Audubon Park, New Orleans
I went for a long weekend to New Orleans to re-connect with an old friend a few weeks ago, and came back with a whole new perspective. My soul received exactly what it needed... and when one experience ended, so many more incredible ones began. It had been twenty years since my last trip, and while much had changed, there is a spiritual and environmental awakening taking place in souls and parishes all over town. No wonder Sandra Bullock moved here.
Southern Live Oak, Audubon Park, New Orleans
Five years after Katrina, New Orleans is thankfully starting to show signs in the green department--as in growth--although it is sporadic and slow. The tragic Southern Live Oaks that were demolished are being replaced with new ones as well as other shrubs and trees, but it will never look the same, at least not in our lifetime. This is sad yes, but now is a time to focus on what is growing.
Spanish moss drips from oak tree, Audubon Park, New Orleans
Mardi Gras beads in the gloaming, New Orleans
Flowering cabbages under crepe myrtle tree, Garden District, New Orleans
I spent my first full day being spoiled in the Garden District where it cheats you into thinking New Orleans isn't so bad with its over-the-top, shaggy vegetation. As I staggered down Magazine St., visually drunk from the never-ending cascades of Spanish moss and Mardi-Gras beads, I started thinking about what I would write about. I came to re-connect with a friend who was so dis-connected, I ended up immersing myself into the city that seemed to have a lot in common with my own past.
Monkey bar, New Orleans
I spent my first night with a combination of Sauvignon blanc, milky Saki (not so sexy), sushi and lots of lit up shops and bars. It was dark, but I caught a glimpse of a vine covered garden that looked a bit mystical. When I found it the next day covered in more vines, willow branches and some beautiful wrought iron, I saw a sign that said, "Mitch's Flowers." It looked just like my studio garden, a bit untended, though quite shabby chic, with enough unusual botanical elements to make me want to find out what kind of magic was going on inside.
Mitch's Flower Shop, New Orleans
Mitch's Flowers, New Orleans
I walked through the willow arbor and met the ladies responsible for the decadent woodsy outdoor display-- none of whom were named Mitch, by the way. I told them I was a flower spy from the east-coast and lived to discover unusual botanical finds, and they invited me to take as many pictures as I wanted. It was like southern hospitality with a punctuation mark-- I fell instantly in love with their shop, and with them. Their friendliness and enthusiasm caught me off guard, as did their great hand-made oyster plates.
Flower arrangement by Mitch's Flowers
A step inside the cooler gave me even more joy; it was filled with all of the flowers any good floral snob would approve of-- with the added bonus of locally grown items like spirea, viburnum, and dogwood. And their designs? Purely fantastic. A bit high-end and garden oriented, just the way I like them, the perfect balance of nature, color and texture. If you live in the area and are in need of "natural", simply beautiful garden oriented designs, you must call Mitch's, these ladies are doing exactly what they love and it shows in every petal they touch.
Inside Mitch's flowers, New Orleans
My journey continued in the green department with a visit to City Park's Botanical Gardens. Hurricane Katrina did a lot of damage here; a lot of the plants are newly established, which are noticeable to a "green" eye. Still there was much color to be found, and everything was in perfect bloom. The Chinese Fringe trees were among some of my favorites, as were the funky bird houses local artist created in the vegetable garden.
Chinese Fringe Tree, Botanical Gardens, New Orleans
While enjoying some lunch, I had the pleasure to share my table with two interesting women and their adorable niece. Introductions were made and I met Stephanie and Rachel Jordan, two very cool sisters, who are well known fixtures in the New Orlean's jazz scene. Our conversation went from personal to spiritual in the matter of an hour, and I found myself in their car going on a road trip around town. I just love that about the people in this city. Btw- that would not happen where I live, I am sad to report.
Lobelia, Botanical Gardens, New Orleans
As we made our way around the outskirts of the city, any image I had in my mind of the Katrina tragedy was erased after this. Stephanie's once gorgeous neighborhood converted from a lush, tree filled waterfront community, to an open spaced development where abandoned homes are literally across the street. She showed me before and after pictures of her home--it was horrifying to look at, worse than I could imagine, and so terribly final. But she is determined to bring back a home that she once loved so much, and she's accomplishing this all on her own, as so many others are doing as well.
Water lilies, Botanical Gardens, New Orleans
When I left the next day, I felt there was a reason I collided into such a fascinating world of green girl power during my trip. Through gardens and flowers, I met successful, passionate women and learned how strong a city New Orleans really is despite not receiving what it needed to repair and heal. The experience renewed my courage to see things as they are and not delude myself into thinking everything works better with compassion and a band-aid. If the 'new' New Orleans was a season, I would say it should be spring. One of the nicest things about spring is it's unending shades of green and its ability to grow.
A special shout out to Stephanie to plant those day-lilies and to lovely Leslie for showing me around and escorting me to such fun places. May I never drink milk punch again!
Locally made bird house by New Orleans artist
Mitch's Flower Shop unofficial greeter, New Orleans
Storefront, Magazine St., New Orleans
ALL PHOTOS BY FLOWER SPY