From an early age I always loved tropical plants, they held a promise of exotic far-away places, and from time to time over the years I had the good fortune to be close to them, whether they be as houseplants in cooler climates or (oh joy!) when living or visiting in warmer areas. When we bought a vacation home in Southwest Florida eight years ago I had no idea to what extent this would change my life.
It all started with a telephone conversation with a dear friend in Houston ‘I wonder if you can grow plumeria there’ she said…. and suddenly I remembered a passionate conversation I had overheard between her and another friend who had a house in Barbados…. ‘plumeria’….. “I think I probably can, let me investigate’, I said, and that afternoon, at a completely inappropriate time of year, I went to a local nursery and bought my first plumeria- the only one they had in stock; ‘it’s pink’ they said. But I didn’t care, I had a PLUMERIA!!!
Back in cold chilly England I kept reading about plumeria, stumbled upon websites, ebay, ordered seeds, which I attempted to grow in that inhospitable climate… all with the dream of one day having those gorgeous blooms to gaze upon…
Every visit to sunny Florida resulted in yet another patch of grass removed and a few more plumeria sticks planted. I met people online who lived in the area, actually met some of them in person! Sticks were exchanged, varieties and their relative merits discussed, photos taken to compare.
A great day was when you found a friendly person who would trade you a stick, the best day was when you found a beautiful blooming tree and the owner was willing (always!) to give you a piece. And there was always Ebay….
When I was in England, I would dream of my garden in Florida. A fellow-addict would stop by and take pictures so I could watch them grow, and fertilize, so I would have blooms when I arrived, with more or less success. Having yearned for ages to see the wonderful variety known as ‘Mardi Gras’ bloom we had to return back to England when the inflorescence was about to show its first blooms… I was heartbroken!!
We found ourselves spending more and more time in Florida, and after a few years we simply couldn’t stand it anymore and made a bold move: Southwest Florida, full-time!!
Sure there were other attributes to the Florida experience that we enjoyed. But for me – the ability to grow plumeria, in the ground, year round, was the biggest draw. No sooner had we moved here than I set about converting my suburban third of an acre into a tropical paradise. Grass was mercilessly removed until nothing but a token strip remained. Plants were sought and rejected on their ability to get along with plumeria.
By this time I had become active in several plumeria forums and made a number of friends. I had plumeria T-shirts, a plumeria pen, plumeria notebooks, a plumeria calendar… you get the idea! I have even had the great honor of having a plumeria named after me by a commercial grower.
And then the 2006 International Plumeria Conference in Galveston was announced……and how could I possibly NOT go? All the ‘gurus’ were going to be there, and many plumeria aficionados I had talked with online for years would become real live people! I was not disappointed and I can safely say that my life changed that week… Growing Plumeria had now completely become my life’s focus!
Dutch by birth but widely travelled since my late teens. Married for 27 years with a son in college, and living in sunny Southwest Florida, I now call myself 'semi-retired' so that I can justify spending all waking hours in the pursuit of growing blooming tropical plants, most specifically Plumeria.