Monday, March 28, 2011

Greek Independence Day

Most cities celebrate St Patrick's day, Thanksgiving Day etc.; Tarpon Springs celebrates Greek Independence Day. It is done with the same fervor that strikes other communities to show their uniqueness. In Tarpon, a city already overwhelmed with beautiful blue skies, the Greek Community adds to it by painting most houses in the combination of colors of their flag. So there is no dearth of blue and white. So yesterday, Independence Day, the community dressed in their colors and waved flags to their heart's content to show their pride. It was a lot of fun!

As I have said before the town was founded by the rich from the northeast to escape the cold. Yesterday it was 28 in Collingswood NJ and 88 in Tarpon Springs! Then in the 1920'a the sponge industry took off. The Greeks came to fish for sponges and the industry still remains.

Today, on any street or market the language of choice is Greek not English. It makes for a very colorful town. The town has a section called the Sponge Docks where Greek shops and restaurants thrive catering to other Greeks from the area and the entire country. Greeks come from Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo and you name it to escape the winters. Their Mecca is Tarpon Springs in the U.S.

Yesterday, everyone was out and I have never seen so many flags being waved and all manner of costumes and dancing and floats festooned with more Greeks. The day was also referred to as GLENDI which for all I know means Greek Independence day. Not being Greek I don't know what that is, but I will check it out with one of my English speaking neighbors (not many!). If you know let me know

This little Greek made my day. Isn't she a doll?
Quickly abandoned for dining and other amusements this Trireme facsimile decorated a street near my house. But all was not white and blue. Around town Spring is in full bloom. The Azaleas and camellias are almost finished, but what remains is truly wondrous. Above, Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia) is one of two hundred species of plants that share this name and flower in a variety of colors. The small tree or large shrub can get to be a 20-25 feet ball. I was speaking with two gardeners who were tending their front yard where a solid white version of this flowering tree stood. One gardener told me to come back in a month and I could have all the seeds in the world. The other told me not too bother with seeds. He will pull up hundred of trees that volunteer in this tropical paradise. He also said that it was way too much work for the little time it is in bloom. Oh well, you can't win them all.

On a less than glamorous old property, the greatest of the local beauties is the majestic Red Kapok Tree (Bombax ceiba). It blooms on bare wood before any leaves appear. Typically it looses the leaves during the dry season, although here there has been enough cold to warrant a rethink on that premise. It is a towering tree some 50-60 feet tall and across. The flowers are fleshy and a most incredible carnelian red color imaginable.

Years, ago when I visited Cuba I was astonished to find versions of this tree towering in the landscape but with spines on its trunk and an orchid colored flower. I travelled there during December and did not see any of these marvelous red flowering varieties which I suspect have a small window of time when they bloom. It is a very magnificent tree and must provide that little house a lot of shelter from the summer sun. Maybe I need to consider one of these for my empty lot? Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Going, going, almost gone!

Contact Rich if you are interested

Well, Spring is here, the crocus are up and movement is afoot for selling my house. I have also resigned my Federal job. I tried, truly I did, but I am still a talented and creative person and not an automaton. So much for that experiment.

Picture from listing

Sun room from listing

I have decided to clear out and move to Florida. Well, almost. I consulted a friend who has experience in house staging and she told me I needed to simplify what sellers were seeing. That is what I had done months ago when I cleared out all my family pictures and miscellaneous bric-a-brac. Anyway, that is what I thought. After a room by room appraisal of my house it remained certain that there was way too much of me and too little house to be seen.

Living Room from Listing

As much as I had removed small things, way too many big things remained that certainly detracted the from truly appreciating my lovely house. I have been reading for a long time. One of the things that changed my life was going to Occidental College and changing bad habits into good ones. Reading was one of them. My first degree was comparative Literature acquiring a small Spanish library. My education in France brought another language into play and I kept reading acquiring a classic French library. Then two more Masters Degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in Historic Preservation and Landscape Architecture and of course all my plant books. You can imagine how they have added up on these topics alone.

Lovely image of my Dining room/ Reading Room

Unfortunately for my house it has been holding a library acquired during a lifetime. I can tell you where each and every book (almost) was acquired or a particular story about them. Try and do that with an electronic version on an Ipad or an kindle? It all becomes the same but they don't have my problems moving it all. Well these lovelies are camouflaged and distributed in over 12 large book cases around my house and more are in units in the basement.

I have packed 50 book boxes and will be sending them to Florida this week. Along with bookcases, and all the excess furniture that made my dining room into a multi-purpose room with a reading corner, similarly the mudroom, or for that matter an upstairs sitting room that is the true master bedroom. Numerous trips to the Collingswood library has left volumes of Greek accounts of the Peloponnesians wars, to Dylan Thomas, to Flaubert at their disposal. I have culled. I have packed what I consider to the finest editions, books or groups for my future enjoyment. At some point my Landscape Architecture library will be added to one of my Alma Maters.

Another listing image of the Dining Room

Kitchen Listing image

Well, I have stripped the house down packed and packed and given away as much as I can and the rest comes to Florida with me. The house will be all the better for it as people will be able to focus on what they are buying not my stuff.

Master sitting room instead of bedroom

I guess the truth is that when you are a single man with a dog in a three bedroom house you kind of design it for yourself. I took one bedroom and made it an office and eventually an exercise room. The Master bedroom has a nursery attached to it where a full size bed fits nice and snugly. That is where I sleep. I kept the middle bedroom for my guests who feel they are in the lap of luxury when they spend the night.

Guest Bedroom

It has been an experience greeting potential buyers or answering their questions. It may sound unorthodox but I did not mind telling them about the house, that is, those who were interested. There have been all kinds of buyers come through the first ones drove by as they thought the house was totally wrong. Another couple came in and after an inspection with their agent told me it was "too historic." I think if they knew what they were looking at the might have known from the street. Or maybe it was just that bathroom was too period. Regardless, there have been numerous couples who have seen it and thought it was perfect.

Foyer and Stairs

Foyer and Stairs minus pedestal and statue plus a few boxes

Add Image

I asked a neighbor to help me dismantle my garden urn. I have the perfect spot for it in Florida and I will no longer have to move the agave in an out according to the seasons. The agave is also wrapped up for the trip. I can't wait to get back to gardening in the tropics.

I have stripped the house down will go to Florida to organize and then will return for what I hope to be the final push.
It has only been three weeks since the house went on the market. The weather has not been great so only 7 potential buyers have been through the house. My broker, Rich Troiani of Drexel Realty thinks that is great and it only take one to make your day. So be it! Happy Gardening!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show

Floral Display inspired by Hector Guimard Paris Metro entrance
The 180th something Flower Show opened to the public today. The theme this year: Springtime in Paris. Yes I give it this dubious title as we don't really know which one this is or if we do we don't focus on its longevity - a shame! A shame because in this world of copy cats this is the most original thing in Philadelphia since the Declaration of Independence from the British. Yesterday I spent the day judging the showcase exhibits and seeing friends that I see once a year. The who's who of the plant world and botanic gardens are involved in the judging of this hallowed event. Besides them there are local designers and other personalities that are enlisted in the event.

I got my start as a judge doing garden clubs and minor categories about a dozen years ago. One day I wondered if I would ever judge anything more important and I mentioned it to a dear friend. The next year I was judging major exhibits. Since then I have been judging chair of the Landscape Division and when the new category "Showcase" was developed two years ago I was its first chair. Well, regardless of rank or category, I would not miss it for the world. I am in my element seeing extraordinary designers test their metal with creative designs and still trying to make a buck. Yes, this is a commercial endeavour for many of the participants. The exhibits cost money and must make a return for the many companies that use it to advertise their expertise. It is not just for art. In these economic times, I appreciate that even more. With any luck next year, I will be asked to return as judge. If I am, I will be coming up from Florida to visit my friends and hopefully see an even larger event if the show expands into the enlarged convention center. Regardless, enjoy the images and if you can, go see it for yourself, it is worth it!

The show centers its display on a central event put on by the Pennsylvania Horticultural society. Top notch florists test their mettle with wonderfully creative arrangement like this floral maze done in roses.
A simple wedding in Notre Dame
A different take on the "Tour the France. "This wagon was filled to capacity with all things French: Fashion to Bordeaux.

Clever designers created typical clipped tree hedges seen throughout France. However this one was a hydroponics attempt with the trunks serving as the delivery system for water and nutrients to the ferns, grasses, sedums and other clever plantings that represented the tree canopy. A marvelous display.

Floral massings of banksias in one of the many florist display.

Take a guess, I don't know what these were either, but they were beautiful, filled with orchids and topped with carnations.

On a more traditional note these carousel animals surrounded the central display which was a stage and a carousel. Most of the animals were throughout the area. Here a butterfly in the background and a wondrous Ostrich.

Yet one more: a peacock.

More frivolous flower arrangements. Truly stunning work of plant material.

Even a dearly departed Gardener's specialty shop had a great and creative display. Now associated with Target, Smith and Hawken produces a line of plain items for Target featured at their stores while still offering their renown products through a catalogue house within the Target website. I am going to check it out. I remember years ago when there was only one Smith Hawken in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco and I made a pilgrimage there to then mythical store. Well, their success eventually imploded and I guess they are trying to revive it again.

The Flower show was very Frrrench (pronounced with an accent). This Salon was exquisite even if the photograph does not do it justice. Here flowers, dried and fresh were integrated and coordinated to match with tapestry fabrics to create an rich effect of a Turn-of-the-Century Salon.

On a more modernistic feel this water garden with blue columns made reference to the 1927 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs from which we now have the term Art-Deco. For its effort this exhibit was awarded Best-in-Show.
Another exhibit played off the plantings off a water feature of paintings reminiscent of Monet.

Nothing could be about Paris and not include the Eiffel Tower. The central feature reproduced a fairly good facsimile of the lower tier of the tower that could be seen from everywhere. Truly very Ooh La La! Happy Gardening!