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

The Pruning of Me and the Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtles are abundant in the South, their showy poms on display with great regularity from spring to fall in every shade of vibrant purple through delicate pink imaginable, even to lacy whites.  Yet every winter, no matter how mild, these proud giants are brought to naught, stripped of their elegant beauty and barely a leaf remains, mere naked frames before the winter scene.

The prudent gardener knows, though, that before the first spring’s tender leaf appears, major surgery must be performed.  Across the Florida landscape, gardeners enact what appears to be a violent attack upon these vulnerable beauties, severely pruning them back to nearly half their size, down to meager sticks rising a few feet from the ground.

How could this process be anything but cruel?  Doesn’t the gardener know what these grand ladies have already endured, stripped and laid bare before the world in humiliation?  Why chop down such meager remains when surely the leaves will return and all will be well once again?

Yet those who spare their Crepe Myrtles this mortification will find them spindly and weak throughout the coming year.  Poms will return but thinner, less bountiful.  It turns out the severe pruning promotes, and in fact ensures, new growth.  And not only new growth but stronger branches, more abundant leaves, denser poms.

Within just a few weeks of this pruning holocaust these genteel lovelies sprout forth multiple branches and leafy decor almost overnight.

Often I think of myself as the Crepe Myrtle and our Father as the Master Gardener.  How I detest his pruning, the agony of the cutting, the sorrow of the loss of the branches he cuts away.  How often has he called me to give someone up, to lose something I cherished, and I begged him not to love me enough to do the work?

At the time, it’s quite impossible to believe his surgery could ever be a good thing.  Yet later, after the tears have fallen and I’ve laid down the fight, I look back to see he didn’t take anything I didn’t need to lose.

I learned something I needed to find out.  I‘m enriched with more understanding, compassion, wisdom than I had before the pruning began.   I, like the Crepe Myrtle, am stronger and more beautiful for his blade, cutting away dead wood I didn’t even know needed to be removed.

What’s your dead wood; what’s the part you’re hanging  onto?  Are you allowing God to prune off the dead wood of your life or holding on to what you‘ve got, willing to settle for the spindly life you have because it’s what you’re used to, when he’s offering new growth and promise of a more vibrant life? Let something go today, something or someone you’ve be clinging to, and dare to believe God loves you enough to do something different, for which you’ll be richer in a sense you hadn’t even seen before.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Is A Rose A Rose?

Who has beheld a rose, with any thought, that didn’t marvel at its grandeur, its perfect symmetry, its delicate beauty and heady aroma.  One such work of intricacy could only thrive on the finest of circumstances, one would assume.  And so, I assumed.

My first rose bush was a tea rose, chosen for its delicate fragrance and vibrant color.  Selecting a protected and shady location, I prepared the soil with extra care, enriching it with deep, dark,  nutrient rich earth, in an area that was always moist and only received the gentlest of filtered morning sunshine.

To my dismay, the bush quickly grew weak and spindly.  The more I watered and fertilized it, the more weak it became. The more I protected it, the more fragile it looked.

What I didn’t know is that roses thrive in adversity.  They prefer well draining, sandy soil with just a touch of organic enrichment.  They excel with infrequent, deep soakings from week to week. They thrive in six to eight hours of full, scorching sun.  And they do best with prudent fertilization  limited mostly to  spring and summer. 

And so it is with us.  How often do we cry out to God to protect us from this situation or that calamity, to take away our suffering and ease our woes so we may have a peaceful and happy existence.  Yet what does ease produce in us?  Rarely a thankful heart.  Seldom a strong character.  Never a person of compassion.

Adversity is where it’s at.  Adversity is where we come to the end of ourselves, we fall on our face, and we meet God there. How much more we cry out to God, how desperately we rely on him in suffering.  And how much we grow.  Like the rose.  We develop and bloom new strength, and new beauty,  in adversity.  And we find God to be who he says he is, when we wait on him to work circumstances out.

Dare to take the road of adversity, dare to look for God in the hard circumstance of life.   Ask him to show himself, and look for him in the pain.  He’s there, and he’s up to something good.  For your good.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, Nature | , , , , | 2 Comments