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Green Acre #20: Going Coconuts


Coconut palms on the grounds of the Old One’s condo complex in Juno Beach, Florida. / Photo by Monica Cavanaugh.

THE PEANUT ISLAND FERRY takes you to what minimal snorkeling is to be had around Palm Beach. A multipurpose conveyance, the ferry (and the captain) can also take your ashes out and distribute them, holding a two-hour ceremony, should you choose. The fee for this service is not listed on the website.

Peanut Island is where we’ll float, alive and nose to fish, I hope, for a few hours this afternoon. (If it weren’t for Zika we’d head for the Keys). The Prince, Baby and I are here for hurricane season, the annual birthday celebration for the sister we call the Old One, who is technically old enough to be my mother, but that’s another story.

These visits frequently involve monsoon rains and the occasional evacuation. Not this year, however. While the rest of the East Coast sat in the hot sand, glaring at the verboten chop of water, we’ve frolicked in an ocean as placid and warm as a bath, all crystal shades of blue and green. I am burnt.

The Old One has a condo on Juno Beach, the last relatively unspoiled strip of sand in South Florida. I am looking out the window at 9am and see one lone soul walking the water’s edge.

The condo sits in grand gardens. I can identify nothing. Plants here grow with prehistoric speed and gallivanting lushness; stick a stick of something in the soil, give it a week and it’s in need of pruning.

As is his habit, The Prince identified A Project that required abandoning the beach for a stroll through Home Depot. A momentary spell of wet descended yesterday afternoon, so off we went, he to rummage amongst the screws and bolts, Lil Sis (who also lives around here), Baby and I to investigate the retailer’s garden center.

This does not resemble any big-box garden center I’m familiar with. The orange, lemon  and Key lime trees already tower. There are vast beds of fabulous flowers of fantastic scale—I’m getting to the point here, shortly.

We marvel through the aisles. A woman trundles past with a shopping cart stuffed with an enormous hanging basket, a huge green thing covered with shockingly no-account yellow flowers. It is so no-account I can’t even figure how she found it, or why she wants it. She should be barred from buying plants.

Baby halts and gently yells, “Ma!” I join her and together we stand, admiring a baby coconut palm, slender fronds reaching up six feet. This will not fit under my airline seat but, of course, I want one.


More coconut palms, different time of day in Juno Beach, Florida. / Photo here and on the front by Monica Cavanaugh.

Did you know that trees grow from seeds? Those orange seeds one so blithely spits out would eventually spout forth creamy white, divinely scented flowers from which tiny fruits would emerge. This is something that has only recently occurred to me. It was like my discovery that there is really nothing sinister about vegetable soup. There’s nothing more frightening lurking in that murk than celery and maybe a pea.

Similarly, did you know coconut palms grow from coconuts?  A brief Googling explains that you take a coconut, with its husk still on, jiggle it for juice (demonstrating its freshness) stick it in potting soil and in some amount of time a tree will grow.

I saw just such a coconut on the beach the other day; perhaps it’s still there. Coconuts are both easy and difficult to find around here as the grounds crew evicts them as soon as they appear on the trees to avoid them dropping on some octogenarian’s head.

The Prince has a coconut-size corner of a suitcase available. If not, we can just leave some of his stuff here for next year.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

When she’s not exploring other climates,  Gardener Cavanaugh is working on a book on urban gardening in D.C. To read her  earlier columns, type Green Acre into the Search box at top right.

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