Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Far Away Places

Each fall, we leave My Florida Backyard to fend for itself for a few days and set out to explore a new part of the state. This year, our travels took us "long ago and far away" to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the nation. Along the way, we stopped at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, about 20 miles south of the city.

Here, we explored the expansive gardens that were once the Florida Backyard of Louise Powis Clark and her husband, Owen D. Young. Amongst huge old live oaks that have towered over Native American settlements and a Minorcan-owned plantation, Louise established formal gardens.

The grounds include a lovely rose garden, which undoubtedly takes hours of work each week to grow and maintain.

The many ponds throughout the garden are fed by an artesian well, originally bored to aid in irrigation of the citrus plantation that once stood here.
The land is bordered on the west by the Matanzas River, with wonderful views up and down the shoreline.

Nature trails throughout the park lead you among lots of native vegetation of the sort we have in My Florida Backyard, like beautyberry and muhly grass, but the eye is definitely drawn to the unusual, like these powder puff bushes.

The park is bordered by the Atlantic shore on the east, where the beach has an extensive stand of coquina rock. This sedimentary rock was one of the most important building materials in the early days of this part of Florida. Rocky beach is one thing we definitely don't have in My Florida Backyard!

Although the formal and exotic gardens at Washington Oaks are lovely, we must admit to preferring our more natural and native vegetation here at home. After all, the park has a staff to maintain the grounds, but we don't have a single paid gardener to help us out. Also, the plants and animals we have here represent what we love best about Florida. So, trite as it may be, we can honestly say:
"'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home."

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