Angelina Lopez Catledge has been a Landscape Architect with Botanical Visions since 2006. Since the day we met her, she has constantly revealed more artistic talents! Some of them we stumble upon by accident such as this Target commercial for Spring which features a song about springtime by her band Hola Hi. The commercial presently can be seen on Univision and Telemundo. Her band wrote the song over a year ago and a friend said “That song ‘Aire de Primavera’ would be perfect for a Target ad.” Shortly thereafter, Target happened to contact an ad agency who had previously worked with their friend because they were seeking a Latin song with a spring theme and things began to fall into place! The Hola Hi duo, Angelina and Paul, met at Louisiana State University where they were both students. They now tour throughout the United States when she isn’t designing and illustrating beautiful gardens for fortunate clients in South Florida! You can watch the commercial here: Hola Hi Spring Target Commercial.
Positivity has a power of perpetuation. A good deed, a pretty object, a kind word, an exciting idea, a thoughtful gift are all offerings of goodness. When they happen, they don’t just exist for a moment never to be thought of again; they often lead to a never ending chain of more goodness, simply by being inspiring. Plants embody this concept by being en ever changing source of constant miracles as they evoke admiration, awe and wonder in their offerings of flowers, fruit, colors, textures, sounds and fragrances. Artists often harvest the beauty offered by plants and recreate it in a new way which often inspires others to feel joy, peace, gratitude and happiness. When an artist paints a flower, it reminds me of a person who takes an event and turns it into a story which can be recorded and retold. The temporary beauty of a flower offered by a plant can only amuse and inspire a few individuals who take notice for only as long as the flower lives but when an artist depicts a flower, its beauty can be spread to more people for a much longer period of time, magnifying the positive power of the plant.
We are fortunate to have a local artist in Miami who is a master of the ability to magnify the power and beauty from plants to inspire others. Her name is Maria Soto Robbins and her goal is to spread the joy she feels when painting, to people who see her art. She features plants and landscapes of South Florida as well as from her native Cuba. Her work is bold and vibrant with bright colors and the flowers in particular can pull me in to stare at them all day! Her work is available on Etsy as well as Fine Art America if you’d like to add a bit of joy to your home or work space and of course, spreading this joy as a gift is also a nice idea. Do good. Be good. Promote good. Feel good!
I recently attended a conference in Washington DC and saw a couple of people wearing PB&J Campaign t-shirts! I had heard of this campaign a few years ago but knew very little about it. As someone who pretty much exclusively ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch for about ten years, I figured I should track them down and learn more! I learned early in my career that this sandwich was not just for kids, it happens to be a perfect choice even for adults, for many reasons. The first reason for me was taste; you can mix it up so many ways! The second reason was cost; horticulturists, in spite of what you might think, are usually not millionaires. The third reason was easiness and speed; you can whip one up and throw it in a lunch box and not worry too much about refrigeration and food poisoning! What I learned from this campaign by A Well-Fed World, is that there is a whole different reason to embrace this sandwich! It turns out, eating Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches helps the environment! Most of us try to do what we can to “be green” such as walking or biking more, combining errands, changing light bulbs, and recycling but there is one better change that has a much greater impact and that’s where this humble sandwich comes in! When we eat plant-based foods such as Peanut Butter & Jelly rather than animal-based options such as ham or tuna, we save carbon dioxide emissions, conserve water and save land from some of the devastating effects of deforestation, over-grazing and heavier fertilizer and pesticide usage. According to a recent report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent (18 percent) than all forms of transportation combined! Choosing plant-based options rather than animal-based options is great for the well-being of the animals, but this choice is also better for our own health as well. Many years ago, I replaced my foamy white bread with whole grain or sprouted varieties and I always check the ingredients of my peanut butter and jelly. You may be surprised how many ingredients some brands contain; I try to find peanut butter that only contains peanuts and a little bit of salt. If the jelly and jam options are also loaded with sugar or unnatural ingredients, you can use fruit instead. Apples, bananas, and pomegranate seeds are all very tasty in this sandwich! I hope you rediscover your love of this sandwich and add more plant-based meals to your diet for the sake of our planet and all beings who share it. For more ideas on incorporating plant-based foods into your diet, check out Meatless Mondays or Meatout Mondays!
Being in the dark is a good thing for Sea Turtles! Humans being in the dark about the turtles’ need for the dark is a bad thing for everyone. Hatchlings use light to guide them to the ocean. Without human interference, this light would be moonlight reflecting off the ocean or the brightness of the crashing waves. Unfortunately, humans have added many lights near the ocean and they often guide the turtles away from the ocean and toward the west where they have little chance for survival. We have found hatchlings as roadkill in A1A and wandering up in the dunes where they have a greater chance to be picked off by predators, killed by fireants, or dead from exhaustion or dehydration. This summer is my fourth year volunteering with Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (S.T.O.P.) on the beaches of Broward County, Florida and I’ve found that I spend just as much time educating residents and tourists as I do saving the hatchlings and protecting the moms as they come ashore to lay their eggs. Every night that I volunteer, I see people using flashlights, bright cell phone screens, cameras with flash, or even lighting fireworks or bonfires. While it’s difficult to educate all of the people in condominiums, restaurants, beachfront homes and hotels, it is very easy to politely and kindly ask people on the beach to switch to red LED flashlights, turn their phone lights to the dimmest setting, or to stop taking photographs with flash. Most people appreciate the information and immediately cooperate and then ask a lot of questions about the turtles and their babies. South Florida is privileged to have a nesting habitat for three different species of Sea Turtles, Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback, and we need to respect their needs or we will continue to lose more of them. Human activity frightens the mothers and often deters them from laying eggs. If you are on the beach and see a turtle, please stay far away and quiet and make sure others do the same. If you are able to volunteer or would like more information, please visit the STOP website. Extinction is forever and the turtles need our help now.
Every summer as a child, I greatly anticipated the day when my family would plant a few giant sunflowers in the vegetable garden. We carefully placed the small black and white striped seeds in a small trough and watered them daily as we waited for the moment when the first leaf appeared. One of my favorite events was the day when the plants grew taller than me. I watched the flower buds form and pondered how much taller the plants could actually get and wondered if they would be able to stand on their own or if we would have to stake them. After the flower petals faded and the seeds were ready for harvesting, we would cut the heads off and pick out the seeds. That task was a very zen-like experience where I could just zone out and enjoy being outside. Shucking corn, removing peas from their pods, and topping and tailing green beans were also fun activities that became like a meditation. As we snacked on the raw seeds, we also saved some for the birds and for planting the following year.
The world’s largest freshwater wetland is located mostly in Brazil but also stretches into Bolivia and Paraguay. It is roughly ten times the size of the Everglades and is considered one of the best places to travel for viewing wildlife, especially from July- September. This destination is called Pantanal Matogrossense National Park and it is home to many endemic species including 200 species of mammals, 480 reptile species, 400 species of fish, 650 species of birds, and thousands of species of invertebrates. Some commonly seen animals in the park are tapirs, capybaras, ocelots, swamp deer, armadillos, alligators, river otters, giant ant eaters, maned wolves and jaguars. Birds who reside in or visit the area include cormorants, egrets, herons, toucans, hyacinth macaws, ibis, storks and roseate spoonbills. We are extremely fortunate to be able to see some of these birds throughout South Florida as well! Wildlife residency depends on time of year due to heavy flooding throughout the rainy season. Transportation to and around the area is accomplished mostly in small planes or motor boats. During the dry season, four wheel drive vehicles are able to maneuver through some sections of the park. This wetland also contains over 3500 plant species, such as Amazonian rainforest plants, savanna plants, grasses, and even forest species in the higher altitudes.
This national park was established in 1981 and was designated a Ramsar Site of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention since 1993. Due to the strategic location of the park, it is extremely vulnerable to the advance of large scale agriculture (including pesticides), commercial fishing, cattle ranching (including sewage), water pollution (including waste from gold mining), as well as damage from dams and transport navigation. Hunting, poaching and smuggling of endangered species are also problems in this area. Many conservancy groups have partnered together to help protect this valuable ecosystem.
I have had the honor and privilege of hosting a large Zebra Longwing butterfly family at my home by my front door for the past few months. A Passion Vine decided to grow there a few years ago, probably planted by birds, and I let it grow to see if caterpillars would enjoy it. The first few years, I had a few families of Gulf Fritillary butterflies with their bright orange caterpillars and orange adult wings, and then for a year or so, no one came. This year, for the first time, I saw several Zebra Longwing caterpillars feasting on the plant. I’ve always admired all stages of this species because I thought the black and white caterpillars were very unusual looking and the adults are unique and gorgeous with their long, narrow, yellow and black striped wings. I have been photographing this family since I first spotted them and have thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow up, form their chrysalises and then yesterday, I saw them emerge and take flight. Luckily, they made their debut on a Sunday when I was home to witness this miracle. I decided to wander outside to check their progress and I noticed three butterflies, drying their wings, attached up high to the side of my house! Upon further inspection, I found two more had emerged and they were low in the vine where I could better photograph them. Even though the mosquitoes were fiercely biting my legs, I stood outside with great expectations waiting for them to take their first flight. Within about fifteen minutes, three launched at almost the exact same time. One even flew back and gave another who had not yet flown, a nudge as if to say “Come on! Hurry up! You’re not going to believe this!” Then about an hour later, the final two, who were lower in the vine, took flight to join the other three. As sad as I was to see them go, it was a great joy to see them fly and they do come back to visit every now and then and I saw new eggs on the vine already! Butterfly gardening in South Florida is a year-round activity which is highly enjoyable and easy once you learn a few tricks.
It seems that the flashiest and most luxurious landscapes in South Florida include at least one Date Palm. There are several varieties and hybrids such as the Roebelenii (Pigmy Date Palm), the clumping Senegal (Reclinata), and the most massive and stately Canary Island date Palm which is the one that looks like a pineapple and often has ferns growing in the “nut” just below the base of the fronds. However, the True Date Palm which produces the prized edible fruit is the Phoenix dactylifera and is also known by its most popular cultivar name, ‘Medjool.’ So with all of the gorgeous and expensive Date Palms planted all over the place, why don’t we have any dates around here? Dates are amazing; you can throw them in the blender with fruits and veggies to sweeten smoothies or just eat them plain or with peanut butter! They are rich in dietary fiber and also contain antioxidants such as tannins, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin which are thought to protect against various cancers, are anti-inflammatory and help prevent macular degeneration. If you could find a date around here, you would also find vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, potassium, iron, as well as minerals like calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium! These palms can be found at high-end resorts, in front of ocean-front condominiums, gracing expensive hotels, framing gated communities, inside malls, and in medians along the beach but no one will ever find a date there in South Florida. If you found these same dactylifera date palms in the Middle East or even in California or Arizona, you’d have yourself plenty of dates. Well, it turns out, these palms don’t produce dates here because they aren’t happy in our climate. They aren’t even grown here; most are shipped in from California and Arizona and are often older trees which have declined in production so they are dug, sold and shipped by a date producing operation to Florida to make room for younger more productive palms. The main reasons that these palms don’t like our Florida climate and growing conditions relate to rainfall and soil. South Florida receives approximately 65″ of rain each year, mainly in the hot summer months as opposed to their preference of 20-40″ of rain when it is hot with low humidity. The water table in South Florida is at 2-6′ so their roots will easily be in water much of the time which is very stressful for desert loving palm trees. There are things we can do to help them stay alive such as planting in sand, in elevated beds and away from water-loving plants but they sometimes remain in a state of slow decline often battling stress induced problems such as Ganoderma butt-rot, Phytopthora bud-rot, Fusarium Wilt, Lethal Yellowing, False Smut, Palm Weevils and nutritional deficiencies. So if you’re looking for dates in South Florida, and there are plenty of reasons to be looking, then you’re going to have to go to find them in a grocery store, which I’ve heard is a pretty popular pick-up location anyway!
Every Saturday, from around early October through early May, a parking lot in Boca Raton is transformed into a bustling farmers market filled with produce and so much more! The Boca Raton Green Market has been open since 1996 (15 years!) and has become a local gathering place for people to bring their dogs, soak up some sunshine, relax with a cup of coffee, wander around listening to live music and purchase fresh produce and other items. It’s the perfect place to find out about upcoming community events on the information table near the entrance or directly from the organizations who are sometimes present to share information or promote an upcoming project. Several vendors offer interesting and rare edible and ornamental plants which make great additions to home landscapes. A primary goal of this market is to support the Florida Agricultural Industry and the South Florida Economy. The market is open from 8:00am to 1:00pm and is located in the parking lot of Royal Palm Place at the corner of South Federal Highway and South Mizner Boulevard. One of the market sponsors, Aurora Nurses, provides free shopping bags so you can arrive empty handed and leave with plenty of seasonal, fresh locally-grown fruits, herbs and vegetables along with juices, soaps & lotions, potted orchids, ocean shells, fresh cut flowers, fresh baked goods, prepared foods, oils & vinegars, gourmet foods, hydroponic and organic foods, fresh pasta, jewelry and doggie treats! This is the perfect place to relax, pick up something for the garden and purchase healthy food for the home!
The Boca Raton Green Market is sponsored by The Boca Raton Tribune, MetLife, Florida Health & Chiropractic Medicine, Aurora Nurses Home Health Care, Inc., Investments Limited, Inc., Costco, Palm Beach County, Farm Credit of South Florida, and “FRESH from FLORIDA,” a promotional campaign of Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.