Leu Gardens, about forty miles south of me, is a family favorite destination during the cooler months. Today, Labor Day, we decided to make a quick run through the garden, the heat be damned.
I was struck by how different the gardens look at the end of summer from how it looks in, say, January: The camellias, azaleas, perennials, and globulus citrus have all faded into a background, a canvas of green; in their place, front and center, a tropical vision of fringes and cups painted from a combustive palette of oranges, reds and yellows. The trip today reminded me—a timely reminder, amidst the doldrums of subtropical "fall"—that Central Florida is a special place for gardening: At 30° latitude, with a bit of stubborness and know-how, we can grow practically anything: Camelias, Azalaes, Orchids, citrus, Hibiscus, Rosa, bananas, figs, Delphiniums, Papaver, Daisies, Dahlias, Crotons... Where else are hard-pressed to decide when a garden looks best, December or August?
(Clockwise, from far left: Hibiscus schizopetalus, Ricinus communis 'Red Spire', Chrysothemis pulchella 'Black Flamingo', Caesalpinia pulcherrima, Rosa 'Pink Pet' (China, 1928), Rosa 'Fragrant Apricot' (Floribunda, 1998), Jatropha podagrica, Alpinia latilabris, Center: I have no clue.)