Amy's Landscape

Views from the Florida Landscape


The heady perfume of spring orange blossoms came wafting along the morning breeze to envelope and intoxicate me.  Its alluring scent drew me daily until I could no longer resist and with nippers in hand I gathered the fragrant blossoms with abandon.   Vases throughout my home dispensed the captured aroma for days afterward.


But with every flower I cut, there would be one less orange to enjoy in its time.  For at the heart of every  tender blossom resided the beginning of one tiny, green, orb that if nurtured patiently instead of sacrificed for a momentary pleasure would in time produce the sweetest of fruits.  I could not have my orange and smell it too.  I would not capture that aroma to fill my home in spring and still have my orange’s sweet nectar in winter.


How often we trade in greater reward we could have because we refuse to wait, to develop the patience we need for the better pay off.  Entitlement and impatience seem the order of our day.  We must have it now, lacking the ability to count the cost and when the bill comes due it must be someone else’s fault.


Mine was a generation from a cold era, the first where divorce came out of the closet and into the norm.  Our parents didn’t connect their freedom to abandon the family with a toll on us and we suffered the loss as walking wounded, bent on bandaging it by way of smothering our children with all the affection and attention left wanting in our own souls.  And so we did.


This generation grew up being told they could do anything, they were the most special generation ever.  Every child got a ribbon and award, no matter how poorly they did, how little talent they possessed or effort they put in, in that particular arena.


Baby felt special indeed, but in our generation of parents, it went over the wall.  We felt compelled to give Baby the best our money could buy.  Money equated to love and we bought it for Baby in record quantities, passing on a mentality that Baby should have it and have it NOW.


Baby morphed into teens who had to have the newest at all times and marketers were only too happy to oblige, creating fresher items destined for obsolescence in six months’ time, creating an ever-increasing appetite for ever-changing items.


It became easier for this generation’s parents to pass out a $20 or a new ‘i’ whatever than to say no and hold the line.  These entitled brats became college students who didn’t necessarily earn the grades but demanded the place, and used college loans to buy their way through in style, told by my generation that they’d be making huge sums the moment they exited college, because after all, they were so special. But we hadn’t had the guts to tell our kids no, or to pull up their pants.  We dared not teach them that piercings and tattoos don’t fly in the adult world, and when they graduated, it turned out they weren’t so special out there, as they’d been lead to believe they would be.


Oddly, my generation’s mentality would poise itself to eat their generation alive, because we grew up hearing ‘read the fine print’ and their generation grew up scanning, moving ever faster on the quest for more.


Few of them took responsibility to read the fine print on their student loans or car loans or home loans.  Now their student loans have ballooned, mortgages are foreclosed and prospective employers pass them over as immature caricatures of reality TV due to their inability to dress or act appropriately in a given situation or the realm of business.


These child adults don’t get it and they don’t know why the world has turned against them.  The world is giving them the spanking we refused to, teaching them that there really are unchangeable laws of the universe, and that the sun, sadly to them, does not revolve around their wants and desires.  I wonder what the backlash will be for the next generation because we taught this one to pick the blossom, without teaching them the rewards of patience, of waiting long enough to reap the orange.


March 10, 2012 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, Landscaping, Life, Nature, Parenting, Random, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Show Queens of the South

Azaleas are the show queens of the South.  Where the Carolinas and Tennessee may boast their versions of that rhododendron with abundant pride, Florida considers itself the Azalea capital of the world.

Azalea varieties abound profusely, from the petite Duc DeRohan to the spectacular Indica Formosa that grows to tree size.  Azaleas come in countless colors and combinations including white, red, every variant of magenta or purple and Florida boasts them all with rightful vanity in a spring to summer display to beat all challengers.

The one thing they have in common is that they are acid loving plants that flourish in a rich, organic environment.  The wrong soil will quickly spell an end to the life of the most hearty azalea, where the right acidic soil found under every spreading oak will cause azaleas to thrive even in the wild with no human intervention.

Are you in the right soil?  Do you surround yourself with people who challenge you to be your best, confront you when you’re off the path and encourage you when you’re onto something good?  Or are you allowing yourself to be drained by others with no end to the flow?

What’s your environment like?  Are you surrounded with negativity, by people who continually zero in on what’s wrong or look for problems to steep themselves in?

Do you thrive on drama instead of admitting your contribution to the situation so you can grow up, change and move forward?

Do you get enough fresh air and sunshine, taking time to get outdoors to praise God for whatever beauty you find around you, and thank him for what you DO have instead of whining for more?

What do you focus your thoughts on?  Are you enriched with the nutrients you find in the Word of God and input that uplifts and challenges you, or are you sluggish and isolated because you don’t know what God wants for you or expects of you?

Maybe you need a soil check.  Ask yourself those questions and examine where your head and heart have been lately.  Next, admit to God and others where you’ve been off the mark, ask Christ to forgive you and get moving in a new direction.  It’s not as hard as it seems,  but it takes humility to look honestly at our soil and make the changes we need to thrive and not wilt.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Your Spanish Moss?

Nothing gives so fine a touch to landscaping as edging.  The whirring metal blade carves a distinct line, making every planter look crisp, every driveway or sidewalk appear clean and orderly.

But all Southern landscapers know that just one touch of that blade’s tip on a piece of Spanish moss and instantaneously, the moss will be drawn in and wound tightly around the blade housing.

The smart landscaper knows this to be an inescapable reality and will humble her (or him) self to bend down and move the offending moss out of the way of the blade before the consequences come due.

But, over again, I would say to myself, “This time, it will be different.  Just this once, I will be the victor; I will do it my way without the same outcome, without the same result…”

And every time, without exception, I would have to relearn the lesson.  No matter how fast the blade turned, no matter how much I revved the motor to plow through the moss, the moss always won.

The moments I intended to save by refusing to bend down and collect the moss were lost, and the payment was minutes wasted picking out every tiny piece of moss wound tightly around the blade and housing, sometimes so tightly I had to stop everything and get a pair of needle-nose pliers to pick away at the tighter strands.

Why do we continually think we can get away with something we’ve already seen won’t work; that somehow, even though we do the same dumb thing, this time it will be different, somehow WE are different and we won’t pay the penalties?

God puts consequences in place so we’ll do the smart thing, the right thing, the good thing, for us and those in our lives.  Why do we choose to go back to that thing we know is wrong for us, hoping somehow this time it will be different?  How many times do we have to do the same thing and get the same result until we choose to plug in a different move or humble ourselves and do it his way instead of ours?

What is that one thing you refuse to give in over and give up to God’s sovereignty?

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Buy A Kayak

A water girl am I, there’s no doubt about it.  We have a 24-foot boat for family cruises down the wild, tea-colored St. John’s River, or snorkel jaunts in the tropical waters of the Florida Keys and manatee-filled springs of Crystal River.  

Our canoe is just the ticket for still, peaceful morning sunrise paddles on the lake.  And the jet ski rounds out the water vehicle line for our family’s summer slalom, tube and wakeboard escapades.

So, I’m not sure what propelled my desire for a kayak.  Somehow a kayak beckoned, filled a longing none of those other vessels seemed to. 

Florida has so many pristine streams and remote backwater creeks that just couldn’t be gotten to in another craft, with perhaps the exception of the canoe, which could often be unwieldy in high winds or on streams with strong currents, downed trees or tight turns. 

And now that our children were out of the house, a pair of kayaks would be a pleasurable way for my husband and me to create new memories, just the two of us, in places we hadn’t experienced with our kids.

After becoming a birding photographer for  owned by Jenny and Kenny Boyd, I’d become ever more drawn to the world of kayaking.  Not merely passionate birders and nature enthusiasts, the Boyd’s own Central Florida Nature Adventures, the premier guided kayak touring company of Central Florida. 

For  years I listened raptly as they shared their wonder over the unique, unspoiled locations to which they’d introduce awed clients from virtually every country on the globe.  I’d even joined them to kayak the pristine streams, for which Florida has always been famous, the “real Florida” that still exists, in large part, due to an aggressive state land acquisition program that preserves these matchless and distinctive wilderness jewels for all, who muster courage, to experience.

In childhood, my family canoed several of the Florida State Parks, but we had been motorboat enthusiast and I remained so, passing the love of that pleasurable pastime on to our children. Yet listening to the Boyd adventures reminded me of the wilderness treasures I’d experienced in youth, and I longed to again enjoy these marvels of our naturally beautiful State.

 Canoes use to be the popular boat for backwater exploits, but with kayaks now light enough to carry up townhome stairs and store on patios, the sport had exploded for the landlocked. 

 On Florida weekends, nearly every vehicle in town had a kayak strapped to it and the sport had taken on a bit of snob appeal as it grew in popularity, array of construction materials, and available gadgetry. 

 Wandering the kayak section of several sporting good stores for about two years, I learned a smattering of what to look for, but the salespeople knew little more than I did and it seemed easy to make a pricy mistake. 

 Prices ran the gamut. What made for quality and what just made for hype and snob appeal?  What did “roto-molded” mean, and what was the best material for a kayak? 

 Paddles were a world unto themselves! The task of figuring out myriad details of boat, seat and paddle options intimidated me into feeling out of my league, so I just kept leaving the stores befuddled and frustrated.

 One fine day I hit my limit for merely listening to Tales of Exploration from Central Florida Nature Adventures’ fervent participants.  It was time to launch into the unknown, to get beyond feeling intimidated by ignorance and the dread of looking like I didn’t know what I was doing, which I didn’t.

 It started with a simple e-mail to Jenny Boyd of Central Florida Nature Adventures,  and from there my own kayak adventure took off.  Without talking down to an obvious neophyte, Jenny began educating me, regarding what to look for and why it was important.  

At the outset, it seemed logical that a shorter kayak would be less pricy and easier to handle, load and unload. But Jenny helped me widen my knowledge. 

“A shorter kayak may or may not be less expensive.  And it’s not necessarily easier to load in or on a vehicle.  Weight is a real factor, but shorter may not necessarily be lighter.  Price and weight both depend on the manufacture, what it’s made of, and what amenities are included, the weight of the seat, etc.” 

One might assume a shorter kayak would be easier to maneuver through the water, but not necessarily!  “The shorter the kayak the more it will move from side to side as you paddle.  This actually requires more effort to move through the water.  The longer the kayak the truer it will track, the straighter it will move through the water, and the less effort it takes to paddle,” Jenny informed me. 

 As a professional kayak guide, Jenny paddles a lightweight 9’ Dagger and loves it.  Though it takes more effort to paddle the straight runs, she’s better able to maneuver quickly to serve a client’s needs or move rapidly from one position to the other while shepherding a tour along swift streams and tight spring runs. 

 For a first kayak, I really didn’t want to invest a lot of money, in case my needs changed as I learned, or I didn’t enjoy it or use it as often as I thought I would.  But Jenny warned, “Be careful with the cheaper brands.  While you might save a few dollars on your initial costs, those kayaks will often delaminate.  They can’t take the intensity of the Florida sun or the rough treatment kayaks often endure through loading and unloading from whatever method of transportation you use.  The snaps, straps and cushioning of seats are cheaper and don’t last as long.  Those are important elements to consider when purchasing a kayak.” 

I hadn’t considered any of those aspects, and now realized how valuable her professional help was in avoiding decisions based on ignorance that I would surely regret.

 Jenny suggested I purchase a roto-molded polyethylene kayak, which would be easy to load onto an SUV due to its lightweight, and be relatively inexpensive compared to Kevlar or fiberglass kayaks which, while light, are stiffer, scratch more easily and are much pricier. 

 She also suggested a 12’ length, that would track straight and true for undemanding paddling along streams, but be nimble enough to make turns and curves without a lot of back paddling. 

 Then there was the choice of a sit-on kayak, definitely the easiest to enter and exit, or a sit-in kayak, which was the choice for a dryer ride. 

 For kayak builders, she suggested I consider Perception, Emotion, RTM, Dagger, Wilderness Systems and Old Towne as brands known to be durable and well-built.  And she suggested I head to Mosquito Creek Outdoor or a similar company that specialized in kayaks, and had a pool where one could actually paddle a kayak before making the investment. 

 “That’s the main thing, to paddle the kayak before you buy. These guys paddle for the enjoyment of it all the time.  They are in the kayak business and that’s what they do well, for business and for recreation.  Their passion and experience allows them to help you make wise choices for your particular usage, since they paddle the same areas and know what you’ll be dealing with.”

With that tutorial under my belt, I headed to Mosquito Creek Outdoor in Apopka, Florida.  While they have a wonderful store in the front, filled with everything the outdoor enthusiast could dream of, the real action was in another building to the back. 

Upon entering the place, I was astounded to see every size, style and color of kayak imaginable, yet the staff was friendly and especially patient, putting me at ease to ask questions without feeling ignorant or intimidated.  Right in the middle of the huge showroom was a pool for paddling one’s selection around, to get a feel for how it moved, and how one moved with it.  Gary then proceeded to spend nearly an hour helping me make informed choices, based on his personal experience as a paddler and vast knowledge of the sport as a professional. 

Gary showed me the differences between models, helped me compare the things we needed, and didn’t, and helped me whittle down choices based on the type of water on which we’d spend the most time.  He even educated me on the value of color.  “If you plan to spend time in waters shared by motorized boats, you want a lively color that allows you to be seen easily.  If you’re photographing wildlife, colors that imitate nature will help you blend into the environment more effectively.”  Even a kayak’s color was about so much more than mere good looks.

Paddle options could baffle the mind, but Gary gave me a lesson on the reason for differences in construction materials, and the value of light weight paddles versus rugged ones that could stand up to abusive conditions.  It was important to balance those factors based on the usage they would endure.

Most state parks and kayak guide companies use aluminum shaft, nylon bladed, one-piece paddles for ease of use and durability.  They’re also less expensive to purchase, but tend to be heavier.  For the day-tripper, that’s sufficient. 

But for the individual who kayaks often or for longer distances, fiberglass shafts or carbon blades can’t be beat for lightness of weight and construction.  And weight is a factor you’ll appreciate more with every paddle stroke.  Just a few extra ounces adds up on long distances and can really tire you out, detracting from your enjoyment of the sport. 

Fiberglass shafts are usually married to carbon blades, which tend to chip more easily than nylon does.  It can’t take the punishment of carelessness or withstand a beating like a nylon blade can. Paddling in rocky-bottomed areas or places where you might push off rocks along the edge will shorten the life of a fiberglass and carbon paddle very quickly. 

Two-piece paddles are more expensive but make great sense for flexibility of use and ease of storage.  The shafts can be extended to different lengths to accommodate your personal taste and are marked to allow for paddles to be “feathered”, that is, set at different angles.  Storing two shorter lengths inside a kayak is easier than having one long paddle protruding out to trip upon or drop overboard.

 Never underestimate how quickly you can get into an emergency situation on the water.  While kayaks are stable, it’s not hard to flip one in a tight turn or swift moving current, and life vests are essential safety equipment to wear or at the least carry on board.  And most state and national parks require them to be included in your safety gear before paddling their waterways.

Kayak vests are different from typical ski vests or life preservers in that they are cut to allow for ease of continual arm movement and therefore chafe less than other types of vests.   Shrewd kayakers include a small first aid kit, a towel or sponge for bailing, a whistle for location, an extra break-apart paddle and a poncho as important safety gear to prevent a day’s kayak adventure from turning into a nightmare experience.

By the time I left Mosquito Creek Outdoor, I’d purchased two 12’ Perception Prodigy sit-in kayaks, Adventure Technology Glass Shaft Ergo T4 carbon bent shaft paddles to go with them, and a few essential accessories to keep our gear dry and bodies safe. 

 Two days later, we were gliding along Rock Springs Run, heading against current with near ease due to the perfectly suited 12’ Perception kayaks and lightweight AT paddles.  Yet we didn’t even realize we were getting a near full-body workout in the swifter turns and twists of the run. I could go off alone to photograph silently the elusive bird life that inhabit those serene waters and in moments rejoin my husband to continue our adventure exploring the crystal stream’s spectacular vegetation and wildlife.

For me, kayaking was no longer an intimidating snob sport but a new avenue through which to connect with my husband and experience the tranquil marvels of nature, plus get a respectable work-out in the bargain.  After all these years, life in Florida is still pretty great…

© Amy K. Munizzi

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Boating, Environment, Florida Outdoors, Kayaking, Nature, Parenting | , , , , , | Leave a comment

St. Augustine Must Die

I’m done, finished, it’s finally and completely over between us this time.  How many years  have I foolishly wasted on him, 25, 28?  Too many to count, too painful to remember what our relationship has already cost me, on so many levels.  When I think of how I once pandered to him I want to scream in rage, I know I am more than a fool for believing all the lies. 

Vanity drove me to listen to everyone around me, instead of following my conscience, instead of doing what I knew inside my own soul was right. 

When we met I was so young.  Bahia was everyone’s lawn of choice, the friend and companion of every cow pasture, upland, lowland and mansion.  But then I married, we moved into the burb, and sultry, seductive St. Augustine moved in next door. 

In the beginning I marveled at my neighbor’s lawn from afar.  Most every morning I caught myself staring at the lush green beauty that blanketed his lawn.  At dusk, when my neighbor went in for dinner, I often found myself stepping over the line, from my yard to his, bare feet striding over and sinking into the joy that was his carpet of wonder.  

To say that my Bahia paled in comparison would be a visual as well as physical accuracy.  But St. Augustine was way out of my league, too expensive for a young newlywed girl to possess.  And so I waited.  And yes, coveted.  

When my time came, when I was in control and had the power, it was St. Augustine I longed for.  Plugs were all I could afford in our first rendezvous. But by the time our next house was on the horizon my husband was drawn in, and together we fell head over naked feet in love and in bondage to St. Augustine together. 

At first, the threesome worked well.  St. Augustine was rich and beautiful and we looked all the more elegant in the reflected glow of his lush expanse.  My husband slaved to fund our addiction and I worked the skin off my fingers trying to keep the weeds out and keep St. Augustine in the pristine condition to which he and we had grown accustomed. 

But you know how relationships change.  Soon he was no longer happy with just the simple sunshine and water we gave.  He suggested we would all be so much happier if he were fertilized more often.  But that wasn’t enough, next he felt a bit ill and said it was Chinch Bug Killer he required.  Then it was mole crickets he complained of.  On and on it went, our retched inadequacy, his constant insatiable desire for more, more, always more.

In the rainy season he began to brown and though I fertilized and bug killed with abandon, he now said the issue separating us was fungus;  if only I would treat his fungus, we could all be happy again. 

Soon he was bleeding us dry with his constant wilting or withering, complaining it was too sunny, too hot, too dry, too wet.  Nothing we ever did was enough to keep him happy.  He was weak, lazy, not even capable of fighting off the smallest insect or the most pathetic weed.  Before we knew it, my husband and I were deeply in debt, owing hundreds of dollars on our Home Depot credit card as I spent larger and larger sums just trying to keep St. Augustine in balance, happy, content so he wouldn’t make us the laughing-stock of the neighborhood.

Our pathetic dance came to a crashing end when the hurricanes of 2004 dealt one drenching blow after another, from which St. Augustine could not recover.  By then I was tired, oh so weary of the never-ending battle, never being able to please him.  I could no longer stand the constant feelings of inadequacy, and my husband was no longer willing to continually fund our little tryst. 

St. Augustine began to falter, and we could not muster the energy to save him, nor to care.  In retaliation he browned from the chinch bugs.  He spotted from the fungus.  He shriveled in the damp and he wilted in the heat.  But we were over it.  Our eyes were finally opened, the spell had broken.

When I think of all the years we damaged the environment with the run off from fertilizer, bug killer and weed killer, just so we could entertain a lush expanse, I feel sick and ashamed.  All the perfectly drinkable water we wasted just to feed St. Augustine’s insatiable thirst, while the whole state went to water restrictions just so our lawns could be pretty.  What an idiot I was, all the money I wasted, all for vanity. 

I want others to know what I know now, to understand, to awaken, to break the power this insatiable gigolo  has on them.  I want to take my John Deere 790 diesel tractor’s loader bucket and scrape every blade from every lawn as far as my eyes can see.  And I’ll have my revenge, for hell hath no fury like a woman gardener scorned.  Once again, we’re building a house.  Already, my old friend Bahia has forgiven me, has offered his hand, his steady, dependable blade to stave off erosion and make my world green again.  Yes, in drought, he will go dormant, but only to flourish again when the rains return.  In heat, he will draw in on himself, only to unfold in green glory when the rain falls anew. 

He hasn’t the glamour or lux, with which  St. Augustine once drew me to himself.  But Bahia will always be there, come rain or shine, heat or cold, hurricane or drought.  He will love and live with the environment in harmony, never requesting extra water or fertilizer or bug killer or weed killer, but happy to be, just be. 

And so, St. Augustine must die.  Here in my current house, I am scraping off what is left of my pathetic lover, and sodding him over with my sturdy hero, Bahia.  I can hold my head up high, knowing I’m doing my little part to conserve precious water supplies, keep erosion at bay, and help return Florida waters to their once pristine condition, the way they were, before we all lost our heads to that pretty-boy who cost us so dearly. 

I won’t miss his water wasting ways, his insatiable hunger for pesticides and fertilizers.  But I sure will enjoy my cleaner lake water and my extra hundreds…and a zero balance on my Home Depot Credit Card.

September 22, 2010 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, Landscaping, Nature | , , , , | 2 Comments