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.


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. 


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. 


A geranium and a blood lily.


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


Beautiful orchids, here and below…



Ropy donkey tail, a sedum.


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.


And the chapel…


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

Yarn Bombing Rollins College

As most of you know, one of my gainful gigs involves working with owner Anne Jones and staffers Donna, Mary, Shirley and Laura at The Black Sheep Needlepoint Shop on 17-92 in the Virginia Mills District of Orlando. It’s a great gig, a fun gig– I handle their eCommerce sales and assist in the shop when needed; e.g., on Thursdays when it is time to decant the large, full garbage bag into the dumpster,  I am elected. Or if it’s opening time and therefore the moment to bring our mascotress Woolamena outside, I’m the guy. Other than that, I’m ensconced in the Rear Annex, quietly listing and selling and packing and shipping our wares.

Anne bombed the museum’s banisters…

Today, however, was an extra special treat. I was entreated to come up front (unshaven, wrinkled) and pose for pre-event photographs which Rollins College photographer Scott was needing to shoot prior to a yarn bombing which The Black Sheep was going to be involved in later that day. Even though, at that point, I hadn’t been expecting to touch any yarn, let alone do any bombing, I gamely sat at the table with Donna  and Mary and allowed myself to be photographed as if I were a vital part of stitching together the crocheted and knitted panels that were going to be wrapped around trees at Rollins College.

Marty, Donna and Laura prepping the giant dueling oak…

If you know me well enough, you are telling yourself right now that you can’t just believe that I would sit there idly posing with a needle and not actually be doing any work. And I actually did: I whip-stitched my way along numerous panels and then, when a needlework class began arriving at the shop for a 1 PM tutorial and needed our work table, I hied myself to the Rear Annex so that I could stitch at a table which had enough room for me and my panels.

Laura made these diaphanous and ethereal yarn constructions…

I now know what Betsy Ross must have felt like while the revolution was going on around her. She probably sat alone in a stifling attic, sweating through her farthingale, stitching together the banner for what were then known as The Thirteen Original States. Ask yourself: was she looking forward to a Fourteenth state? Who knew?

Anne, Laura, Donna, Jim and Mary.

But I digress. When we were done stitching together our panels of assorted projects which had been donated, The Black Sheep contingent drove to Rollins in Anne’s truck, which she actually spoke to while driving, by the way– and it answered her. Politely. It even made phone calls for her! If I even ask my car– BEG it– to make a right turn, I am given grief and an eventual argument, neither of which help when I’m trying to blend onto the East-West Expressway from Semoran Boulevard.

Donna… bombing!

We attracted a lot of attention as we stitched away at Rollins, and the slowly setting sun gave our yarns myriad hues and textures as the light changed. It was magical. The weather was perfect this evening– it had rained an hour or so ago, and the air was cool and crisp and verdant. You could smell the grass under the trees we were bombing, every step sending up a puff of green.

This tree I bombed looks like a candle being lit…

Rollins is hosting an installation at its Cornell Museum called The Mysterious Content of Softness, featuring exhibits by many talented fiber artists. It’s amazing and provocative and, though I normally hate the overused adjective “amazing,” in this instance it fits. The exhibits are jaw dropping and inspirational. You should go.

Mary… wrapping!

This was a very special day– a nice blend of nature, fiber arts, good people, great weather, and a chance to invade Rollins College. The installation will be there for you to enjoy for a short time, so get down there and see what’s up. You might even be creatively inspired… and who knows? Maybe we’ll invite you to help us yarn bomb the Brooklyn Bridge!


One of the cool places that I organize is The Black Sheep Needlepoint Shop located at 1322 North Mills Avenue, just south of Virginia on the right side; you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the big yellow sign and  Woolamena the black sheep (usually dressed for a particular holiday or illustrious event) holding court outside.

Here she is all decked up for the recent Olympics:

Anne Jones, the owner, is very much all about teaching these needlework skills to interested parties, and there are many who come to The Black Sheep Shop for lessons and classes. Beyond that, she and the staff are always looking to go “beyond the pattern” when it comes to exploring new avenues of the needle arts. 

Below you’ll find a brochure describing an intriguing and fascinating a fiber arts show which will be exhibited in the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College. Look at the photo of Lisa Kellner’s installation– doesn’t it make you want to run your hands through it? That’s what excellent needle arts teachers and retailers succeed in doing: they get people to create beautiful things while indulging the senses of touch and sight.

I love my days at the shop. I’m surrounded by color and texture and it all conspires to inspire the artist in me. 

Take some time to visit the Cornell and indulge yourself. Make you you get to this Saturday’s FREE panel discussion: The Mysterious Content of Softness and artistic processes. 

PhotoBike Tour 16– Knowles Avenue in Winter Park (and Offsides)

I have all these negatives of photos I took back in the late 70s and early 80s of a Winter Park that’s largely vanished. I’m still trying to identify some of the sites, but occasionally something “clicks” and I remember exactly where the photo had been taken.

SIDEBAR: I do regret NOT taking photos of the Alabama Hotel before it went condo; my friend Donald and I walked there from my apartment at the Plantation in Maitland, and wandered the halls, the lobbies, the public rooms, the library… it was for sale and everything was open to inspection. It was magical, like being in a time warp: Kleenex boxes in each bedroom, with one leaf of tissue popping from each and every box, just waiting for a sneeze. It was like we were walking through a dream. The Alabama is a condo now. and doesn’t seem to hold the same ambience. What can I say?

The venerable Alabama. It used to be a resort hotel– one of FOUR giant hotels that used to be located on the Winter Park chain of lakes.

After looking through negatives this past week, and tooling around on Google Earth and then looking up Winter Park history, I realized I’d never really explored Knowles Avenue from top to bottom. It just sort of slipped away under my radar while I was bicycling in the past, or else– while in the car– it’s byzantine system on one-way signs precluded any 4-wheel exploration. This morning, before I knew the humidity was going to soar, I set out to see what I’d missed.

I approach Winter Park from the east. I have to cross 436, go north to the light, and then thread my way through the Winter Woods subdivision; we call it “the Wilhelm’s” because of the grammatically-incorrect sign that fronted one of the houses. I always wanted to ring the bell and tell them “it should say ‘the Wilhelms,’ but I never did. I’m surprised.

Then I wend my way south along Lake Howell Road, checking to see if there’s a way to get across the watery culvert over to Arbor Park Drive (there still isn’t), and so I usually go west on Pine Avenue. Incidentally, the name Arbor park Drive is relatively new– we still know it as the southern extension of Lakemont Avenue, south of the cemetery. I’m just saying.

Palmer Avenue is just a few blocks away, the site of my second-favorite house in Winter Park:

It used to have a sign out front– Lulworth– and was built by a Mrs. Mizener ion the 1930s. She insisted that there be no shutters on the windows because she didn’t want to have to bother painting them. (A woman after my own heart.) The house was designed by James Gamble Rogers II, and believe me– he didn’t have those Greek columns up front; his were slimmer and fit the facade better. The new owners didn’t consult with me when they redid the place… can you imagine?

Before heading into downtown Winter Park I remembered that I wanted to photograph a neighborhood marker– specifically, one that noted the historic African-American west side of Winter Park known as Hannibal Square. It’s been yuppified and gentrified into something very NOT Hannibal Square, but I did find the marker on Denning Drive– inexplicably knocked over; I think I’ll let the city know that this needs to be righted.

Knowles Avenue branches from Chapman, which is a little street that branches off Fairbanks; you don’t see Chapman much because you are driving past Rollins College while, at the same trying, trying not to hit students (and professors) who decide to cross the road while checking their eMail. You go through a parking garage– wave hello to the ticket lady– and then you are on Knowles Avenue, which stretches all the way north from Lyman Avenue to Casa Feliz on Whipple Avenue. And it’s rife with architectural gems.

The first gem you encounter is the facade of the former Lincoln Apartments, now preserved and nicely incorporated into the First United Methodist Family Life Center. That was thoughtful! I always wanted to go into the Lincoln and knock on doors. Who would I encounter– former Ziegfeld girls? Forgotten chanteuses who headlined in smoky Omaha boites? Jimmy Hoffa? I’ll never know.

Okay. You have to go a block east, to Interlachen Avenue, to see Osceola Lodge, a beautiful home built by the Knowles family in 1888. But behind it– on Knowles– is a cottage that was used by visitors to the larger Knowles house. I don’t recall ever seeing this cottage, though I have tons of photos of Osceola Lodge.

Here’s the Lodge:

And here’s the cottage just to the west of it, on the same large lot, but facing Knowles Avenue:

Then I went down the path to the left of that cottage and took this shot of the Lodge’s rear; I can easily picture myself living upstairs right. You?

Across the street on Knowles is yet another cottage built by Knowles, now the home of Architects Design Group– this is truly OLD Winter Park, ladies and gentlemen…

A third Knowles “cottage” has been transformed into a firm as well, but it’s unrecognizable as a cottage:

Near the north end of Knowles, just where it meets the golf course, the city has placed some old cement posts noting the names of streets. I don’t know ho wold these are, and they’re faded, but I did have some old negatives in my collection. These denote Something Road, Fitzwalter Drive, and Harmon Avenue; the last two denote streets at extreme opposite ends of one another.

Just off Knowles, actually at Interlachen Avenue, is a series of ancient-looking apartments which evoke Key West. This is my favorite…

Who lives here? An artist, a writer, a milkmaid? A woman with cats? A candlemaker, a surgeon, a bell-ringer?

At the very north end of Knowles, hugging the golf course, is Casa Feliz. It used to be on Interlachen Avenue, but was moved when the newest property owner decided he might tear it down. people rallied and had it moved to its present spot– a rarity in Winter Park, but enough people cared deeply to have this 1932 James Gamble Rogers II gem saved.

The front.

The rear.

Here are the Barbour Apartments on very north Knowles, built in 1933 and designed by our man james Gamble Rogers II. Everyone who moved to Winter Park used to want to live here. Of course, that was back in the 70s and 80s; now they want to live… where? I have no idea.

Leaving Knowles Avenue and returning home via Interlachen Avenue, I noticed this sign planted in the road.

The Red Pepper Garden Club… can you even?! It’s probably not as rollicking as the name would have you believe. I picture officious club women with pointy eyeglasses, prow-busted and powdered,  their sensible Enna Jetticks heavily decorated with rhinestones. They meet once a month at the Woman’s Club (sic) down on Interlachen Avenue, where cucumber-based refreshments bedeck a series of card tables situated at the front of the room. After an hour’s worth of apologies, explanations and general catching up, the ladies are called to order by Madame la President, who fixes them all with a gimlet eye, and intones:

“So… who is responsible for the dying aspidistra in front of the library?”

I began this trek at 10:30 in the morning and by 12:30 was blistered by heat. It was time to return, though I have a feeling I’ll be back: there are streets called Greentree, Bonita, Temple Grove and Elizabeth which deserve some prowling… join me!