Snowbird season is fast approaching; the first cold front of the year has not made it this far south. (Snowbirds are people who leave their northern homes to spend the winter in the gentler Florida climate) It seems October 15 is the typical cool down date. Snowbird season is fall everywhere else. I used to hate fall because I knew winter followed and the leaf color was rarely spectacular enough to make me happy about it. South Florida is pretty well-known for its lack of seasons. That said, I have come to think that there are actually two seasons here, Summer and Not Summer.
Summer is defined by the potential for development of Hurricanes, rain and general tropical sogginess. It is considered an emergency if your air conditioning breaks. People are nervous about the weather. On the other hand, I have read that summer in Florida is a great secret not to be shared. That is also true. The crowds thin, it doesn’t take very long to get a sandwich at the deli and you can take your dogs to the beach after dinner for a walk.
For a gardener Summer features some of our gaudiest flowers, Ponciana trees sport sprays of bright red orchids to announce the season. Brightly colored Hibiscus burst out as do the Crinums and Copperpod trees. Frangipani and the Big Bromeliads flower spikes give us a taste of the Rainforest.
Not Summer has its advantages as well. The first being, of course, you are not in New Jersey. Go to any liquor store in late October and you can feel the party in the air. People asking “Does Grandma have any Vodka?, well, let’s get some anyway.” Getting a sandwich at the deli now means that you must wait behind what appears to be most of the cast from the Sopranos before you can eat.
Not Summer is the gardening season here. Walk into any Garden Center and the plants displayed look like late Spring most everywhere else. But it is Halloween, kind of spooky. I planted my summer vegetable garden Christmas week last year. We had fabulous tomatoes until the Summer Solstice. Deeply meaningful if you are a hater of frozen precipitation and faux winter tomatoes, as I am.
Our Not Summer Garden features, of all things, Winter Starburst, a magnificent plant. Then, we have “good snowbird” plants. Some are year round reliable shrubs; Firebush, Hibiscus, and Jatropha. Trees include Tabebuia and the Silk Floss Tree (beautiful, but weird, covered in pink flowers in December or so and covered in humongous sticker thorn things on the trunk – I have mixed feelings about this tree)
Summer or Not Summer; the plant life here in South Florida is outstanding. If you are looking for Winter you are in the wrong place.