the florida botanical gardens in largo

Places I could easily fritter away hours: garden centers and botanical gardens, seriously. The Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo are pretty neat-o.

A beautiful selection of camellias (thoroughly smitten with this shade of pink):

Camellia Florida Botanical Gardens Largo Florida

The Princess Flower from Brazil. Crazy-cool stamens on this flower.

Princess Flower Florida Botanical Gardens Largo Florida

And then this pale orange hued hibiscus. To spend a life surrounded by flowers is a pretty enviable one.

Hibiscus Florida Botanical Gardens Largo Florida

sunny side up

One of my dearest friends invited me to come hang out in #Florida for a couple days, so I got in my little car and headed south and east. The drive from Jackson to the Sunshine State is a bit long (about 11 hours), but the experiences and sights are pretty interesting.

Got brunch at Shore in #Sarasota, and it’s impossible to go wrong with a sunny-side up egg, avocado, and tomato sandwich.

Shore Restaurant Sarasota Florida

Stood under some beautiful Spanish moss.

Spanish moss Sarasota Florida

Also stopped at Bradenton Beach, and the sand is powdery soft. This little guy didn’t seem to mind us taking photos. Life’s a beach.

Egret Bradenton Beach Bradenton Florida

the ultimate cinderella of trees (it’s the crepe myrtle)

When I first relocated to Jackson, which was October 2016, I had to ask myself, What’s up with all of the stumpy trees? They were missing their bark; the trees kind of looked naked. And their limbs were shorn/pruned from the top.

Crepe myrtle Jackson Mississippi Deep South trees

It’s the crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia), as it turns out. And this little tree tells the most amazing Cinderella story if you live in the Deep South. In September, as I’ve noticed, the bark starts to peel off, revealing a smooth, green surface. In the following months, property owners prune the limbs as shown above.

And then in early/mid June, wait for it… this.

Crepe myrtle Jackson Mississippi Deep South trees

The flowers are incredibly showy and so brightly colored. If you visit Mississippi (and you absolutely should), I recommend timing your visit for June so you can take in all of this unreal beauty. The weather is hot, yes, but the trees offer a wow transformative experience.

bon hiver (good winter)

Although winter is my least favorite season (too cold, not enough daylight), I quite enjoy winter in the Deep South. It’s chilly for two weeks and then abracadabra, it feels like spring. What a lovely gift.

This winter has been a good one, I think. My orthopedic surgeon cleared me to walk without a brace, and I’ve greatly enjoyed the freedom. And then THIS.

Camellia Jackson Mississippi Belhaven

I have two camellia trees in my backyard, and one of them bloomed much earlier than I expected. January 1, 2019, in fact. Good winter.

the manatees of homosassa springs

The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) might be my spirit animal, if I could claim one. Manatees prefer sandy coast lines, warm waters. They eat a ton of vegetation. Like me (at least for the time being), they move pretty slowly. They also look like they know how to relax.

Manatee Homosassa River Florida

It was a bucket list item to observe a manatee–multiple manatees if I was lucky–and the payoff was this past weekend in Homosassa, Florida. The freshwater springs at the wildlife state park in Homosassa attract manatees when Gulf waters start to cool–from roughly November through March.

My parents and I traversed our way over a bridge to find 40+ manatees warming themselves in the shallow waters of the Homosassa River. Pretty cool. In this photo, a pair can be observed in the lower right corner.

Manatees Homosassa River Florida

These creatures are massive–weighing between 1,500 and 1,800 pounds each. They use their large, paddle-shaped back tails and front flippers for navigation. Every 10 minutes or so, they come up for air and make a fun snorting sound.

To read up about the state park in Homosassa and possibly plan a visit, click here.