Monday, October 25, 2010

Tarpon Springs here I come!

Yes, I got it! It took some negotiating but this old Florida Bungalow is now mine. I am seven feet above sea level and a block away from the "Grand Canal." Tarpon Springs used to be known as the "Venice of the South." There are historic pictures of rich tourists staying in the grand bayou hotels and floating on Gondolas throughout the bayou and canal system. I haven't seen any recently but maybe I can bring back an old tradition.

I signed the papers a week ago and spent my first night in the house that same day. I was very excited as the weather was glorious, the light was bright and luminous and I could not ask for a more beautiful spot to call home. Limo and I walked around the Spring Bayou (pictured above) that evening after my cousins went home after a brief celebration. It was magical evening with stars and palm trees swaying to the tropical breeze. I can see why James Michener fell in love with the tropics and wrote so many books about its beauty.

Live Oak ( Quercus virginiana ) covered in moss at Spring Bayou Park

Although I was born in Cuba, I have only spent less than a month there in the last 50 years. I have travelled far and wide from Tahiti to Brazil to Mexico in search of the sultry magic that is evoked so readily by the word tropical and all that is associated with it. I am a tropical creature at heart although I am not sure how I will survive those blistering summers, but for now and the next seven months it will be a bit of paradise that I will cling to as much as I can.

I will share the bayous with all manner of creatures and fish. The Manatees make the bayous their winter home as it stays warmer than other places plus they forage in grasses that carpet the bottom.

Upon arrival in the area I took Limo for a walk in a wonderful park near where I was staying with my cousins in Tampa. I was so focused on so many things that I failed to check out the water. Every now and then there would be objects that resembled floating sticks but I noticed that they would disappear! To my surprise, they were not sticks at all, but Alligators. Baby alligators, measuring not more than a foot and some a little bigger. The parents use the drainage basins as nurseries in which to raise their young. These drainage basins are everywhere! I started getting a little paranoid as to the idea that there would be gators coming out of every body of water around. My cousin assured me that they are very much scared of us and rarely is there an occurrence between the species and that if ever an aggressive one is found they are relocated. Yappy little dogs do seem to disappear in Florida more than in other places. As for Limo, he will be on a short leash on all nature walks!

My new house is all lawn and palm trees. The biggest palm is a Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis) that is in front of the house and was once matched by a second to create a matching pair. Unfortunately, something happened to that one, which I saw in historic pictures of the house and which I may try and find a replacement at some point. Aside from the Date there are numerous Sable or Cabbage Palms (Sabal) of varying sizes and which are procreating babies all over the place. The other large plant is a Live Oak that is in the back side yard and of considerable size.
Not having a lawnmower or being in Florida all the time, I hired a landscape contractor to take care of the property until such a time as I reduce the lawn footprint or am there to take care of it myself. I own a lot and a half and it is all lawn. It was nice to see the crew of workers come and quickly take this gem of a property that was a little let go and spruce it up. By the end my neighbor, Maria a renowned chef and owner of several restaurants in town was telling me in Greek how nice it all looked in her broken English. I will have to start learning Greek to make deep in-roads into the community.

Some of the other plantings include a hibiscus hedge along the front porch and range of bromeliads growing in the northern shadow of the house to exotic flowering vines and flowers and a few citrus plants. I have a Tangerine and a Ponderosa lemon that produces fruits the size of grapefruits. I brought a bag of them for my friends to share the bounty of Florida. I don't think anyone around Collingswood, New Jersey has ever seen lemons this size.
But the crowning glory for me is a large Mango tree! Yes, I said a Mango, although it is recovering from the cold burn that it got last winter which was a particularly cold winter and that managed to prune about 2 feet of the canopy of my tree this tree will be the focus on my Florida garden. I love Mangos! To me there is no more refreshing and tasteful fruit. I can't imagine what it will be to have a 20 foot ball tree filled with Mangos. Mangos bloom in January and the fruit is ready by July and August.
Mangos and my front porch swing will all have to wait. I now have to deal with New Jersey and the sale of my house there. Given the economic climate, who knows how or when it will all happen. I may also have a job with the Federal Government that I interviewed for before heading South. If that comes through then that will complicate my Florida future until such a time as I can transfer or? For now I am Tarpon Springs dreaming... Happy Gardening.

1 comment:

  1. The house looks great. The lawn has to go, but you know that. I'm looking forward to the tropical gardens you will create. Thanks for the huge lemon you brought us from your own tree. I made lemon chicken and it was 'para chuparse los dedos.' You are in the right place at the right time.