Today I left my Florida home excited because I was planning visits to two new gardens I'd never seen before en route to Tampa airport to collect a friend from England. But instead of the usual spring in my step after garden visits, I'm feeling really sad, having seen the extent of the damage that the prolonged spell of cold weather here in Florida has caused. The picture above was taken at the University of South Florida Botanical Garden but this wasn't the glorious brown that we associate with autumn in the UK (below).
I'm sure that this garden can look lovely, with its ideal location on the edge of Lake Bennke, but my visit was a real wake-up call on climate change! And I haven't seen "The Road" yet, which is hitting cinemas all over the world, but I've read the book and when I saw the way the gardens looked today, I realised that I probably don't have the stomach to see the movie!
My second visit was the Sunken Gardens in St Petersburg - still looking pretty good under the circumstances, but an uncharacteristic amount of brown there too. Of course, it would be hard to rival the collection of palms, citrus fruit trees and lovely blooms in this little oasis, but here too the foliage on many of the plants was a deathly colour (or should I now be writing "color" in the US?). That said, little could deflect from the sun shining through the palm frowds into the garden below.
There's no doubt that this is an enchanting place - it's stuck in a time warp - from the sign on the road (above), which is reminscent of Florida in days gone by, to the wonderful, antiquated "grove" heaters strategically placed around the garden (above, centre). The original four-acre property was bought by George Turner in 1903 - a plumber, who also happened to be an avid gardener - who drained a shallow lake on the site to provide the rich and fertile soil in the garden today, which sits 15-feet below street level.
Originally opened as Turner's Sunken Gardens, the property was bought by the City of St Petersburg in 1999, but it retains its olde-world charm today, and is worth a visit if you are in the area. There is another garden nearby - The Florida Botanical Gardens - which I didn't have time to visit, but I'll let you have the low-down on that one when I get there.