Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Fair Hope of Success

Much to my garden's dismay, I'm hibernating. I'm avoiding it. The drought, the temperature swings, the lack of success--all are currently conspiring to keep me away from the backyard. I even missed my dog's triumphant display of her efforts to protect me from any additional rat encounters at the compost bin.

I'm sure at some point I will feel that desire to sow again. I received some nice gardening presents for Christmas, and they must be dirtied.

Until then, I've got pictures of other places where gardening is, ahem, easier.
Over the holidays, we visited my family in southern Alabama. My sister arranged for us to stay at her father-in-law's vacation house in Fairhope on Mobile Bay. The house sits right on the bay so it was like we were having a double vacation--a vacation while on our vacation.

The house is large enough to sleep any combination of her kids and my brother's kids, which I think was the real plan behind our staying there. My sister had every night booked except Christmas Eve.When I was growing up in Mobile, Fairhope was lumped in what people called "over the bay." As in, "We're leaving behind this oppressive humidity in Mobile and spending the summer 'over the bay'." Distance-wise, it would be like spending the summer at Lake Travis.

Since my sister moved to Fairhope, I've begun to learn more about the town. The more I learn, the more I realize it's a lot like Austin--a little liberal oasis in an otherwise conservative state. (Residents recently fought the building of a Wal-Mart, and in Austin-weird style, Willie Bean Roscoe, a dog, recently ran for mayor.)

The city was founded in 1894 as utopian single-tax colony. The name came from one of the founders' suggestion that the new colony had a "fair hope of success." Artists and intellectuals flocked there, including Marietta Johnson.Johnson (depicted above), a world leader of the Progressive Education movement, founded the School of Organic Education in Fairhope in 1907. The "organic" in the name doesn't refer to planting techniques but rather to teaching techniques.

We stayed just down the street from the city's bayfront parklands, which include this sculpture, miles of waterfront property, and a municipal pier, aka the Big Pier. A sidewalk covers the length of the waterfront. It's kind of Fairhope's version of Austin's hike-and-bike trail.
It's hard to tell in this picture, but this seahorse is about 45 feet in the air, towering over the parklands.This bed of pansies is just one many that the city replants regularly. Earlier in the morning, this bed was empty. At other times of the year, I've seen it full of stargazer lilies, which I can only guess are planted as mature plants.
Every time I visit beds throughout the city are full--completely chock full of blooming plants. I wondered who paid and maintained for all the plants. This visit I found out definitively: the city.
Six times a year (seriously, it seems much more often than that; okay, another part of the website says that the displays are changed every six to eight weeks, which sounds about right), the city replants many, many beds in a few different styles.

These beds above are curb cut-ins to slow down drivers.
The city's horticulture division of the public works grows many of these plants in its greenhouse.
These beds above are throughout the downtown walking, shopping, and dining area. I know it's hard to tell in this picture but there are SIX completely full beds on that one corner. Each corner gets as many. It's a plant cornucopia!
And then on other streets in the middle of the block, there are planters like these.

Not to be outdone by the city, some people also actually garden there as well! Imagine that! Camellias, the state flower, were in bloom throughout the area. My niece told me I had to take a picture of this camellia because she has one in her yard. She told me it's a peppermint camellia.
Did you know that there are more than 100 different kinds of camellias? While Fairhope and Austin don't exactly share the same weather (can you imagine what we could grow here with 65 inches of annual rainfall!), I think there are a few varieties that will grow here.
I guess I'm not the only one who noticed the similarities between Fairhope and Austin.
Now if we could just have a FEW inches of their rainfall.


  1. The rainfall they receive there obviously gets rid of one chore and when you have such a mild climate people just expect to see flowers all the time. What I wouldn't give to be at that water's edge right now. Cedar fever has me in its grip.

  2. It's January our bodies and spirits need a break! Thanks for the Fairhope tour! It's a very charming city.; we visited there a few years ago and had a wonderful time. gail

  3. The flower in the first picture has got to be as close to a perfect flower as you can get. All the pictures were great and I liked the tour.

  4. Even though our southern weather doesn't say so, I think all gardeners need a winter break. What a lovely town Fairhope seems to be! thanks for sharing.

  5. I need a break too. Without a greenhouse, I feel like a part time mover bringing my plants in and out...and in and out. Seems you've got a nice place to visit and learn about...I wish you could bring home some of that rain!

  6. Hey Vertie,
    This is Lindsey George from Love Advertising on behalf of the Texas Home and Garden Show. I just recently started reading your blog, and was very impressed! I would like to extend to you 2 complimentary tickets to this weekend’s Texas Home and Garden Show at the Austin Convention Center. I know this is short notice, but the hosting company of the show just got wind of your blog and wanted to further invite you and your blogging buddies to the show. There will be 2 tickets at Will Call under the name of your blog and we hope to see you at the show!
    For further confirmation please call me at 281-414-0704,email me at or find me on twitter.
    Thanks and I look forward to reading your next post.
    Warm Regards,
    Lindsey George

  7. I was not allowed to take your sales tax survey as it automatically told me that I had already taken it. This is not the case.

    My comment is that using the same accounting firm year after year leads to complacency. Audits should be bid out on a regular basis after a few years. New eyes on the problem would benefit the city as they look at their financial situation.