Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pickets Garden and Gift Shop

Vacationing in the pan handle of Florida is not complete without stopping by Pickets garden gift shop. Located in the heart of Seagrove Beach, this quaint little shop and garden is a ‘green refuge’ after gathering too many rays on the beach. A cool, restful place to duck out of the hustle and bustle of vacationing families and college students on spring break.

The cottage/shop sits in a shady spot just off the main drag of 30-A, between Rosemary Beach and Sea Side. It is surrounded by a white picket fence. The owner, Jo Ann Mathis enjoys gardening and tells me she has planted every plant on the place.

After strolling through the gardens I had two plants I couldn’t identify. One was on the corner of a small but sweet English garden complete with boxwoods, roses, statuary, brick walkways and of course a small picket fence. This shrub or small tree had a purple-blue bloom that had a very unusual fragrance (like grape bubble gum). Mrs. Mathis quickly pointed out that it was a Texas mountain laurel - Sophora secundiflora, that she had brought back from Texas herself. After eight years it was finally blooming! A sight to behold indeed. I wonder if they would grow in Tennessee?

The other unusual plant was a low growing (12-18 inches) evergreen with incredible berries. It turns out this is a Coral berry, Ardisia crenata that was dug up and transplanted. This plant's native range stretches from Japan to northern India. Jo Ann says it is a handsome plant year ‘round and loves the shade. I was so intrigued I did some research. It is on the invasive species list. Like many landscape plants it has escaped cultivation and run amok, naturalizing in Northern and central Florida and is not recommended for home landscape. It seems birds eat the berries then disperse the seeds throughout the wild shading other less hardy plants (it can grow 2-4feet in height). However, I don't know if it would be invasive in other states. It is worth having in a pot on a screened-in porch at the very least. I tried to buy one at the local nurseries but had no luck finding it for sale. Perhaps I can get a berry and start one from seed. It is a beautiful plant, invasive or not and looks great in Jo Ann's lovely garden.

The shop itself has gifts for the home and garden that anyone can appreciate. In fact I treat myself every time I visit this area. It is a favorite haunt for residents and snow birds alike. Check it out for yourself the next time you visit Florida’s Emerald Coast.

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