Winter Park’s Rollins College Greenhouse

Today after breakfast at the new branch of First Watch on Aloma Avenue, we went with our buddies Alan and Mark to visit the greenhouse at Rollins College; it was a nice antidote to all the yelling I’ve been doing this week thanks to the imminent destruction of the pioneer Capen House.

Alan is the greenhouse manager, and this morning he gave us a tour.  According to the Rollins website, The Susan O. and Frederick A. Hauck Botanical Research Center, or what is commonly referred to as “The Greenhouse,” is conveniently located next to the Alfond Boathouse on the shores of beautiful Lake Virginia. The Greenhouse opened on October 20, 1983, to facilitate student and faculty research, provide plant material for study and to permanently house a diverse collection of plant species, some of which are indigenous to Florida. During the Summer of 1998, a student designed and installed a butterfly garden. A book which describes each plant in the butterfly garden in detail is available to the public as a reference during normal hours.

It was very warm inside, what with all this weather we’ve been having, but I managed to photograph some of the inmates before the camera’s lens fogged over.

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This is a chenille plant, though I first knew it as “Love Lies Bleeding” when I planted seeds years ago. “Love Lies Bleeding” sounds like the name of one of those bodice-ripper romance novels featuring Fabio on the cover. 

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I’d ask to live in here if it was air-conditioned, but then I would survive and most of the plants wouldn’t. Besides, there might be bugs. I can imagine waking up at night and, in a panic, breaking through the glass panes because I discovered that I was covered with ants. It’s very nice inside, steamy and tropical and there are hundreds and hundreds of unusual plants growing and blooming. 

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A geranium and a blood lily.

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Pitcher plants. These things are big, over six inches long in some cases, and have been known to entice and digest things like mice. 

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Beautiful orchids, here and below…

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Ropy donkey tail, a sedum.

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A nut from a cacao tree. Inside there is Swiss chocolate!

I also took some video of Alan demonstrating how the Venus Fly Traps work, but they are .avi files and won’t upload on WordPress unless I buy an upgrade. 

And there’s so much to see on the college grounds. Pinehurst Cottage, erected in 1886, is a showplace. It was one of the school’s original two buildings.

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And the chapel…

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It’s a beautiful spot for a school, nestled along Lake Virginia. It deserves a trip back, by bicycle.

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PhotoBike Tour 13: Leu Gardens and Winter Park

(Foliage photos by Kirk… click on them to make them BIGGER.)

 See those beautiful plants? It’s a raft of bromeliads that were for sale at the Leu Gardens Annual Spring Plant sale today. Kirk rounded up a bunch of people to go “in the morning, early, so we can find parking,” and I do recall a voice at 8:30 saying that he was on his way, that he would let me sleep, and here’s your coffee. See ya later!

[Codicil: I’ve been up very late this week watching episodes of Downton Abbey on Netflix. AND I’ve had a lot of organizing work to do as well… so this morning maybe, maybeeeee I was a little tired.]

I knew there would be questions– where’s Jimmy? Sleeping in?– and I still have enough foolish pride left in me to care when people get the wrong idea, so I got on my bicycle and biked from our house to Leu Gardens. Not bad! The weather was perfect today, and the traffic was fine until I hit Corinne Drive coming out of Baldwin Park– then I had to contend with yupsters in their giant SUVs as they spedpastmeTHISclose while at the same time talking on their phones and tending to Madison and Yasmine in the back seat. I’m just saying.

Leu Gardens has bike racks set up to the right of the entry building, allowing the cyclist a short walk back to the main gate, or you can access the Gardens by going into the building and then taking the first left. Immediately, you’re in the Gardens’ famous acreage, and today was a most perfect day for a plant sale. The two young guys who were handling the area of the parking lot where the bike rack was located could not have been more accommodating, even laughing at my lame joke regarding valet parking, and that I’d be back to claim it at 2 PM… here’s the key. ha! And one was quick to say he’d start a tab for me after I asked “and now where’s the bar?” When one can bring smoky cocktail banter to a botanical site, then one is very fortunate indeed.

There was some phone drama regarding the coordinating of five people and their whereabouts, but that was easily addressed. I myself had to traipse through crowds looking for my posse, going on nothing but directional markers like “we’re at that house… near the ferns… past the roses.” WHICH house, WHICH ferns, WHICH roses? I did find everyone after all, and there’s nothing like catching up with friends while your ankles are being grazed by double-wide strollers: “So how’s work DAMMIT, OUCH.” The stroller brigade was out in force, which always leads me to wonder: how does one pair of parents with a double-wide stroller manage to link up with all seventy-five OTHER pairs of parents with double-wide strollers? All seventy-six couples and the 152 kids plant themselves in the middle of busy sidewalks, comparing ice cream likes and dislikes, discussing cupcake recipes, and relating how well little Chutney is doing in Advanced Ballet. And the mothers are just as chatty.

But I digress; it was too beautiful a day for anxiety, so I soldiered on. I knew Kirk would be using up megabytes on photographing the offerings, and so I must credit him with the shots of flowers in this blog entry. Scavullo couldn’t have done better.

The specimen below is a young Royal Palm. They really don’t thrive in our area, and reputable growers will impart you that important information. It’s just too cold here for them, and you’ll often see dead Royals gracing what was obviously a very recent landscaping job. They belong in South Florida, or in warmer climate pockets (you’ll find them on Merritt Island).

And here’s another grand palm, the name of which escapes Kirk at the moment, regardless of the fact that one is practically TRIPPING over identification signs while wandering through the Gardens. I’m just saying.

And here are some more flowers and things, one of the things being a koi fish (upper left). They’re basically large goldfish, which you’ll sometimes see in Asian restaurants swimming in picturesque pools. I always like to get the hostess’s attention, point to a koi, and say “that one, please.”

Some roses, below. One of the vendors showcased a selection of old-fashioned specimens, some of them considered rare. I spotted our friend Mark there, and started over to say hello, but ran into someone else I knew and said hello to him first. Hug hug, kiss kiss, and then back to finding Mark, who had suddenly disappeared. Then one of the vendor assistants asked me, in a Mrs. Kravitz voice, “is there a particular rare rose you’re looking for?” and I said “yeah, one called Mark,” and she said “I don’t think we have one by that name,” and I said “I’m kidding, Mark is actually a person.” Can you imagine the rollicking time you would have had with me today? Your sides would have been splitting.

Below: Kaffir Lilies, and a beautiful red Amaryllis.

After a Diet Coke AND a bottle of water, it was time to thread my way back home before it grew too hot. Rather than just go home the usual way– Corinne, Baldwin Park, Lakemont, Aloma– I decided to take a back way, just to see what I could see, like this old beauty on the corner of Azalea Lane past Mead Gardens (the pictures are by me from here on):

And, my favorite house in all of Winter Park, this time in color. (I blogged Winter Park’s beauties in black and white here recently.) It was built in about 1897 and it’s amazing that it’s survived for this long on the busy road it’s located on. Today I actually walked all around the house taking pictures, but the front displays this grand lady’s finest aspect.

 Instead of dealing with 436, I went north on Lakemont because there were a few streets to the east that I wanted to explore. I wanted to photograph Lacy Shadows, which used to be an old folks’ home decorated with beautiful wrought iron lace work on its two stories. (A woman I know who worked there used always to refer to it as “Shaky Laces.”) Lacy Shadows is gone, however; that was a disappointment. And of course the lot is for sale…

Now, I knew there was a vast nothingness situated between Lakemont and 436, but I wasn’t prepared for this. It’s part of Crane Strand Swamp, a wetlands area that’s hard to find if you don’t know where to look. I knew it was here, but hadn’t even seen it from this vantage point just a block or so east of Lakemont Avenue. Interlachen Country Club is built on this, and much of the Tanglewood subdivision (Lake Howell Road south of Howell Branch Road), along with a lot of development you see on 436 between Howell Branch Road and Aloma Avenue.

And just past here, on Little Lane, you’ll find the entrance to a development that apparently is in limbo or won’t be happening any time soon. Beyond the locked gates is Crane’s Strand, and an asphalt road leading to two cul de sacs surrounded by swamp. It was to be called Winter Park Preserve. A billboard right here says “Build Your Dream Estate– Last Large Parcel of land in Winter Park.”

Then, almost home after a short ride through Tanglewood. A rather exuberant house features this Bel Air parked outside, which is just about the color of my 2003 Ford Focus. I think this car is from 1961, which would make it over fifty years old. Can you imagine? I’m over fifty years old, and I’ll bet I’ve had more oil changes than this Bel Air.

Next… I’m planning on exploring the inner creases of Polk County. There’s lots going on down there in the way of obscure sites and villages: ghost towns, phosphate plants, spooks, and the like. I can’t wait!