The first thing we did Thursday morning after he picked me up from Miami International airport, was to head way north to Lake Worth to visit Zill's High Performance Plants. Neither of us have been here before, so this was a treat for both. Gary Zill is one of the top mango breeders in the world and this place certainly reflects it.
We were mixing business with pleasure today. The main reason for the visit was to pick up new trees for the Fruit & Spice Park. Warren and I had a short chat with Gary about mangoes before we were driven around in a big golf cart picking up mainly mango trees...what else?! There were mango trees as far as you could see in any direction!
Once we were done picking out trees and loading them into the truck, I picked out some delicious looking mangoes to take back home with me. Names like Coconut Cream, Triple Sec, Juicy Peach, Fruit Coctail, and Sugarloaf. One of the nice ladies at Zills opened a Sugarloaf for us to try and wow, was it delicious. The depth of flavors was just crazy.
Once we finished up there, we had to drive back south and drop off the trees at the park. This is where I first met Louise King. What a fantastic person! She is quite the busy bee and will be our coordinator for our work at the park on Friday. More on her later.
By this time it was getting on 6:00 p.m. and we were hungry for something other than sweet. It's been a long, hot day and we were both about done in. We got back into Miami and had a great meal at Chewy's. We eventually made it back to Warren's before dark in time to take a quick tour of his yard.
Fruit & Spice Park - Friday Morning
We met Louise again and she got us squared away with maps and varieties they needed for the tasting on Saturday. The park had been picked pretty hard the weekend before for another festival and again earlier in the week by other volunteers. So it seemed like we did a lot more searching for mangoes than picking. The park has a huge selection of mango trees and we were at it for nearly five hours. Yes...it was freaking hot and freaking humid, but we were mostly in shade and having a ball.
We made a brief stop in their big greenhouse and hooked up with Louise again. Damn! Wish my greenhouse was this size!! So jealous! This is where they keep their more tender, rare fruit specimens like in the pics above. From top left to right: Cherapu(garcinia prainiana), Warren and Louise looking for more cherapu flowers, Breadfruit, and Lakoocha...which is related to breadfruit, pedalai, marang, and kwai muk...which is very tasty.
Louise King's Place - Friday Afternoon.
But first...she invited us to tour her yard. What a lovely lovely place! They kept an acre or two for the home and just grow native plants. Everything you can imagine to invite butterflies and birds. There were beautiful fruit and ornamental trees. Stuff growing in and hanging from trees. It was beautiful and very peaceful. They also had a lychee and longan orchard that was kept nice and tidy. Time permitting, it would have been an ideal place to hang out and just relax. Unfortunately, time wasn't something we had in abundance. Thank you again Louise!
It's nearly 2:00 p.m. by now and we still have to get back up north again to Brandon's house to meet up with the rest of the gang at 3:00 for mango tasting. A quick stop at a roadside eatery for tamales was first though. There was no way in hell we were going to make 3:00 p.m. so there was no sense in rushing. We wouldn't be too late though.
Brandon's Mango Tasting - Friday Afternoon
Last pic on bottom, the guy in the center is Abayomi. He's from Bermuda and man does he love mangoes! He really knows his mangoes too. Very knowledgeable and eager to learn more. He was up here with two friends who also loved mangoes. A great bunch.
We normally take a tour around the yard, but only got a short way into it when a monster storm rolled in cutting the tour short. Inside to eat more mangoes! We ended up sampling at least 52 mango varieties. Unfortunately, the big hitting names fell a little flat tonight. A few of the older varieties actually stole the show for me at least. I believe Fairchild was one of my fav's of the evening.
We had a great time as always. A huge thanks to Brandon and everyone else for supplying mangoes.
It was another late day and man, we were stuffed! Warren and I both were not even remotely interested in stopping someplace for dinner. My body was craving something salty and savory after all the sweet mangoes, but I was just too full to act on it. We were beat and called it a night as soon as showers were done.
Fruit & Spice Park - Saturday Morning
After the tasting, members were able to fill a bag with mangoes for $25. As they were occupied filling bags, I went around around the tables tasting mangoes that had been cut open for the tasting. It's a dirty job, but someone had to do it!
By the time we finished up, it was getting well past 1:00 p.m. We still needed to hit Richard Campbell's place, have time to crate and box up my plants, and get them to the post office. Unfortunately, Campbell's was a bust. I do understand that he is a busy man, but we sort of got brushed off. So much for this visit! The good news? It gives us more time to work on my plants and I had a feeling we were going to need every minute we could get.
Warren and I discussed ideas for this project all week and while my brain was getting over loaded, he calmly suggested ideas that were Eureka moments for the design and boxing. As you can see from the pics above, all the plants were kept in their original containers as-is. We debated this and both agreed that it was probably best to do so. I went to too much trouble to get the damn things, there was no sense in stressing them out by trying to remove them from the containers and get rid of most of the soil. I didn't want to take the chance in damaging the roots.
The first pic above is the Butterscotch sapodilla. Total height was like 24". The crate and boxes for both were 12"x12". This little bastard weighed a freaking ton...almost 30 lbs! We took the crate Louise provided and removed one end cap then cut the side pieces down to size. We cut thick cardboard pieces and used these and wadded up newspaper to hold the soil in place...and to keep the plant and roots from shifting. Added cross braces to keep the container in place, cut the box to size, and tape it up. Worked out perfectly.
The two mangoes however, were a little trickier. Total height of this package would be 60". We were going to put both mangoes in this crate...one at either end. So we really needed to make sure the containers were secured. We had extra wood for the end caps already. We were going to use 2x2's for the supports since the crate was so long. We wanted more support in the middle figuring the package would get abused along the way. Two boxes were needed for this. We cut one down to the size needed to overlap the first. This box was put together now I tell ya. Heavy as hell too. Oh well.
A huge thanks to Warren. I might still be on his porch trying to put these damn things together if it wasn't for him. Not only catching an idea I missed, the extra hands were invaluable in building these...and carrying them into the shippers!
UPS was my first choice. I honestly think USPS sucks ass and should normally not be allowed to deliver anything more than a postcard. But UPS was being a little bitch. We arrived at the UPS Store at 4:45. They close at 5:00. No problem there. The problem is that we were told that the earliest the packages would be delivered was next Friday! Their truck had long since picked up all of the packages. WTF?! Why the hell stay open then? I certainly did not want these plants sitting in these dark boxes for an entire week. I hated the thought of going to USPS, but shit, their priority mail should get the plants home by Wednesday at the latest. So off to the mall where the only open USPS office was located.
We had to carry the boxes all the way thru Macy's. The big box was 48 lbs I believe. I was already exhausted and I prayed the USPS office was not on the other side of the mall. Thankfully, it was just outside of Macy's. The best part? They said delivery would be Monday!! Wow! Well eat shit UPS!
This was a cause for celebration. We hit Longhorn for some tasty steaks. And boy did that beer taste great.
Noel's - Sunday Morning.
After the tour, Noel was taking us to Delray Beach to see the Sundy House and then on to Parkland to visit a buddy of his.
Sundy House - Sunday Afternoon.
We could feel the nostalgia as we walked the gardens. It really was beautiful...and peaceful, even with the number of people having lunch throughout. The food looked good and the rooms looked nice. Although starting price per night this time of the year is $336 and goes up from there. So I can only imagine how much a meal costs.
George Barish's Home - Sunday Afternoon.
Chock full of information, George is the kind of guy you could sit around and just listen to for hours on end. Thank you George for the tour and thank you Noel for the great day. This was a very cool way to end my trip.
Mangoes Mangoes Mangoes!
And while I was figuring all this shit out? Warren was outside digging up seedlings beneath his wonderful lemondrop mangosteen tree, two nice sized peanut butter fruit seedlings, and clipping some cuttings from his lemondrop also. This is all in addition to other cuttings I collected as well as that huge red mombin branch that I just cut up and filled a big ziplok with. All of this had to go into the suitcase also.
But all went well as can be expected with the airlines. There was a couple minor snafus that are normal with these jackasses, but I made it home safely and somewhat timely...and so did the mangoes!
Conclusion - Monday
Man...Monday was a busy freaking day. It was a real scorcher here too. Was like I never left Miami! I had lots of stuff to get potted up after mixing up a bunch of soil: lakoocha seeds, lemondrop seedlings, peanut butter fruit seedlings, red mombin cuttings. I had lemondrop and mango cuttings that needed to be grafted. The tracking for my plants showed they were supposed to be delivered today so I had that to look forward to.
By the time I was finished with planting, grafting, and uncrating plants, it was late evening and I was beat. A very satisfying beat I will admit. Hopefully the cuttings will root and the grafts will take.