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Ree Gardens - Uncovering the Legend

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Palmarum

Ree Gardens

The Tropical Plant Collection, Nursery and Home of Steve & Marie Nock

Miami, Florida

A First Time Visit to the Garden during their October Plant Sale

Friday, Oct. 18th - 2013

For years, and I mean about 20 years plus -- I have heard details about this small, yet overwhelmingly diverse tropical plant nursery located down in Miami. In one form or another, either directly or indirectly, I have heard enthusiastic descriptions and awe inspiring tales of visits where tropical plant overload was the norm. I would hear about the collection grown by Steve & Marie Nock through whispers carefully shared by the most secretive of collectors, pushed at the moment to divulge one of their most cherished sources. Plant sale here, society meeting there, the tales went on for years since I was a kid. Others would mention a "visit where a friend took them to a magical place." or "I stumbled upon this hidden gem once and I was never the same since." After processing all these stories and comments over the decades I came to a conclusion:

- They were all talking about the same place. -

Now, the lives of Ree Gardens' caretakers are not a mystery, as many of us in the South Florida plant world have known or known about Steve & Marie for years, through various plant societies, garden club events, and plant sales. Their exotic wares have appeared at plant sales around the state, including the Ramble at Fairchild TB Garden, and have been donated for society auctions, including those of the Tropical Fern & Exotic Plant Society. Through their extensive network of fellow growers and lifetime of world-wide travel, they have a unique collection second to none. From my own point of view, I had never had the opportunity to visit the garden itself. Mostly because I never knew where it was located, so go figure.

I received an email about two months ago that changed things. It was a small, brief advertisement for Ree Gardens' open house sale they put on every few months or so. I remember getting on their mailing list at one point in the past. This is their only real advertisement, second maybe to word of mouth, as they keep the sale low-key. I am not sure how long they have been doing the sales, but it seems recent in local plant world history. Due to having some good timing I was going to attend. The sale was for three days, starting on the third Friday of October. Fellow plant enthusiast and grower (and long time friend to the Nock's) Jeff Searle also wanted to attend, and we decided the best day to go was Friday as 'limited selection' was the key phrase.

With Jeff driving, and myself navigating, we started out after the morning rush hour and headed south into Miami...

- Friday, Oct. 18th, Late morning, Miami somewhere - At first glance, minus the glare, the front of the property does not quite look like what I expected. When we arrived, Jeff Searle parked on the narrow shoulder and we got out, careful not to get run over. I crossed over to the other side of the street to photograph. The front border of the property was lined by a tall, protective hedge that runs the entire length. The average passerby would have no clue as to what lies just inside that hedge. The canopy of trees was the only tell-tale sign that a plant collection was inside. The hedge was not just for security, but also for protecting sensitive plants. As you will see, every square inch of the property is used.

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- The only opening to the garden was this narrow portal marked by a gap in the hedge and an entrance covered with a screen-covered car port. During the sale, assorted eye-catching plants were brought out along with a sign. Normally, you would just see hedge and gate.

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- After several minutes, Jeff was still on the phone. So I waited patiently, as I would need him to identify many of the plants.

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- As I waited, I looked over the plants out in front by the sign. The sign was basic and to the point, but did not do anything to describe all what was inside nor did it prepare the intrepid plant adventurer as to what to expect.

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* I am also posting this topic at Palmpedia, as I could not decide which Forum it should be a part of.

Ryan

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Palmarum

- Jeff joined up with me at the entrance and we made our way inside. He had been here more than a few times so he was used to it all, but there was always something new at this garden. One of the first groups of plants we encountered were Bromeliads, carefully placed outside to draw in visitors.

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- Benches lined both sides of the covered car port entrance and were filled with a sampling of the exotic, including White Bat Plants, Tacca integrifolia. They were perfectly grown without a brown edge or crumpled leaf to be found.

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- One of the flawless blooms. The top of the bloom was the size of a dinner plate and the tendrils extended down to the pot.

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- As one would pass through the entrance, this is the first view you would see. I had the feeling of my head exploding as I tried to mentally catalog the scene in front of me. The majority of the plants before you are in containers and for sale. Some of the larger specimens are part of the collection and growing in the ground. This collection has been a work in progress for over 40 years.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- The picture is not an illusion. Turning 90º to the left while standing in the same spot as in the shot above, I photographed one of many narrow, winding passages that crisscross the garden. Some are even narrower, while often being of ground cloth, others are minor foot trails barely visible with the bordering plants they have on their edges. It is hard to discern whether a plant is in a container or in the ground, you have to get in close to find out which is part of the fun.

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- While they grow just about everything and anything could be found among the shadehouses and benches, Steve and Marie are well known for certain plant groups. Marie is a leading authority on the Aroid (Arum) family, and has the collection to prove it. It is one of the predominant groups of plants in the garden. Anthuriums, Alocasias, Philodendrons, Colocasias, Aglaonemas, and Amorphophallus abound in hundreds of species and varieties. I can only imagine what other genera and species may also reside here. I was standing at the first intersection of pathways inside the garden, the pathway leading off in front went onwards into shadehouses beyond...

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- I turned to the left 90º again to show what I would call the 'center' of the sales area of the garden/nursery. The capacity of a normal image frame does not do the garden justice. It limits your view to a rectangle, while the entirety of the scene is truly all around you at once. A very wide panoramic view similar to human eyesight would be a start. Another major group of plants known to exist here in the hundreds of cultivars are the Crotons. Marie has been collecting and growing them longer than most and if a cultivar exists at all, finding it here would be a good bet.

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- Everywhere you looked, up and down, left and right, there was something interesting to look at and examine. Every yard or meter of foot travel could mean passing a dozen different plants. This is a Calathea of some kind, with thick, over lapping leaves. Very nice and it was right at my feet. Many plants were tagged and others were not, but I did my best to look for name tags when it was feasible to reach them. Steve and Marie were busy running the sale, and I didn't want to bother them to identify so much when I was so new to it all anyway.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- Absorbed it all yet? Good luck as I tried in person and I could not avoid a headache. In addition to the grand collections of Aroids and Crotons, the garden exhibits many types of Bromeliads, Heliconias, Gingers and their allies, Ferns, Cycads, Bamboo, Begonias, Medinillas, smaller understory Palms, Tropical Flowering Trees, Shrubs and Vines, and more. Marie's compassion for plants and her generosity know no bounds. One of her friends wanted a particular Hoya that had large, fuzzy leaves and a large bloom, but they did not need the entire plant that was intertwined with other plants, so she just told him to take a cutting.

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- One group of plants that must be mentioned are the truly unusual exotics that Steve and Marie are well known for. These are the plants that have no groups. No affiliations, no close relatives, no well known plant families. They do not reside under a particular botanical or horticulturally defined grouping. They are one of kinds and Steve & Marie are usually the only growers that have them. They are scattered about the nursery, and I was brought to a few of them during the morning.

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- Steve Nock and Jeff discuss plants in the lower right corner of the image, as I was photographing the huge stand of Golden Hawaiian Bamboo, Bambusa vulgaris cv 'vittata', that shaded this part of the garden.

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- One of many specimen plants throughout the garden, Coccoloba pubescens. The largest leaves measure about 3 ft (1m) across and are stiff like cardboard while covered with small, fine hairs. This is a cousin to the common seagrape.

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Ryan

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Alicehunter2000

What a great read........you are a very interesting story teller. The pictures are great but I'm sure that being there is about 100 times better. What did you end up buying?

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Cindy Adair

Clearly my kind of place! I'm sure a few treasures would have come home with me! Your photos capture the place.

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waykoolplantz

Sorry I missed the sale...was in NY for a audio convention but had gone down a few months ago with Mike & Lamar...Mike had been there a few days before and was not forthcoming with the treasures he acquired. Lamar and I found some cool crotons & other weird plants (Steve's specialty).

Marie and Steve are truly passionate about plants and travel the world to bring us the most amazing stuff. I feel fortunate as I have neither the time or knowledge but can see and maybe acquire someting unique.

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Gonzer

That's truly a 'Velez'd garden. Thanks for posting, great yard!

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Jeff Searle

I can't speak for Ryan, but I ended up buying about 5 or 6 new crotons that I didn't have. This is one hell of a unique garden to come find something. Ryan and I really enjoyed ourselves and it's well worth for anyone to drive over and visit.

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Mandrew968

I can't speak for Ryan, but I ended up buying about 5 or 6 new crotons that I didn't have. This is one hell of a unique garden to come find something. Ryan and I really enjoyed ourselves and it's well worth for anyone to drive over and visit.

How about for palms?

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Palmarum

... The pictures are great but I'm sure that being there is about 100 times better. What did you end up buying?

Thanks David, your comment above described the situation perfectly. No matter how many photos I take, or finding new ways to take better photos, they do not compare to actually being there. I really Really wanted to get something new and different but I ended up not buying anything at that time. Between the experience of being there for the first time, taking photos, listening to the descriptions and stories being told, I was absorbed into the moment. I could have dove into a new plant group or gone with something I was familiar with, I just couldn't make up my mind with everything else going on around me. I knew I could visit the garden again, plus I knew I had more opportunities to see Steve & Marie and their plants again in the near future. They will be at the upcoming Ramble in November and they will also be attending the big fall auction of the Tropical Fern & Exotic Plant Society, which is tonight actually, at Fairchild TB Gardens. They are known to donate plants to the auction in abundance to generate income for the society; so I will get to see what they bring.

I can't speak for Ryan, but I ended up buying about 5 or 6 new crotons that I didn't have. ...

How about for palms?

Palms are a minority at the garden, but they are there on display. Smaller, understory species are grown mostly as would-be companion plants for tropical flowering trees or other larger ornamentals. With so much more to look at, most visitors would know not to go there for palms.

Ryan

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Palmarum

- Another view of the C. pubescens. I kept moving in circles trying to get the best shot. I had to use a lot of fill flash or the undersides of those giant leaves would be very dark.

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- After looking over the giant seagrape above, Jeff remembered there was another one out in front, by the entrance. We walked back outside to examine it and the interesting plants we saw earlier. This is the highly fragrant and usually hard to find Kula Gardenia, Gardenia pfordii 'Kula'. The 2 inch (5cm) wide flowers emerge in a light yellow, cream color then turn to the darker golden yellow.

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- They can be tricky to propagate and require to be grafted in order to handle the soil here. This particular specimen was not for sale, but the smaller ones around it were, as the large one was there to flag down passing cars and to sell the juveniles.

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- The other giant seagrape out in front was a different species, Coccoloba rugosa, with extremely thick, smooth, and rigid leaves.

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Leaving the topic for a while to get ready for the TFEPS meeting and auction. I will see you there if your coming tonight.

Ryan

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_Keith

This is awesome Ryan. What are these folks Palmtalk names? I'd like to send them a note.

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waykoolplantz

How about for palms?

Andrew...you live much closer than most of us....if you haven been you should go & update the thread

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Jeff Searle

Keith, I don't think their registered members with PT. But she's a member over on Palmpedia and talks about crotons there.

And their not really a nursery to go look for palms at.

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Palmarum

This is awesome Ryan. What are these folks Palmtalk names? I'd like to send them a note.

Keith, and interested others,

Steve & Marie are frequent visitors to Palmtalk, but they are not registered members. They can be reached at the following email address:

Email - snock1@earthlink.net

Feel free to ask any and all questions about really anything in the plant world. Please note that they do not ship plants. They could better inform you as to which plant sales and society meetings they will be attending. They could be at a plant sale closer to your location(s) in the future.

Ryan

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_Keith

This is awesome Ryan. What are these folks Palmtalk names? I'd like to send them a note.

Keith, and interested others,

Steve & Marie are frequent visitors to Palmtalk, but they are not registered members. They can be reached at the following email address:

Email - snock1@earthlink.net

Feel free to ask any and all questions about really anything in the plant world. Please note that they do not ship plants. They could better inform you as to which plant sales and society meetings they will be attending. They could be at a plant sale closer to your location(s) in the future.

Ryan

Thank you Ryan.

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Palmarum

- A minute or two later, we re-entered the interior of the garden and I dove headfirst into the shadehouses. Along the way I photographed this Mojito, Colocasia esculenta cv. 'Mojito', that was on the edge of the walkway. Named after the popular Cuban cocktail, this cultivar is not the rarest of aroids, I was just happy to find something I was able to identify.

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- A variegated Lady Palm, Rhapis excelsa var. 'variegated', grew out of a spot along a path. It did not have a cultivar name that I could find, but had some nice pattern striping.

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- Aroids are accustomed to cramped quarters in their natural habitat as many of them are epiphytes. Finding any spot to root, and then having their thick, often large and showy leaves do most of the work. This is a very handy trait when you enjoy collecting and growing many of them.

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- The depth of the collection was just amazing. Looking in any direction could hold the view to any number of different plants. Not every plant would be for sale of course, as this is still a plant person's own collection. In the sale sections up front many plants have price tags, but throughout most of the garden you would have to ask if the plant is for sale. In many of these shots I should have used a tripod to capture better depth of field, but I did not bring one. Not that I would have had much room to set one up anyway. Monopod maybe.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- I could spend an entire day in each shadehouse or an hour upon a section of benches and still not cover everything. You have to look under every leaf, go from pot to pot, trace out limbs, stems and branches just to not miss anything. Felt like I was eight years old again.

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One of the remarkable specialties found here are the Medinillas. It is a unique genus of small to moderate, understory, evergreen trees, shrubs, and woody vines numbering about 190 species. They are found around the Indian Ocean rim, from east Africa all the way through into Southeast Asia and into the western Pacific. The genus is placed in the often ignored Melastome family, Melastomataceae where their closest, locally known relatives, however distant, would be the species of Tibouchina. One common key to the genus would be the leaves, which are prominently veined along their length. Medinillas are one of those characteristic group of plants defined to themselves, however some plant enthusiasts loosely affiliate them with 'Tropical Flowering Trees'.

Up until about two decades ago, the only place one could view a species of Medinilla was usually in the rare plant house of a botanical garden. Their popularity has increased since then and the more common species are now found often in cultivation. Steve & Marie have taken the genus as a trademark and grow multiple different species, some of which are extremely rare. In my wanderings I came across one of them, Medinilla miniata.

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- It was right at home on the end of a bench in the shade. The leaves are quite thick and heavily veined into segments, the largest of which measure about 20 inches (50cm) in length. They emerge in a light red color and are somewhat rigid, with some weight to them.

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- This species is known for its bright, crimson-red, pendant inflorescence that appears when it wants to. Just about every part is the same color throughout. The bulk of the inflorescence is about the side of a softball, 4 to 5 inches (10-12cm) wide and 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm) in length. It looked fake and made of plastic but it is all real.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- A closer view of the inflorescence, showing the perfect 1 inch (2.5cm) wide flowers. They are constantly being produced by the inflorescence in a random pattern. Every bright red emerging bud you see will be an open flower in a short period of time. I had to hand-hold this shot at a weird angle.

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- At a nonspecific moment I decided to look up. I was peering into the crown of a Hong Kong Orchid Tree, Bauhinia x blakeana, that had a canopy at least 40 feet (12m) high. It was fighting for space.

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- I tried to keep moving as I was looking and photographing, to at least cover some territory but it was hard. I kept finding charismatic individuals such as this guy growing in an octagonal basket. It looked like it could tell some stories of its own.

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- No identity that I could find, but the leaves were stunning.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- I had to take a closer view of the peculiar stem that was covered in leaf scars and aerial roots.

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- By this point I was lost. I just kept going and exploring. I chose a heading towards muffled voices in the distance to try and catch up and see how the sale was going. I exited a shadehouse and found a path leading off in one direction...

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- A left here and a right there, and I was back at the main path that runs the length of the garden. The morning was turning into the noon hours. More customers had arrived and were looking around. The nursery carts were turning into portable holding areas as they could not go too far off the main path.

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- I did a 180º turn from the spot above and looked onwards and upwards. I had to move over now and then as the narrow pathways left little room for two people to pass, especially those carrying plants. A large specimen of Brazilian Red Cloak, Megaskepasma erythrochlamys, grew up and over the pathway. Here you may walk under the rare and unusual as well as look down upon them.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- In the collection, there were sometimes multiple specimens of the same plant scattered or grouped together. This was just for show purposes or for reasons of propagation, as some species may be dioecious, or have separate male and female plants. Across the path from the plant above was another Brazilian Red Cloak.

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- The bright magenta-red bracts give rise to small, tubular white flowers. You can barely make out the fine hairs on the back of the white petals.

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- Clumps of Bamboo were dotted about the garden, often forming their own canopies of stems and leaves. Some were familiar to me and some were not. This specimen has some thick, wide culms and they were quite tall.

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- The matriarch of Ree Gardens, Marie Nock helps a customer separate an aroid from the plants around it. She was quite busy; answering questions, describing plants and running the sale. She would greet people as they arrive through the plant material and down pathways. We would be informed about interesting plants that are looking their best right now, or are blooming for the first time.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- "If your into tropical plants long enough, meeting Marie Nock is eventual." I was not the only one to have their first Ree Gardens experience on this day. Local veteran landscaper and grower Stan Wood of Everglades Botanical was here to also peruse and explore the nursery. After many years of knowing about Marie and her collection of plants he finally made his first trip. We ran into each other earlier in a shadehouse as we were both walking through the garden. He had the same overwhelmed, glassy-eyed look that I probably had.

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- After Marie helped Stan with his new purchases, she had a spare moment or two to show us around to some of the exotics that were primed for show, and thus photo worthy. This was redundant, when you consider how much of the garden was already photo worthy. She guided Jeff and myself down the main path, then turned onto a side path, then went around a corner, and then went along a stretch of benches to one dead end -- where we saw another unusual Medinilla, - Medinilla sieboldiana. This species tends to bloom a lot less often than the others, so when it does, it is an event. This photo was taken without flash to show how it looked to us in person, as the color changes depending on the light source.

*note - I am fairly sure as to the spelling of the species epithet, but there is also a M. sieboldtiana - Planch. in Fl. des Serres Ser. I, v. (1849) t. 482.

listed under the genus. Both are considered legit species as I could tell.

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- Photographed with flash. The plant itself is similar in proportions to the other large-leaf species, but the light pink to white inflorescence is mostly upright and much larger. I figure the bloom could become pendant under its own weight over time.

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- Getting in closer and closer... The different hues of pink were bright and eye catching against the dark green foliage. The rachis and pedicels were light pink and had darker, characteristic fuchsia-colored joints and branch points. The first of the newly emerging, rounded white flowers were just about to open. They probably would have been open in about an hour or so, but there was so much more to see. Another conditional factor to the rarity of Medinillas should be mentioned, they can be quite difficult to propagate.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- We looked over the Medinilla sieboldiana for a few minutes then the conversation quickly shifted to Crotons. I decided I could cover more ground and see more plants if I stuck with a group of people. I followed Marie and Jeff as they went further into the nursery to one of the Croton vaults near the back of the property. I listened to the names and descriptions being fired back and forth and I would hear something familiar maybe... ten percent of the time. It was interesting to see the exotic plants that had escaped their confines and had become volunteers within the nursery. To me, it was funny to see an unusual plant flourishing and becoming feral that would otherwise be a singular, rare specimen in any other garden.

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- We left the Croton vault above and headed back upfront towards the sales area, as Marie had to attend to business. As Jeff and I were following close behind exploring a path, we noticed this Coccothrinax sp. growing in the shade...

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- It seemed to be a hybrid between an Old Man Palm, Coccothrinax crinita and some other pollen donor within the genus. I have seen crosses like this before and that is what made me think it was a hybrid.

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- We reached a sunny open area of the garden. Inhabited by numerous containerized plants and one landscaped and very happy Solitaire Palm, Ptychosperma elegans. It was getting all the water and fertilizer runoff from the nursery plants and was content in this crowded spot. During the morning ride to the garden, Jeff was thinking of who else might be able to attend the sale. We were thinking of locals and who would want to walk and talk through the garden and look at plants, so he went through the contact list on his phone and called friend and fellow plant nut Chris Mayhew. He didn't answer... but Jeff left him an inspiring message.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- Next to the Ptychosperma elegans, was a 'sort-of' familiar flowering shrub. It looked just like the Pagoda Flower, Clerodendrum paniculatum, but the flowers were white instead of orange. I found out later this is a different species of Clerodendrum altogether, but I forgot to write it down. This was an additional aspect to the wonder of the garden, as you might find a plant you knew very well but in a different color or form you never knew existed.

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- Back along the main path, the sales area saw increased traffic as I could hear different conversations off in various directions. Jeff's phone rang and it was Chris Mayhew returning his phone call and responding to the colorful message left at his end. They talked for a while with Jeff edging Chris to come on over if "he wasn't doing anything else fun and plant related." This is how plant related events (PRE's) are born. Jeff went off to ask Marie a question with Chris on the phone, when I came across two customers who were also exploring. I turned around to follow them towards the mist houses.

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- Bordering one of the mist houses is a Bromeliad section not far from a corner of the property. The two customers were a few feet ahead being amazed and absorbing the material around them. This is a vibrant specimen of Vriesea cv. 'Memoria Howard Yamamoto' growing in different small pots and without any restraint. The large plant in rear was in bloom but it was past its prime.

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- Right near the end of the main path, lies the entrance to one of the mist houses. Plants in here needed constant moisture and humidity either for propagation purposes or just to maintain growth. The two customers can be seen ahead and down the narrow aisle. As you can see I was still standing here as they went off, trying to beat the timing of the sprinklers and mist heads; as they irrigate continually on a cycle. They didn't make it. [voosh] I timed the cycle and made a dash on through during the intermission.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- My new companions and I passed through the mist house and made our way through some utility sections of the nursery. One of them didn't care too much for spider webs so we had to carefully maneuver on through. We rounded a big corner and headed down a long pathway that followed along the front edge of the property. With the border hedge immediately to my right, I stopped to photograph a rather tall specimen of Mahoe, or variegated Beach Hibiscus, Hibiscus tiliaceus cv. 'tricolor' (sometimes included in the genus Talipariti).

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- Normally you see specimens as shrubs or potted plants, but this was a tall tree.

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- Hmm... Which way to go. We followed the path around as it curved back towards the main pathway and the mist houses. Plant goodness was everywhere. We came across an intersection with paths leading off in two directions, with a small trail leading off to a third. This was one way we could go on our left...

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- ... And the second path leading off straight ahead. The third trail was really small and barely looked manageable. The other two customers back-tracked to an area I had already seen, so I followed the path ahead.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- The path led me back to the section of mist houses. I kept trying to digest it all but I could not. I was fighting to keep it all from becoming a blur.

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- I was at the main pathway again, looking into various benches and areas under shade cloth when the sun began to shine in stronger from over head. It was approaching eleven in the morning.

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- I regrouped with Jeff and Marie who were on tour. They were looking over some of the really showy and unknown exotics, noted earlier, many of which Steve & Marie are the only growers known to possess and to grow them. Those large and strikingly colored leaves belong to the rare Pentagonia wendlandii, a native of Panama, sought after by those who demand the extreme in tropical foliage...

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- The colors were unreal. The leaves are thick and heavily accented with creamy white veins and the enthralling maroon undersides grab your attention and hold it.

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Ryan

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Palmarum

- This exact plant might be on display at the Ramble this coming weekend, but it will probably not be for sale. Just eye candy for those lucky enough to find their booth. There might be smaller specimens for sale, but not many. If you must fondle the plant, do so gently.

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- I was figuring out this Aroid while others were gathering around talking about the Pentagonia and crotons.

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- Jeff and Marie were comparing the identities of a two nearby Crotons as I continued to photograph everything. On my left, Stan Wood was doing the same thing I was so we kept moving in circles. We moved to get out of each others way, changing shooting locations along the narrow path.

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- Marie was asking Jeff if he knew the name on the thin leaf Croton her hand was holding. It was another unknown that will remain without a name until someone else identifies it or she names it herself. Over her right shoulder, Marie pointed out another rare exotic that I had never seen before...

DSC_0590.jpg

Ryan

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Palmarum

- Marie motioned me over to take a closer look at this shrub known only by the genus, Poikilospermum sp. and I immediately noticed the bizarre pink to purple colored flowering structures located right off from the axillary joints...

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- The buds are actually forming inflorescences that will bear either male or female flowers, as this plant is dioecious. This doesn't take anything away from the fact they are really unusual structures. They were emerging all over the plant, from the end of the stems down to the soil line.

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- The leaves had an interesting growth pattern in the way they emerged from the stem. They also have large, thick stipules located at the base of each leaf petiole, protecting it in a way. Botanically, Poikilospermum is a messy genus of shrubs and lianas with 4 known species and several dozen unplaced and not well described species. It is also not clearly known which plant family it should be placed under, whether Cecropiaceae, Urticaceae or even the more common Moraceae, the Fig family. It is a genus without a home. These factors just add to the mystery surrounding this weird plant.

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- "I swear Jeff they were thiiis...biggg." The timely arrival of collector Chris Mayhew turned the garden visit into an actual plant related event, thanks to a few well timed phone calls. He caught up to us over by the mist houses and came along as we continued touring through the collection. They were already talking crotons. Chris was using his hands to describe the size of a croton leaf to Jeff. Chris has visited Ree Gardens on several occasions so this experience is well known to him.

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*Note - If you were thinking about the misters and sprinklers going off while we were in the mist house, Marie had turned the system off temporarily.

Ryan

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Palmarum

- With Chris in attendance, we now had a group on tour. The conversation focused on crotons throughout the rest of the visit as we slowly moved through the garden. With Jeff and Chris following behind, we entered a Bromeliad section near the corner of the property. I made a path through the foliage, stopping now and then to read a name tag or two.

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- We made it through to a shaded area filled with a mix of different plants and some very narrow pathways. Single file was the only way to go. Chris had a specific plant in mind and we searched through this area until we found it. He wanted to show that Croton with the large leaves to the left of the sprinkler pipe to Jeff. This shot was tricky as I had no room to maneuver. I had to hold the camera up high and aim blindly to get this photo... and the next one.

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- From what I could tell, this unusual Croton (which I think they were calling 'Salmon') was not appearing in the way it should. It originated as a cutting given to Marie from Chris taken from one of his plants, which apparently doesn't look anything like this offspring and vice versa. So how can a cutting from one croton change so dramatically? Ugh. My only guess was different growing conditions, light, water, etc, but that did not change the debate going on in front of me, between Chris and Jeff. When it comes to Crotons, their variability is both the bane of identification and the wellspring of devotion.

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- During the discussion, I looked up for a moment to see this huge Aroid growing up in the tree above us, as if it was a native.

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Post #3,000... and the estimated 9,700th posted photo on the Forum.

Ryan

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- "Woof..woof....grrr...woof!" Time had come to start working our way back up front. If we didn't leave I would have been here until the sun went down. Noon came and went and plans for the rest of the day were changing by the minute. Jeff was collecting his purchases from around the nursery and bringing them up to the main pathway junction. While he was doing that I was looking over plants near the entrance area including this Amorphophallus sp. while getting barked at by some serious dogs. Due to the dense plant coverage, I could not see the guard dogs or their kennels but I could definitely hear them and they were not happy I was nearby.

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- I was looking around in the attempt to try and pick at least something to get, but I could not. It was too much too fast and I could not choose anything at this time. I noticed another familiar ginger and went in to take a closer look. This is Zingiber collinsii, a Vietnamese native also known as Silver Streaks. When in bloom, it has brightly colored inflorescences to contrast the shiny, patterned and metallic-looking foliage. It is also found as Z. collinsiana but that name is a synonym.

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- A sunlit species of Justicia was positioned not far from the entrance tent by the front gate. The emerging flowers were a perfect shade of orange...

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- Even the unopened flower bracts were showy.

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Ryan

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- For anyone who doesn't already know, Croton talk is spontaneous and quite contagious. We were all up front finishing business and looking over various plants when another croton-related debate (a CRD, to acronym the phrase) broke out. A cultivar of note was discussed and the debate brought Chris, Jeff and Marie back down to the mist house to look over a certain plant...

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- ... The debate was centered on history. Mainly the history behind a specific croton cultivar and its lineage, or how it came to be, from hybridizer/grower to owner to collector and so on. This is important in correctly identifying a croton cultivar and to attach elements of relevance to the cultivar. While they were in depth with the conversation, I noticed this nice Anthurium a few inches from where I was standing.

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- They moved from one mist house to the next, looking over different plants. One conversation dissolved and the moment turned into a story about a plant seen earlier, while another new plant was noticed invoking yet another discussion. It is truly endless and when you see croton enthusiasts in action you know they enjoy it. It was around this time Chris had invited Jeff and myself over to his residence to see his collection after we left the garden.

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- I took another moment to look up. This time I saw blooms of a Dutchman's Pipe Vine, Aristolochia sp. far above my head. Not close enough though to smell their pungent fragrance.

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Ryan

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- Now it was the time for us to leave. I think we actually 'tried' to leave a few times. With all the distractions, plants and stories pulling on you to stay and keep your attention, it was hard to move towards the exit. In any direction you looked, even for the tenth time, there was something you saw for the first time - that you did not notice before. We walked, yet again back up towards the front and Marie mentioned one more photo opportunity I had to investigate. She led me through the sales area, down one path and to a small clearing that had a blooming specimen of Warszewiczia coccinea, also known as Wild Poinsettia and the Pride of Trinidad and Tobago, as its also the national flower of that country. A rare sight to see in bloom, this species is considered a 'Holy Grail' plant for tropical flowering tree enthusiasts in South Florida.

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- It is not an easy plant to grow and to see one in bloom is phenomenal. It is very cold sensitive, even by S. Florida standards. This bloom was past its peak, but was still photo worthy.

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- I had walked past this Zombie Palm, Zombia antillarum at least a dozen times, so it was due to have its portrait taken before I left. The sunlight was streaming in right at me, but I had a moment where it was filtered by other plants, so I took the shot.

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- We were all gathered up front in the entrance area talking about upcoming events, saying goodbyes, etc. as Jeff was marshaling his new plants together. More customers were arriving, including some familiar faces when I saw something that caught my attention in a nearby shadehouse. It was a female cycad cone, right at eye level, sticking out of a hanging basket. The garden could not let me go apparently. The cone belonged to a Ceratozamia kuesteriana that was perfectly at home in an elevated position.

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Ryan

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- I backed up as far as I could to try and photograph the entire plant. As you should know by now, the aisles in the shadehouses are rather narrow. I was so close the shadow of my glare hood covered the basket. I was impressed by the image of this mature terrestrial cycad growing in a hanging basket, a scene you would normally expect from an epiphyte, like fellow cycad species Zamia pseudoparasitica. It would make pollination of the cone much easier. My focus on the moment was interrupted with the bellowing of Jeff in my direction, "Let's go..."

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- "Fancy meeting you here." I started to put my camera away when I noticed familiar palm and plant enthusiasts Lew & Cathy Berger arriving right when we were leaving. They looked at us and we looked at them and we all smiled and laughed with that camaraderie shared between fellow plant nuts. The effect of visiting Ree Gardens hit them immediately. Lew went right for the cycads, grabbing a Zamia splendens he saw nearby. It was actually part of a breeding pair, a male and female sold together. Marie was on my left pulling a rare plant out of a crowded spot for an excited customer. The act of which made Lew and Cathy smile and inspired the topic title, as I was thinking to myself "Marie uncovers another legendary plant I had never seen before."

It makes perfect timing concluding the topic with a scene of plant related joy, brought on by Steve and Marie's tropical paradise. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Steve and Marie in person at events and experience the garden yourself, please do so. If you already have, consider yourself most fortunate as the garden is a pure treat for the senses and its inspiring to share in their combined wealth of knowledge.

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I reluctantly put my camera away as I grabbed plants that were part of Jeff's stash and we walked out to his truck and started loading them. Chris Mayhew was out by the street, giving us general directions. We loaded everything and I took one more look of the garden entrance as we pulled out into traffic, following behind Chris. The day's plant adventure continued to his place to explore his collection, but that is a topic for another time.

Ryan

--<

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