2014 BIENNIAL MAY 24 - MAY 31 - FLORIDA
The recent Miami Biennial was an extraordinary experience, not only for first time visitors to south Florida, but for anyone wanting to experience a palm paradise. The public and private gardens are second to none and provided an unforgettable experience for all.
Just a short bus ride away, we next visited Archbold Biological Station, which is a working scientific research station comprised of 5000 acres of Florida scrub eco system. After a short and informative introduction, we were lead on mini tours to see Sabal etonia, Serenoa repens, and the sand pine, Pinus clause. It was a tad bit warm at this stop and one of the few times we looked forward to getting back on the air conditioned buses.
The last stop of what had already been a full day was at the Searle Brothers Nursery. Jeff and Andrea Searle definitely rolled out the red carpet for the group and were the ultimate hosts. In addition to the fantastic nursery full of rare and exotic specialty palms, there was also a delicious Mexican food banquet ready for hungry and thirsty biennial attendees staffed by Jeff's family and friends. A fantastic end to a full day.
After an interesting box lunch, the next stop was Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. The look and feel of this garden is second to none and is too large to try and see in one afternoon. Concentrating on one area seemed to be the best approach, so a few of us set out on a mini excursion to the Carribean section. The Coccothrinax, Pseudophoenix, Copernicia, Syagrus, and Attalea were spectacular. The mature palm specimens were so majestic and in almost perfect form, one could hardly take enough photos trying to capture what we were seeing. There were so many species neither of us had heard of and around every corner was a new surprise. One could easily lose track of time taking in the plant collections and broad vistas of turf and lakes that comprise this garden.
Day Four and Day Five
The road to the Florida Keys was beautiful with turquoise water on both sides interrupted by green patches of small islands. Power boats slicing through the blue green water on either side of us made the bus ride a bit more exciting.
Before reaching Key West, we made a stop at Silver Palm Trail at Bahia Honda State Park. Here we saw the largest natural concentration of the tall form of Coccothrinax argentata on a winding path just steps from a white sand beach. The walk gave us a chance to stretch our legs and admire the stands of these beautiful little palms.
The group finally arrived at the hotel in Key West late afternoon and after taking advantage of the inviting pool, lively bar, and a good meal, settled in for a good night sleep.
Wednesday was a free day and many of us either headed for the beach or into town to explore the many sights. Our great organizing crew arranged for some wonderful private gardens to be open for tours and finding them was half the fun. Tiny private yards packed with rare and unusual palms made this free day even more memorable.
Our last stop before lunch was Villa Paradiso. Located at the end of a cul de sac this little garden, facing a coastal waterway, had a nice collection of salt tolerant and rainforest palms. Accenting a beautiful swimming pool was a perfect specimen of Pseudophoenix sargentii that was the eye of every camera. The Copernicia again, as in so many south Florida gardens, were spectacular.
Next on our agenda was the Bait Shack. This property was not what comes to mind when one thinks of a bait shack. Located behind a pair of chain link gates the property opened up into a beautiful landscaped garden with two handsome residences flanking each end. Again, the palm collection supurb, with mature Copernicia rigida, Pseudophoenix, Coccothrinax, all well taken care of and picture worthy specimens.
One of the most memorable features of this property was the size of the pool cabana and the speed boats docked nearby. Recreation was obviously an important priority for these owners.
Day Seven & Day Eight ( Departure)
Our final tour of the biennial, was Montgomery Botanical Center. This 120 acre garden has one of the finest collections of palms, cycads, and tropical conifers. Upon arrival we were treated to a sumptuous lunch catered courtesy IPS members Jill Menzel and John DeMott. The huge white tent provided welcomed shade while enjoying the food and great music from a live band.
Like the beginning of a biennial, the farewell banquet is another special time. This is a chance to say farewell to old and new friends made over the previous week. After visiting and dining on yet another delicious buffet spread, we enjoyed an entertaining lecture by the director and a guide of Montgomery Botanical Center. The Dent Smith award was also presented to Libby Besse and posthumously to Jim Cain.