Camp Helen State Park in Panama City Beach plus a gorgeous blaze of yellow!

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Camp Helen State Park

Camp Helen State Park in Panama City Beach, Florida, is a fascinating place to explore when I’m down on the panhandle for some rest, warmth, and relaxation. The myrtle oaks are draped with Spanish moss, the trails are sandy, the birdsong is exotic – in short, it’s a world away from the plants, animals and sights that I’m accustomed to in my part of New Jersey. The binoculars are always at the ready and there is plenty of natural beauty to inspire a few clicks on the camera.

Before I left for a week in Florida, I wrote about the blast of color that a vase of forced forsythia can offer as a way of hurrying spring along. I was delighted to find that very same yellow color in Florida earlier this week on a walk at Camp Helen, but in this case it was a rather autumnal farewell to last year’s green palmetto leaves. The fiery display was simply stunning in the late afternoon, the low sun slanting in at just the right angle to set the colors ablaze. The blazing yellow also happened to match the color of the northern parula warblers we spotted just perfectly! It was a lovely day trip, and I must say I really enjoyed this unexpected pop of color. Hope you enjoy it too.

Camp Helen State Park is located at 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway (Highway 98) in Panama City Beach, Florida.
http://www.floridastateparks.org/camphelen/

Forcing forsythia, a blast of color to make spring hurry up!

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Forced forsythia branches in bloom.

Winter is in no hurry to step aside for spring, it seems, though the signs of spring are unmistakable out there. The snowdrops are past their peak, daffodil and tulip leaves are reaching out of the soil for the sky, and there are buds starting to swell on every flowering shrub, vine, and tree around. We’ve already sown a whole row of peas in the garden, as well as escarole, frisée, radishes, spinach, chard, beets, carrots, parsley, and that’s only outside! Inside we are sharing our home with trays of onion, leek, shallot and scallion seedlings, lettuces, cabbages, kales and broccoli, too. Soon it will be time to sow tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, and the anticipation for summer becomes almost mouthwatering. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as there are still remnants of the last snowfall on the ground, and every morning lately the birdbath has been iced over. Spring weather will take over soon, I know, I just have to be a little more patient.

To help get this transition from winter to spring going, I find it helps to brighten things up and the most willing accomplice to this end are the generous forsythia bushes on our property, happy to donate some of their branches to the cause.  I try and cut branches that are quite tall so I can put together a dramatic display in our largest vase, but I also pick some that are much more manageable, to help spread the cheer throughout the house here and there. Forcing the blooms in this way takes perhaps a week but soon the bare branches burst forth sunny, yellow flowers that warm the heart and assure the mind that winter truly is behind us.