I recently returned from a week in Miami, Florida, my latest assignment for three new television shows for Garden Smart. I enjoy traveling to all the different cities and seeing the beautiful gardens, but this week was special. From birth through college, Miami was my hometown. And until this week, I hadn’t been back for 24 years!
I credit the origin of my passion for gardening to the amazing growing environment south Florida provides. My earliest memories include breaking off branches from my parents’ prized shrubs (because they were in the way of the secret fort I was building) and then recklessly sticking them in the ground to conceal the damage.
Much to my surprise, nearly every one of those mangled limbs rerooted. This was fascinating to me and a big relief as well! I was amazed and hooked for life. Over time, my propagation skills were refined and my interest in growing any and everything became unstoppable.
Now having been away for so long, I tend to remember only the fertile, thriving paradise of my youth. Yes, it is beautiful; warm, sunny and tropically lush. Yet I fail to recall the severe challenges to all things growing upon and after the arrival of the occasional hurricane. This area has been hit hard by several major storms in the last few years. The impact to the environment is still evident.
As I toured the gardens and observed my surroundings on this recent south Florida trip, what became vividly apparent, is the resiliency of nature. Many trees that were blown to the ground and left for dead are now making a full recovery, albeit in a non-traditional form. For example, palms that were blown horizontally in the high winds remain rooted in the ground and are now turning skyward at their crowns.
In other cases large portions of roots from other trees were ripped from the ground and exposed to the light and air. Those roots became shoots, which became new trunks and are now the primary growth, sprouting vigorous limbs and abundant leaves.
Majestic native oaks, the pride of south Florida, managed to remain standing in many cases, despite their total defoliation. Today there is no evidence on these trees of the extreme stress placed upon them only a few years ago.
In other cases, limbs that were ripped from the trunks of large trees, such as mango and avocado, hide their wounds with calloused-over bark and a thick canopy of foliage, along with an impressive crop of ripening fruit.
Unfortunately, not everything growing fared so well. The older and weaker trees could not stand up to the forces of nature. But even in those cases, where trees toppled, new life sprung up from beneath. Plants never known to exist in the area were making themselves apparent, now that the canopy above was open to more life-giving sunlight.
For a gardener, opportunities from adversity are learned early on. It doesn’t take the evidence of a hurricane to make this known. For others, it may be just this very sort of eye-opening experience to teach them and remind us that life goes on, especially in the resiliency of nature.