This past weekend, my wife and I decided to take a ride to the center of the state to the small quaint city of Lake Wales.
The ride takes about an hour and 30 minutes from Port St. Lucie and it is an easy ride, as well. Simply take the Turnpike to Highway 60 and head west. Once on 60 it takes about 45 minutes to get to your destination: Bok Tower.
If you have never visited this wonderful sanctuary then you are in for a treat. The setting is quiet and beautiful with picturesque winding paths that let you see the way Florida foliage looks at its best.
In addition to the great plants, Bok Tower also has a large tower at the highest point of the gardens. The tower was built to house one of the world's finest carillons and it hosts 60 bells that sound enchanting as they go off every 30 minutes and when they have their daily concerts.
The gardens are lined with both native and non-native plants of almost every variety. A camera is an absolute must.
In addition to the main gardens is a vintage home called Pinewood Estates. This area is now totally transformed into a Christmas wonderland with dozens of perfectly trimmed hedges and loads of colorful poinsettias. When you take the house tour, you are in for a real treat. Every room is decorated in a different theme and the sights are breathtaking.
Near the entrance to the gardens they have a very nice gift shop with an outside garden center. Here you can find some nice live plants that will make a rewarding addition to your home garden.
One of my favorites this past trip was a hanging plant called a pitcher plant (nepenthes). This interesting plant gets its name from the so-called "pitchers" that hang from the leaves.
These plants can make a great addition to a bright location in your home or a porch and can also grow outdoors in a part shade environment. The plants will do best if they are not in the direct sun. You should not let nepenthes dry out completely between watering, but at the same token, they need to be able to drain. These plants are great for Florida because they love high humidity. They will not tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees.
If you choose to replant your nepenthes, you can use a mixture that has fir bark, long-fibered sphagnum and peat moss. Do not use clay pots as they build up too many salts in the soil.
Another great colorful accent plant we found there was a gem called the Bolivian sunset. This plant can be grown outdoors or as a houseplant. Right now is the prime blooming period, which ranges from early fall to early winter.
Even when not in bloom, the plant has great looking foliage that will look good almost anywhere. The plant will take full sun to partial shade but an ideal balance between sun and shade is where it will do best.
Joe Zelenak has more than years experience in gardening and landscape. Send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website www.hometowngarden.com.