The beauty of plant layering in Key West – As I take a break from the heat of the mid day sun perched under the shade of a Banyan tree, I am staggered by its beauty and the clever way it has adapted to colonising and ‘getting around’. The large structures which develop from the underside of the 20 foot high branches head south and take root into the dry dusty soil as they hit the ground. With a record high temperature of 100 (f) and only 30 inches of water per year these are pretty hostile conditions – you may have noticed, I’m not in the UK!

Plant layering in Key West

An 11 hour flight will transport you Key West, Florida where the views are simply breath-taking and although some locals claim you can almost see Cuba (at a mere 90 miles out to sea?) I found some of the best views had no distance at all.  For me the most stunning were the small, intimate courtyards created to the front and rear sides of the colonial houses. These beautiful little oases in the town provide not only a welcoming entrance, but also a cool shady place, where the several layers of plants seem at home.

Although none of them indigenous to the area (due to the lack of soil on the island) they grow happily together and have done for years – mainly thanks to the daily irrigation! The plants are there for one reason only, to provide much needed shade from the sun.  The plant life is diverse due to this being the only frost free place in the USA and to me.

As I sit in the garden located at the rear of the oldest house on the island a small lizard drinks from what’s left of a puddle, created by the irrigation system of course. Jamaican style music plays in the background, its origin a local bar I presume, disturbed only by the intermittent and even louder ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ thanks to the resident cockerel. Set free many yeas ago as a result of illegal cock fighting, these chirpy chaps roam free here, having found it easy to become native and I can see why.