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The beauty and beasts of Southwest Florida

June 6, 2014
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS ( ) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The beauties of Southwest Florida are the many prominent flowering frangipani trees of many colors and sizes, the magnificent royal poinciana trees, the occasional brilliant blue jacaranda tree and the just beginning masses of colors on the crepe myrtle trees.

I am not an educated arborist, nor a professional gardener, however I am delightfully impressed by the many tropical beauties that we have growing all around the area.

We are in a full blooming season right now so do see what is before you.

This is not a Master Gardener column so I will not enlighten you all with the fact that the royal poinciana (Delonix regia) is brilliant orange and that there is also a yellow poinciana (Peltophorum sp), smaller, and indeed a far relative of the flamboyant royal.

I am not getting into the jacaranda tree which is tall and will probably not bloom for the first 5 years of its life, and for all its beauty is pretty scarce around here. There are a several more in Fort Myers, along McGregor Boulevard.

The frangipani (Plumeria spp) - there's lots of information on this one and each bloom color has its own name. The crepe myrtles have several colors, names and several different tree sizes. One is even a queen's crape myrtle (Lagerstoemia speciosa), and not even a member of the myrtle family.

You can see knowing all the facts about these lovely trees, as well as the fuzzy bottle brush tree and the Hong Kong orchard tree (not even any kind of an orchard) and the many, many more we have flourishing all around, is just not good material for a nice little gardening chat.

I have always thought that our dear snowbirds are in such a hurry to get back up North that they do not even know how beautiful we have it down here after they have gone.

Pine Island always had some prime areas for the poinciana trees, however since Hurricane Charley roared through there, they do not have as many.

Speaking of Hurricane Charley, reminds me of the "beastie" section of this column. It is now officially hurricane season and that can be a beastly season, or not.

Maybe Mother Nature gives us this gift of beauty prior to the storm season for a reason.

We have had it easy for about 9 years as far as big storms coming right directly through here, praise be for that. We now have to start remembering that we may or may not have any big storms blowing through here and we do need to remember to be prepared.

The Cape appears to be doing a good job having the city prepared. Do we have room to shelter the whole city. Is it even possible? Hurricanes mostly give us a good amount of time to move away from the area, you need to watch your favorite weather station - weather reports, although not perfect, are timely and need to be watched. Everyone can surely afford a flashlight, collect a few bottles of water and have a plan to be watchful - and even a plan B.

Hurricane seminars are held several times throughout the county - Go. These events are not scary at all, they are informative and everyone over the years I attended was helpful in one way or another. The hurricane booklets that the news stations put out are invaluable.

They have loads of pertinent information about the area and what to expect if a storm appears, great information about what these storms are and when you need to really hunker down.

The weather forecasters take their storm counseling serious and will deliver their first-hand information fast and clear.

Take advantage of special tax saving sales on storm equipment and know what you are buying and how to safely use it when necessary, talk to neighbors and friends, there are a lot of residents who have actual storm

experience, they are still here.

Do you need to get storm shutters, a stronger garage door, a bigger cooler in case the electric goes off for a while? Gas up the car, if it gets to hot after a storm or you really need to move out of town for a while, after the storm. Stations may not be powered.

Always remember your neighbors and friends may need a helping hand. Be there.

Hurricane seminars will be held in the city. Watch for the dates, times and places.

They are free, no registration, don't dress up. They will have handouts and be able to answer lots of questions and it will not be a boring evening.

Enjoy the beauty, beware the beasts, and happy gardening till we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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