Sunday
Mar052017

February Beach Trip to Gulf Shores

February at Alabama's Gulf Shores can be iffy. The weather can be cold, windy, and rainy; or it can be warm, sunny, and wonderful. Or some combination. My family's recent beach trip to Gulf Shores was perfect! During the day, the temps were warm enough to be on the beach in shirt sleeves and shorts. I even saw people in the ocean. No doubt these were "snow birds" escaping the frigid air of places like Michigan and Minnesota, where temps in the 70's are considered high summer and as good as it gets for dipping in the water. Nope, not for me. The water was still cold, despite the balmy air. I did enjoy our condo's hot tub and heated indoor pool, however.

The beach is photogenic year-round. Here are a selection of images from among the many I took:

A view from our condo of the State Pier at Gulf State Park:

What people do at the beach in February:

Besides the usual beach activities, we enjoyed a 3-hour kayak tour of the nearby Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge with WildNative Tours.

We also spent time exploring inside Gulf State Park, which was very close to our condo. The park has an amazing series of trails. These photos were taken inside the park:

Lake Shelby is the largest of three freshwater lakes inside Gulf State Park, just across the road from the salt waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The ecosystem here is amazing.

The next two photos may look a little dangerous, but be assured I used my telephoto!

I visited the State Pier, which stretches out into the Gulf, a couple of times to see if anyone was catching fish. Once I heard a guy say, "I told you chicken would work!" When I turned, I saw him hauling a decent sized fish up. That was the only fish I saw anyone catch.

I wasn't the only one watching the fishermen. Pelicans were hanging around the fish cleaning station, clearly waiting on handouts.

Our condo had wonderful views. Sunrise and sunset over the Gulf is always something special. This view from our bedroom wakened me one morning. I took a photo right through the window. It was worth waking up for!

Now I am home, and it is time to turn my attention to my garden!

Best wishes to you all!  Deb 

Sunday
Feb122017

Pre-Spring in the Garden

Temperatures here have fluctuated from near freezing to shirt-sleeve warm. On warmer days I have enjoyed the chance to kick off 2017 gardening with clean-up and late winter pruning. Early bloomers are trying to push the season into spring a bit early. I know hard frosts are still likely; but as more blooms open daily, I am getting excited about spring. I won't say spring has arrived, but we are definitely into pre-spring!

Here is a look at some early blooms. Daffodils and forsythia:

Flowering quince (chaemoneles) with forsythia in the background:

Forsythia is an old-fashioned, common shrub, but who can resist its cheerful burst of blooms on a gray February day?

Daphne odora 'Marginata' has a pleasing fragrance and waxy blooms that contrast beautifully with its variegated foliage:

My pale pink camellia by the mailbox has smaller blooms than usual this year. I am amazed it has any blooms at all. We were 3 months into our drought last fall before I noticed its leaves wilting and finally gave it some supplemental water:This camellia began as a volunteer seedling. Its parent has red blooms.

Magnolia 'Jane' began blooming this weekend. It is often called a tulip tree because of its tulip-like blooms:

Hellebores are reliable late-winter bloomers:

Anise (Illicium parviflorum) 'Florida Sunshine' is not known for its inconspicuous blooms, but its chartreuse foliage and red stems light up the winter garden. The leaves have a wonderful licorice fragrance::

Finally, I came across these colorful little mushrooms while walking in the woodland garden. They were a nice surprise that came from all the rain we have been having:

Happy pre-spring!

You may also enjoy my previous post:  Are You a Plant Snob?