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Now in our third calendar year
PCR #94 (Vol.3, No.2) This edition is for the week of January 6--13, 2002.

Will Moriaty La Floridiana    by William Moriaty

Florida's Fabulous Gardens --Part 1

Let's start at the Beginning
The Florida that the Native American Indian and early European settler knew was much different than how it looks today. 90% of the state's landmass was covered in moderate to sparse stands of Longleaf Pine with understories of wildflowers. LOTS of wildflowers! These wildflowers, as well as the predominance of the pine forests that they thrived in were dependent upon fire for continued survival. Florida's climate is one of drought from October to June, so when the first lightning storms of the summer rainy season hit a thirsty forest floor, fire, and LOTS of it was the result, eliminating any competing hardwood trees from gaining a foothold over the pines or wildflowers. When the Spanish discovered this state, they were so overwhelmed by the abundance of these native wildflowers that they named this newly found territory "La Florida", which loosely translated means "flower". Therefore, the love of anything botanical should be a natural in a state named after something botanical!

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Florida's Fabulous Gardens--Paradise Lost and Paradise Found
Florida's native gardens are in themselves a treasure. Florida has more varieties of native trees than any other state in the Union. It is the transition zone between the temperate United States and the sub tropical Caribbean. This is due primarily to the state's climate, which ranges from mildly temperate (with long hot summers proceeded by cool falls, cold winters, and mild springs) in the north, to sub-tropical (very little seasonal change, remaining warm most of the year with pronounced dry and wet seasons) in the south. Many trees and plants that people from the eastern U.S. know well, such as Maples, Beeches, Birches, Ashes, Hickories, and Tulip Trees grow in Florida's panhandle abundantly. Conversely, Miami has an abundance of Caribbean and endemic south Florida plants, such as Mangroves, Sea Grapes, and Coconut Palms. Additionally, tropical species from Asia, Central and South America, Mexico, Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific can be seen growing in the yards of homes and businesses throughout south Florida. But this movement which started years ago to plant exotic, non-native material both for profit and aesthetics, by settlers and residents of European descent (and I are one-from French Huguenot stock), added with the explosion of human development particularly after the 1970's, led to the eventual ruination of most of the Longleaf Pine forest-only 2% of it now remains. Nevertheless, some incredible showcases of plants dot the state, due to the more enlightened and conscientious of these European descendents. Take the time to check them out-a whole new dimension of crazed fan boy and crazed fan girl interest may beckon you-it may even become a lifelong obsession!

What to Look For--For the Person Who Loves the Change of the Seasons--Maclay State Gardens, Tallahassee
What to look for in a garden will depend on your tastes, personality and preferences. If you like the spring flowering plants of cooler weather climates, check out Maclay State Gardens in Tallahassee. The purples, pinks, and white blooms in January and February of the Saucer (or Oriental) Magnolias are breathtaking. By March and April, the Redbuds, Flowering Cherries, Flowering Plums, and Flowering Crabs with their pink and magenta blooms are complimented by the large white blooms of the native Flowering Dogwood. As breathtaking are the profusion of blooms by the Azaleas, a shade loving plant often used beneath pines and oaks as an understory. Their blooms range from white to pink, purple, red, and one native variety has yellow flowers. By June, blooms of white and pink flowers are limited to the native Mountain Laurels and Sourwoods, and the blooms of the Camellia round off the fall. Camellias are an evergreen shrub introduced from China and Japan that bear beautiful white, pink, and red blooms. Maclay State Gardens is located at 3540 Thomasville Road, is open 8:00 A.M. to sunset, and can be reached at 850-487-4556.

For the Person Who Loves to Travel Closer to Home and Go to the House of Blues afterwards, there's Harry P. Leu Gardens, Orlando
If you would like to see a good representation of the more temperate plants described above, but don't want to travel all the way to Tallahassee, check out Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando. Overlooking beautiful Lake Rowena, Leu Gardens has over 2,000 Camelias, comprising the largest such collection in the eastern United States. It also has the largest formal rose garden in the United States. Also notable is the garden's collection of Azaleas, a Ravine Garden with palms, bromeliads, gingers, and bananas (startin' to get a little more tropical now!), a Xerophyte Garden with desert plants such as cactus and succulents. There also is a Palm Garden and a White Garden, which showcases white blooming or white foliaged plants. It is a beautiful sight to behold in moonlight tours. Why bother with Mickey when this is a lot cheaper, less walking, and a perfect place to take a date? Leu Gardens is open from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 and located at 1920 North Forest Avenue. Phone 407-246-2620. After taking in a round of odes to Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters at the House of Blues, take your date or yourself to the Big Bamboo Lounge on U.S. 192 in Kissimmee (look for the wrecked airplane next to a cinder block house) that has original art work from one of the earliest Disney animators, and cool clientele as well.

In next week's NCPCR we will showcase two gardens that will appeal to the Gilligan's Island tropical fantasy lover in all of us: Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, and the granddaddy of them all, Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables!

Florida Folk Hero Trivia: What do Fairchild Tropical Garden, Matheson Hammock Park, and the Bok Tower Sanctuary all have in common? Answer: they were all designed by FFH and Landscape Architect William Lyman Phillips of the prestigious Frederick Law Olmstead studio of Boston. Massachusetts.


SPECIAL ADDENDUM TO THIS WEEK'S ISSUE OF LA FLORIDIANA
A Special Tribute to a Florida Folk Hero and the Ultimate Gator-- Steve Spurrier

In addition to plentiful sunshine, Florida is blessed with plentiful football. Professionally we have three NFL teams, the Miami Dolphins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. At a major college level we have three NCAA heavyweights, the University of Florida, State Seminoles and 2002 NCAA National Champions, the University of Miami. These teams have also been blessed by colorful coaches. Don Shula ran a dynasty in the NFL's Miami Dolphins, having the only team in NFL history to go a full season without one loss and the win of the Super Bowl. Bobby Bowden has done a superb job with the Florida State Seminoles, leading his team to the ultimate in college football, an NCAA National Championship and nation-wide respectability--he will undoubtedly be the Bear Bryant of our generation.Other great present and previous Florida coaches deserve praise-- Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Galen Hall, John McKay, and Tony Dungy, but to name a few.

But one of the most colorful and flamboyant personalities in the game, love him or hate him is Steve Spurrier. This winning coach was born in Miami Beach, Florida in 1945. Between 1964 and 1966 he was a quarterback for the University of Florida's fighting Gators and the first player at that school to receive the Heisman Trophy in 1966. In 1967 he was drafted third overall by the San Francisco 49ers. He quarterbacked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their inaugural season in 1976. In 1978 he stepped off the field and into quarterback coaching, first for U of F, and then onto Georgia Tech. From 1980 to 1982 he became the offensive coordinator for Duke.

1983 to 1985 saw Spurrier become a head coach, this time for the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits. Other than the Miami Dolphins, this was, or may have been the ultimate professional Florida football team. Owned by former FSU football alumni and actor Burt Reynolds,"Banditball"was fun football. After each Bandits touchdown someone dressed in western garb, face covered, as a bandit, would come out on the field riding a black stallion-- some rumored that it was team owner Burt Reynolds himself. After the sad collapse of the USFL, Surrier found himself as head coach back at Duke until 1989. In our heart of hearts, we all knew that Spurrier's perfect place would be back home where it all started-- the University of Florida.

1990 was the last year I lived in Gainesville while my wife got her degree in Landscape Architecture. The news of the hiring of Steve Spurrier was as welcome as V-E day. After the wreckage left by the scandal during the late Charley Pell's tenure as head coach six years earlier, U of F needed a jump start, and would Spurrier ever do as advertised!

The record: Steve Spurrier led U of F to four consecutive championships between 1993 and 1996. In 1996 he led the school to its first NCAA National Championship in 1996, as quarterback Danny Wuerffel became the school's second Heisman trophy winner. But sadly, on January 4, 2002, the passing of an era was made when Steve Spurrier announced he would resign as head coach to pursue a coaching career in the NFL. Watching him from the sidelines, one could tell that Spurrier is a determined, focused, and impatient man-- all the elements that have made him one of the greats in the game. With such a temperament, this is not a surprise, unlike his more laid back counterpart FSU coach Bobby Bowden who will probably keep his Seminole dynasty intact until retirement or death.

After 12 seasons Steve Spurrier gave the Gators a record of 122 wins, 27 losses, and 1 tie, as well as six SEC titles, a National Championship, and many incredible memories. I wish Spurrier the best of luck in his new role, wherever that will be, and will miss this ultimate Gator's leaving the Swamp for the NFL's Promised Land.


"La Floridiana" is ©2002 by William Moriaty. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova