Low tide, a pod of dolphins, and fishing birds

Our morning walk along the Intracoastal Waterway was at low tide. Combined with serious winds, the water was pushed far away from the banks.

All of the birds were gleefully out fishing. There were several ospreys, cranes, and a blue heron so large that it came up to my neck.

The highlight of our walk, however, was seeing a pod with upwards of ten dolphins making its way southward. Among them was a mother dolphin and a baby who were swimming and leaping perfectly in sync. It reminded me of the research from the Sarasota dolphin project about how dolphins have signature whistles that likely function like names.

I tried my best to get a picture of the dolphins, but they are so hard to catch in motion. This has to be a record number for our dolphin-watching episodes though. I feel so blessed to live in Florida and have creatures like this in our backyard.

The amount of money leaving New York for Florida is unreal

From the Miami Herald:

From the days of Henry Flagler through decades of retirees, northerners have found their way to South Florida. But this time, local development officials say, is different.

No longer are they seeking second-home sanctuaries. Many are now bringing their businesses…

The DDA’s numbers tell the story. The number of SEC-registered investment advisors in downtown Miami has nearly doubled since 2014, from 42 to 82

Among Empire Staters moving to the Sunshine State, more than 40 percent now have incomes of $150,000 or above. That’s up from 31 percent in 2015.

Longtime South Florida developer Armando Codina anticipated what the change in tax deductions would do — and he sensed an opportunity. As the well of South American buyers began to dry up for his Doral properties, he says, here was a new group of not just investors, but potential residents, who he could recruit to come to live in the Miami suburb.

So he created a campaign, Unhappy New Yorkers, to entice that very group to come down. The accompanying website, www.unhappynewyorkers.com, has received more than 22,000 visitors since going live earlier this year. Codina says he has two more planned in January: UnhappyNewJersey.com and UnhappyConnecticut.com.

“These are places that are either going to have to tax more, or reduce spending,” he says of those states’ fiscal problems. “You can’t put that back in the bottle.”

Codina’s site has a simple calculator to show New Yorkers considering moving to Miami-Dade how much they would be saving.

A New York household with an income of $100,000 a year would save $24,649 by relocating to Florida. For an income of $200,000, the savings is $49,509. For an income of $500,000, the savings is $119,922. For an income of $1 million, the savings is $235,197. For an income of $5 million, the savings would be $1,238,286. These are annual savings.

Codina is right about the impact this money moving to Florida is going to have on New York City and New York State’s fiscal picture. You have an increasingly far-left electorate in the Northeast who wants substantially all of the burden of government services to fall on the wealthy. And the state is losing residents, net-net, wealthy and otherwise. So a smaller pool of wealthy residents will be paying ever more in taxes at the state and local level, and potentially at the federal level, depending on what happens in 2020. This means the financial incentive to leave will only increase as time marches on. You are likely watching the beginning stages of a downward spiral. (The downward spiral is very much underway in Illinois.)

I’d hate to be someone with a New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or Illinois government pension, that’s all I can say. You are ultimately counting on broke millennial socialists to pay for your employment benefits. And eventually you will become the target of their ire.

New York is also actively driving its high earners’ businesses away with aggressive auditing tactics. It used to be that people would become residents-on-paper in Florida for the purpose of saving on income taxes, but increasingly desperate municipal tax collectors are making sure they pack up the whole caboodle:

Permanently changing a residence can be complex, especially for high earners. The old axiom of six-months-and-a-day is no longer enough, according to attorney Mark Klein, chairman of New York-based firm Hodgson Russ LLP, as auditors from up North now scrutinize oft-overlooked details in their residency investigations.

Klein gives the example of a client who spent 150 days of the year in New York. That’s less than the 184 days that would establish residency. Problem was, the client only spent 90 of those days in Florida, and the rest of the time traveling. Response from an auditor: You’re still a New Yorker.

Today, Klein says, auditors use a “near and dear” test. Attorney Barry Horowitz, partner at New York-based law firm Withum, often advises clients to ensure their kids’ photos are on the refrigerator of their Florida residence. Pets, too, need to be in the Sunshine State, he says.

The total cost of relocating can add up to as much as $500,000. But the savings end up being enormous.

“You make it up even independent of tax savings,” De Yurre said. “You make it up on what they’re buying here — there’s just no way it’s going to be as expensive as it is in New York.

According to data from Knight Frank Research, Douglas Elliman/Miller Samuel, and Ken Corp., $1 million now buys you 346 square feet in New York City, compared with 972 square feet in Miami.

In South Florida, luxury real estate used to be the province of folks relocating from South America. (If you visit Miami and Ft Lauderdale, entire swaths of town are folks from South America. You are far more likely to hear Spanish than English in any business.) Now it’s people relocating from the Northeast.

The Cochran Group, one of the top luxury real estate brokers in the world and located in Palm Beach, set up a Miami office. They are now doing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in financial transactions helping tax refugees relocate.

They’ve helped build “hedge fund row” in Miami:

For years, wealthy Miamians have clustered in a few high-profile communities. Among the lowest-profile, but highest-wattage, was North Bay Road in Miami Beach, home to the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Matt Damon.

Now, the lower portion of North Bay Road has become what Corcoran Group’s Johnston calls “Hedge Fund Row.” Its principal tenants include Starwood Capital’s Barry Sternlicht and Owl Creek Asset Management’s Jeff Altman.

That’s not the only Miami Beach boomlet: Locals say South of Fifth on Miami Beach is also attracting a coterie that includes Clifford Asness, founder of hedge fund AQR Capital Management, and tech entrepreneur John D. Marshall. Marshall has seen enough of his cohort move in that he is building a school, according to his attorney, Michael Larkin.

“He’s emblematic of a lot of South of Fifth residents,” Larkin said of Marshall. “It’s wealthy folks who have moved down all other parts in the north. It’s our little Aspen here.“

Conveniently investor Jordan Levy, the Softbank executive, purchased South Pointe Tavern earlier this decade. He now holds court at what he refers to as his “office” there.

I feel like it’s a pretty much a matter of time until Silicon Valley folks start to trickle in. They do tend to follow the money.

Miami is attracting high-earning younger professionals from places like New York and Los Angeles. The outliers among Generation X and Millennials:

Real estate agent and lawyers say a relatively younger crowd, though one with plenty of disposable means, is now being drawn to the Miami area’s lifestyle amenities, ones not found in the Palm Beach area.

As Wendy Holman put it: “[We moved here] because it’s awesome,” she said. Holman, her husband and four young children made the move to Coconut Grove so she could run an orphan drug investment firm. She said her company is beginning to hire locally.

Or take Dipanshu “D” and Julie Sharma, two young entrepreneurs who moved to Bay Harbor Islands after D sold his business.

“We tried L.A. — and we hated it,” D said.

Meanwhile, Florida governments are in a wildly different position than their peers up north. While governments up north haggle over new revenue measures to pay for legacy personnel costs like pensions, Florida’s Republican governor just introduced a new budget with a billion dollars in new education spending, including pay raises for 101,000 public school teachers. In Chicago, teachers have to strike for two weeks to see a fraction of that, because their government is basically a Ponzi scheme at this point.

Bald eagle update and a canopy of ferns

The bald eagles in our neighborhood have been very busy with their nestorations. They have added a lot of branches. If you look at the center of their nest, they have piled it high with a soft cushion of Spanish moss. We are ready for babies! It is misty here, so please excuse the drops on the camera. What a lovely place to come into this world.

This is not a great picture of Samson and Gabrielle, as it was getting dark, but here they are bonding in their nest. Samson is the son of the eagles who originally built the nest.

We went for a long walk along a very flooded Intracoastal Waterway this evening. Whenever there is a Full Moon or New Moon, we get higher-than-usual tides. This usually floods all of the low areas, including the rivers and streams feeding the ocean. It was something to see this evening – the water was almost up to our path in places. A little higher and it certainly would have swallowed some of the docks.

Everything is so lush after the recent rain, which wakes up the resurrection ferns that grow along the branches and trunks of the sprawling live oak trees. (That seems to be how they received their name – even a small amount of water “resurrects” them. But I might be wrong.)

Coming off the trail into our backyard, I noticed that my powder puff tree is in bloom now too. This fun tree is native to Bolivia, but works well in Florida. I had no idea it was even a tree when I planted it. I was shocked when it grew to be taller than I was in its first year. Now it is a monster.

November blooms

Anthropocentric as [the gardener] may be, he recognizes that he is dependent for his health and survival on many other forms of life, so he is careful to take their interests into account in whatever he does. He is in fact a wilderness advocate of a certain kind. It is when he respects and nurtures the wilderness of his soil and his plants that his garden seems to flourish most. Wildness, he has found, resides not only out there, but right here: in his soil, in his plants, even in himself… But wildness is more a quality than a place, and though humans can’t manufacture it, they can nourish and husband it… The gardener cultivates wildness, but he does so carefully and respectfully, in full recognition of its mystery.

Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

Hurricane Dorian killed the bougainvilleas I had been growing around the arch leading to our front door. Well, technically, I killed them by moving them indoors and then evacuating for over a week. There aren’t any good places inside our house for plants to grow because we have a large porches running the length of the front and back of the house. The porches protect the house from the intense sun in the summer, but they do not let in enough light for house plants (except orchids). I wish we had defied the evacuation orders and stayed, because it only ended up being a tropical storm here and I lost a bunch of plants.

I decided to replace them with these mandevilla. Aren’t they beautiful? Since I bought several of the plants, I am hoping to get them to cover the archway and run along the railing of the front porch.

Mandevilla

My cape honeysuckle also decided to bloom again this fall. Cape honeysuckle does well in (frost-free) coastal areas since the plant can tolerate salt. They are technically a vine, but you can train them to grow as a shrub 6+ feet in size. (They are very similar to bougainvillea like that.) The only downside to the plant is that you have to religiously trim back the tendrils it sends out along the ground, otherwise it will suffocate neighboring plants.

This plant will stop traffic when it blooms. I’m not kidding. I have never had so many people stop their cars in front of our house to ask what it is. As the name suggests, the plant is from South Africa.

Cape honeysuckle

Some of my azaleas are also blooming. They will do this again in the spring, along with the lavender azaleas. I have a hedge of lavender azaleas along the entire perimeter of our house, and it is incredible to see when it blooms. All of Florida is incredible when azaleas bloom, really.

Azaleas

Every year I tell myself that I am not going to plant bulbs, and every year I end up doing it anyway. It’s truly compulsive behavior and I wish gardening addiction specialists were something that existed because I would certainly seek professional treatment for it. I cannot walk past the tubs of bulbs in a garden center in the fall and leave empty-handed. And it’s not like I only get a single bag. Last year, I planted close to 200 gladiolus bulbs. My gardens are already packed with plants, so this is a huge problem logistically. I need one of those shock collars people get for dogs that zaps me whenever I walk into a garden center in the fall.

Gladioli make the ultimate flower arrangements.

This year, I have 120 Dutch iris bulbs and a few dozen Persian buttercups. Because, sure, why not.

Before we moved here, I did large beds of tulips. You can’t really do tulips here because it does not get cold in the winter. But I did consider chilling tulip bulbs in a drawer in our refrigerator for a couple months and then planting them in January. I can already picture the look on my husband’s face when he opens the drawer looking for celery and finds a couple hundred tulip bulbs instead. He’d probably have me fitted for a shock collar then.

Persian buttercups

A blustery morning

By early evening all the sky to the north had darkened and the spare terrain they trod had turned a neuter gray as far as the eye could see. They grouped in the road at the top of a rise and looked back. The storm front towered above them and the wind was cool on their sweating faces. They slumped bleary-eyed in their saddles and looked at one another. Shrouded in the black thunderheads the distant lightning glowed mutely like welding seen through foundry smoke. As if repairs were under way at some flawed place in the iron dark of the world.

Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Nothing seemed to be going right this morning, so we decided to get out of the house and have lunch on the beach. We had to stop into one of the surf shops to get Elise a new sweatshirt. Having very much adapted to the Florida heat, we were all shivering in… 63-degree weather. One woman passed by us in a heavy coat and scarf though, so we weren’t the silliest people out by the water. All of the shops and restaurants had heaters on full-blast.

Some incredible winds started up last night, and the ocean has been roaring and churning so loudly you can hear it indoors. We decided to walk out on the pier after lunch to watch the waves, which were at least 6 feet high close to the shore. You could feel the violent water shaking the pier. It was really something.

I have a stack of books arriving in the mail today, so I am ready for days of showers. I’m often reminded of a book I read a couple years ago by a homeschooling couple in Arizona. They had a rule in their house that rainy days were reading days. They paused whatever curriculum they had for their kids those days and let the kids spend all day curled up with whatever book they wanted, watching the rain. Of course, we’d never get anything done if we had that rule here. (We have far more rainy days than they do in Phoenix.) But it still seems like a brilliant idea.

Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West and the delights of tropical gardening

Sometimes I think I’ve figured out some order in the universe, but then I find myself in Florida.

Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief

I have always been obsessed with gardening. Before moving to Florida, we planted a half-acre vegetable garden full of bizarre heirloom varieties. I fell in love with rose gardening, and survived many depressing winters by reading and re-reading the David Austin catalog. And then there was my hosta collection that you could lose a small child in. (I wish I could grow hostas here, but they require a cold season.)

It wasn’t until we moved to Florida that I discovered how much unrealized potential I had as a gardener. We drove to Key West our first year here, and I saw in the gardens of Ernest Hemingway’s house my life’s dream. A walled garden and paths with water features and towering tropical plants. My love affair with tropical gardening had begun.

Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West (view from the side)
Hemingway’s house (view from the gardens)
Totally unrelated to gardening, but this is where Hemingway would write.
Also totally unrelated to gardening, but this is Elise with a parrot named Margarita that could do tricks, owned by a random man on the street in Key West who graciously allowed her to play with him.

I’ve collected a lot of tropical plants since then, but I realize now that what I need is a bona fide garden plan. Tropical plants are much larger than the perennials you can buy elsewhere in the United States. You can’t just smash them together and enjoy serendipitous pairings. And gardening in Florida is very much about managing micro-climates. I learned the hard way not to plant tender species on the northwest corner of our property. The air from the ocean does a lot of work to insulate plants in the “colder” months.

Anyway, I have been bookmarking a lot of articles and videos on tropical gardens that I find impressive (and in some cases, strange in a wonderful sort of way). So I decided to share some of them. Fall down the tropical gardening rabbit hole with me!

From Fine Gardening magazine, A 40-Year Labor of Tropical Gardening Love, Part 1 and Part 2. These Heliconia rostrata (lobster claw plant) will definitely find a home in my dream garden somewhere. See also this article on plants in Hawaii.

Photo credit: Fine Gardening

There is an area of the jungle we’ve cleared out in the back corner of our property that I am planning on filling with ferns. I can’t think of anything else that would grow under so dense a canopy. This article on growing a fern dell is amazing. It talks about how to arrange different ferns by size and ferns of different colors. There is a path through a large grouping of ferns at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park that I plan on trying to replicate. My own little Jurassic Park.

This is a video tour of the Sunken Gardens in St Petersburg, Florida (for inspiration). The Tropical Gardening channel on YouTube is fantastic.

I love orchids and have several growing in my garden. Living in a place where orchids can be something other than a houseplant is such a thrill. Here is a tour of the National Orchid Garden in Singapore that is more than a little humbling.

I was also amused by this video of ten orchids that mimic the faces and bodies of animals.

Okay, back to stuff I can realistically plant. My friend Daryl in California has inspired me to get into growing plumeria. There is an amazing plumeria nursery in California named Jungle Jack’s that I plan on doing mail orders for plumeria from. Here is a video tour of two gardens where plumeria is used as a focal point.

San Antonio is not quite the same climate that we have here, but I enjoyed seeing this courtyard garden inspired by the owner’s trips to Mexico. It’s quite beautiful.

For fun, here is a tour of the collection of carnivorous plants at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Elise loves carnivorous plants.