscientious.