Nontraditional Lavish Cottage Gardens

The Emerald Coast’s year-round temperate climate and long growing season offer an abundance of opportunities to get outdoors and nourish beautiful landscapes. In fact, lavish cottage gardens grace homes in many communities on the Emerald Coast as residents find that these informal, diverse creations are a perfect fit for eclectic, laid-back coastal lifestyles.

Cottage gardens are areas of densely-planted flowering plants arranged in a relaxed, natural way, according to Master Gardener Karen Kirk-Williams. They feature a variety of ornamental and edible plants along with flowering shrubs and trees and are soaked in color and texture.

“Cottage gardens throw out all the strict rules of landscape design,” Kirk-Williams said. “They offer the freedom to mix plant colors, textures, and heights with abandon, so gardeners can create a unique area that reflects their personalities.”

Unlike traditional gardens with rules about color combination, height, and repetition, cottage gardens shun straight lines, rows, and coordinating colors, opting instead for gentle sweeping curves and seemingly random design. They also include hardscape features like benches, fences, gates, and arbors as well as paths to create structure among the foliage. Simply put, they strive to be relaxed, colorful, and fun.

“The overall effect is a cheerful, exuberant garden filled with flowers, along with flowering trees and shrubs,” Kirk-Williams said. “This gardening style is ideal for anyone wishing to include a few edibles in the landscape without having an entire garden area dedicated to herbs and vegetables.”

Typically, cottage gardens exist in pockets near the front porch, around the mailbox, or in other sunny areas that are visible from the house and the street. In the absence of a large yard, gardeners can use containers to create a cottage garden look.

Perhaps best of all, the diversity of plants in cottage gardens help defend against pests and diseases. At the same time, native plants provide food and shelter for the birds and butterflies that migrate through the area. Most flowering plants attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, so well-adapted plants that don’t require pesticides work best.

“Cottage gardens provide a beautiful focal point for homeowners and a beneficial oasis for wildlife,” Kirk-Williams said. “Your cottage garden will attract winged visitors, sometimes called flying flowers, that will benefit from the habitat, and from your hard work.”

Kirk-Williams currently has 63 varieties of flowering plants in bloom in her own cottage garden, and she said the variety means that she always has flowers to enjoy, even in the dead of winter. She hasn’t used insecticides or fungicides in her garden in 28 years.

“The key is to seek out plants that are well-adapted and will perform well without pesticides, and to avoid monoculture planting,” she said. “Monoculture planting, which groups clusters of the same plant together, is common in landscapes today, but it facilitates the spread of pests and disease.”

Her go-to favorites are climbing antique roses, Agapanthus, Russian Sage, Rose of Sharon, Confederate Rose, Guara, Gloriosa Lily, Plumbago, Hydrangea, Society Garlic, Crinum and Salvia.

To begin your own cottage garden:

  • Start small with your cottage garden to minimize maintenance and expense.
  • Blend in organic materials like compost or manure prior to planting to keep your garden healthy.
  • If you design with perennials, divide them every few years. Use the new plants to broaden your own garden, or offer some to a neighbor.
  • Plant flowers closer than recommended to create a lush look and reduce weeds.
  • Choose Florida-friendly plants, and place them in areas that suit their growing requirements.
  • Use mulch in bare areas to limit weeds, retain moisture, and act as a slow-release fertilizer.
  • Websites available through the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences can offer help with plant selection and inspiration or recommendations for the local area. Additional assistance is available through your local county Extension office.

    “Many of us fondly remember our grandparents’ gardens, filled with flowers and fragrance,” Kirk-Williams said. “Most of their plants were hardy pass-along plants shared by family and friends, and no one ever thought to spray for insects or disease. We can still have gardens like that and now have an even greater variety of well-suited plants available.”

Bring Some Refreshment to the August Heat Along the Emerald Coast

Local mixologist aims to educate, demonstrate and collaborate

What cocktails are on the menu for your next event? Will one-of-a-kind libations inspire guest palettes? Will friends or family leave remembering the smooth, natural flavors of the wine served?

When it comes to parties and events, local mixologist Christine Tarpey says that all too often, the beverage experience takes a backseat to food—and it’s a considerable “miss” on the opportunity scale.

“The right bar scene can take even the most well-planned events from memorable to extraordinary,” Tarpey said. “Many people simply lack a few contemporary skills that can significantly amp up their beverage offerings.”

In fact, Tarpey aims to change that dynamic on the Emerald Coast through the introduction of her new company, Better Together Beverage. A boutique education and event company, Tarpey and her colleague, Elizabeth Sinnott-Cameron, are taking their mixology experience and deep knowledge of the beverage industry on the road to conduct classes, consult with restaurants and event planners, and host special events.

Tarpey learned to love the Emerald Coast when she moved to area at the age of 14. In her mid-twenties, she left for the big-city sights and sounds of Las Vegas and Dallas, where she had the opportunity to hone her mixology skills in some of celebrated metropolitan restaurants and bars. When Tarpey accepted a position at Alys Beach on 30A and returned to the Florida panhandle in 2010, she realized that there was a significant knowledge gap across the region in terms of the latest trends with hand-crafted cocktails and mixology.

“I started as the maître d’ at Caliza Restaurant and quickly moved into the position of beverage director for the Alys Beach beverage program,” Tarpey said, noting that community’s NEAT bottle shop later became her passion project. “At NEAT, I had the opportunity to work with people in the community and teach them how to use better ingredients in their beverages. We created new cocktails every month and helped customers get out of their comfort zone.”

Tarpey noted that she enjoys introducing new mixology trends to the Emerald Coast. For example, sustainability is the rage in many big cities as bars try to eliminate waste. One way they bring the green movement into the beverage experience is by recycling lemons and limes that have only been used for their juice. Tarpey explained that a lime shrub can easily be made from lime peels, sugar and a little vinegar—a solution that can make an ordinary vodka tonic exceptional and memorable.

Today, Tarpey’s services are in demand, whether leading a seminar in a local home or working with local wedding planners. She recently consulted with the owners of Black Bear Bread Company in Grayton Beach to open a natural wine bar. “It’s really exciting because no one is doing that here,” Tarpey said. “It is catching on so fast, and it makes my heart so happy.”

Notably, Black Bear was recently received a nomination for Best Bar in the south by Southern Living.

Through Better Together Beverage, she plans to expand to offer various themed event packages that bring a flair of fun and excitement to a bar scene. For example, customers can choose from themes such as Southern Charm, Speakeasy, Glamour and Tiki.

To bring some refreshment to the August heat along the Emerald Coast, Tarpey offers her original recipe for a Hawaiian Empress:

 

Hawaiian Empress:

1.5 oz. Empress Indigo Gin

2 oz. Fresh Pineapple Juice

.5 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

.25 oz. Fresh Orange Juice

.25 oz. Lemon Oil**

.25 oz. Orgeat

-Combine all ingredients (except gin), in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until fully chilled. Pour into a footed glass, slowly pour gin overtop, do not mix. Garnish with a lime wheel and pineapple fronds. Add a Hay Straw to stir, sip, and enjoy!! (It is very important to use fresh fruit juices to captivate the freshness of this thirst quenching libation).

**Lemon Oil (yields 4 cocktails):

1 Lemon, zested

1/2 cup vegetable oil

-Combine oil and zest in a saucepan, bring to a low simmer, stirring for one minute. Remove from heat, allow mixture to sit for 1-2 hours, strain out zest, store lemon oil in air tight glass jar.

Seagrove Beach, New Construction, 2 Blocks to Beach Access and Great Cash Flow

This brand new construction 5 bedroom home under 1 million with a small pool is only 2 blocks from the beach access and with a mortgage with 25% down after rental management fee, taxes, insurance and utilities could still cash flow over 10,000 per year! Call or email me for costs breakdown, survey, specification sheet, rental projections, etc. Cathy Turner 850.502.3422 or Cathy@30AHomeListings.com

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Ecotourism in South Walton

Spotlight on Bird Watching

Visitors may flock to the Emerald Coast for our sugar-sand beaches and unspoiled landscapes, but our unique natural resources extend far beyond coastlines and waterways. The Choctawhatchee Audubon Society calls our region the most biologically rich area in the U.S. in terms of the number of living creatures. From sea turtles to bottlenose dolphin to great blue herons, the species who pass through our area are plentiful and diverse.

Our local communities embrace ecotourism, which can be defined as sustainable tourism. It includes authentic experiences that are distinctive to the local region, and it differs from mass-market tourism in that it exists because of the place. Simply put, it cannot be outsourced.

Consider bird-watching, for example. The Emerald Coast is a hotspot for this pastime because of the variation in habitats and its position within migration routes. Our location near both saltwater and freshwater make this an ideal habitat for a variety of birds.

Notably, Florida is home to the third largest number of bird species behind Texas and California–states with much more land mass. The region is home to coastal seabirds, shore birds, wetland birds, birds-of-prey, migratory birds and introduced species. The warm temperatures allow native birds to stay year-round and provide nesting locations for migratory birds.

Coastal seabirds nest on the shoreline and are often seen diving just offshore for saltwater fish or gathered in groups on piers. Those common to the panhandle include the double-breasted cormorant, aningha and eastern brown pelican.

Shore birds also live on the shoreline but they do not hunt in the ocean. Native species include the red knot, the American oystercatcher and the dunline.

Wetland birds require freshwater wetland habitats like marshes, swamps, lakes and rivers to survive. Species like the great blue heron, snowy egret and white ibis build nests of grass and mud at the water’s edge as do other waterfowl, like ducks.

Perhaps most well-known, the Panhandle’s birds-of-prey include the osprey, bald eagle, swallow-tailed kite and red-shouldered hawk. They live in the treetops of forest regions near freshwater sources because they feed on amphibians and fish. Florida boasts one of the highest populations of bald eagles in the U.S.

Introduced species include those that aren’t native to the area but that were introduced here, typically by humans who released them into the wild. They can be dangerous to the area because they have no natural predators, allowing them to overpopulate. As a result, they often negatively impact native birds. Our muscovy duck is an example.

Each year, our area hosts a variety of ecotourism events that connect locals and visitors with our varied natural resources. Programs like the Choctawhatchee Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count tallies the welfare and presence of birds in the area. Volunteers assist with the count that collects photos, recordings, and as many details as possible about the local bird population.

The Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau also hosts Nighttime Educational Beach Walks that educate people about sea turtle migration, egg-laying, and the species’ importance to local ecosystems. The presentation teaches people to recognize tracks, identify threats to the population, and watch for them during visits to the beach.

Other ecotourism offerings include Grayton Beach State Park, Topsail Hill State Preserve, Eastern Lake Bike Trail, and the Cassine Garden Nature Trail.

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National Geographic Names South Walton on Best Trips 2019

The Emerald Coast is making global waves again. National Geographic recently named South Walton to its list of Best Trips for 2019, confirming what communities served by The Premier Property Group have long known: our region offers much more than just beautiful beaches. Citing the vast and varied marine life and the local efforts to protect natural resources, the National Geographic team chose South Walton as one of only three U.S. destinations to make the list.

The magazine is not alone in its applause. In 2018, Forbes called South Walton Florida’s Best-Kept Secret.

Comprised of 26 miles of beach, 16 communities, and four state parks, South Walton welcomes more than 4.1 million visitors annually, of which almost 40% are return guests. A 2018 report noted that each visitor to the area delivers an economic impact of about $1,126.

Built within the last 30 years, the 16 communities of South Walton are as unique and varied as the residents and visitors who grace their boundaries. Some are known for their architecture, some for their laid-back atmosphere, and others for their eclectic offerings. Artists, ecotourists, foodies, adventurers, athletes and shoppers alike find something to love about the area, whether they’re drawn to cutting-edge developments, extraordinary experiences or simple beach lifestyle.

Last month, we showcased the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA), recently named to Time’s Greatest Places of 2018. This uncommon offering combines the beauty of sculpture with the utility of an artificial reef to create a scuba destination unlike any other. The UMA launched in 2017 to provide a necessary habitat for a wide variety of marine life. Because the museum plans to add new sculptures annually, visitors can return every year to explore the new additions and the growing numbers of species that call the reef home.

Ecotourism opportunities are endless, extending from rare dune lakes that are only found in a few places around the world to the miles of trails that wind through South Walton. Countless varieties of marine life and animal species reside among the sugar-white sand and emerald waters, including the Great Blue Heron, the bottlenose dolphin, and endangered sea turtles.

Those who love South Walton for its charm enjoy unique shopping, spectacular restaurants, locally-caught seafood and inviting resorts. Outdoor amphitheaters play host to numerous shows and performances, and the farmers’ markets allow shoppers to support the local economy while enjoying the best of our local natural resources.

The neighborhoods of South Walton, each with its own personality and history, draw visitors of all ages and stages, primarily from the Southeast and the Midwest. Roughly 94 percent of visitors spend time at the beach, and more than three-fourths come to relax with family.

Visitors to the area create more than 22,000 jobs and generate a total economic impact of $4.4 billion annually, and those numbers continue to grow. For those already invested in the area, property values remain sound and profitable, as both Walton and Okaloosa counties repeatedly demonstrate growth in real estate closings. Simply put, it’s a great time to own property on the Emerald Coast.

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Nice Seaside Home for Under 1.5 Million!

It is not often one can find a home in Seaside for under 1.5 million that has already been remodeled! Built in 2005, this 3 bedroom 3.5 bath home epitomizes the charm of Seaside.

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Celebrating 4th of July at the Beach!

Celebrating Independence Day Emerald Coast-Style

No matter where you live in the United States, the 4th of July represents a day of national pride and an opportunity to set aside differences and reflect on all the things that make our nation strong. From backyard barbeques and neighborhood parades to festivals and spectacular fireworks displays, families and friends will gather in every community to enjoy traditions that are as American as baseball and apple pie.

In the neighborhoods served by the Premier Property Group, visitors and residents get to experience all this excitement against a backdrop of some of the nation’s most exquisite coastal environment. In fact, many take in the region’s amazing fireworks displays from a boat in one of our region’s bays, intercoastal waterways or the Gulf of Mexico. For those who prefer the stability of terra firma, the beach provides a front row seat to many of the Emerald Coast’s best pyrotechnic displays.

Whatever your preference, be sure to take advantage of one of these Emerald Coast 4th of July specials!

Destin/Ft. Walton Beach Happenings

Destin Commons Smoke on the Coast

Get ahead of Independence Day mania and take in the annual Destin Commons Smoke on the Coast event, featuring plenty of barbeque, live music, street performers and kid fun. The July 3rd gathering is entering its 9th year as a charitable event driven by culinary teams that partner with local non-profit groups and compete for the People’s Choice grand prize. The Forrest Williams Band will kick off an evening of live music at 5 p.m., followed by the Heritage Band at 7 p.m. A fireworks extravaganza will cap off the evening that typically raises more than $85,000.

Red, White and Baytowne

Locals and visitors alike can always count on The Village of Baytowne Wharf for family fun and excitement on most holidays. Beginning at 6 p.m. on July 4th, the streets will come alive with plenty of live music and a variety of kids entertainment and crafts, including face painting and balloon sculpting. Then, the skies will light up at 9:15 p.m. with the district’s annual fireworks display over the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Harborwalk Village will feature live music with Eli Hannon and Crushed Velvet starting at 7:00 p.m. on July 4th, along with its annual fireworks display over the Destin Harbor at 9:15 p.m.

For those who can’t make an Independence Day fireworks gathering, the weekly fireworks display from the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier and over the beach at The Boardwalk will be held Wednesday, July 3rd at 9 p.m.

While the details have not officially been announced yet, a celebration is also scheduled for July 4th at Ft. Walton Beach Landing.

30A Celebrations

Nearly every community along the Highway 30A corridor—from Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach to Seaside and Watercolor—will feature a stunning fireworks display as part of their Independence Day festivities. The annual 30A 4th of July Parade will also kick off in front of Seagrove Plaza at 8 a.m., featuring an array of costumed participants, bikes, cars and floats decked out in full patriotic regalia. Contestants parade 1.5 miles to Seaside, where a panel of judges selects the winning entries. Family fun and music are then provided at the Seaside amphitheater.

Panama City Beach Fun

The 6the Annual Laguna Beach Golf Cart Parade is slated for July 3rd at 6 p.m., offering a great opportunity for family fun decorating golf carts, bikes, scooter—or whatever is available. Independence Day will feature the impressive Star Spangled Spectacular fireworks display launched from the M.B. Miller County Pier near Pier Park.

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Underwater Museum of Art off the Coast of Grayton Beach

Emerald Coast Exclusive: Underwater Museum of Art

Beyond the obvious beauty of the Emerald Coast, there’s a deeper, more elusive splendor situated less than a mile off the shores of Grayton Beach State Park. Recently showcased in Time’s famed Greatest Places of 2018, the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) resides about 57 feet under the Gulf of Mexico’s emerald green waters, marrying the beauty of sculpture and the life-sustaining power of artificial reefs.

The UMA’s permanent underwater sculpture garden, launched in 2017, draws a wide variety of marine life and provides a vital habitat in the form of a living reef. Conceived by Allison Wickey, president of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA), the UMA attracts art lovers and marine wildlife in a mutually beneficial partnership.

Wickey called the local UMA a perfect storm of ideas. She developed a love for the snorkeling reefs established by the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA), and she simultaneously discovered the existence of other sculpture reefs around the world.

“I wondered why we weren’t doing something like this ourselves,” Wickey said. “We have so many artists here, but I wasn’t sure if it was even possible because the idea seemed so pie-in-the-sky.”

She pitched the idea of the sculpture garden to the SWARA board, and the organization immediately embraced her vision and joined forces with the CAA. And the rest is history.

The UMA offered its first call to artists in 2017 and dropped its first round of sculptures in 2018. By the end of 2019, the garden will be home to 19 permanent underwater sculptures.

The sculptures must be made of marine concrete, stainless steel, aluminum, limestone, marble, or other natural material to avoid harming the environment. As the team learns more about the process moving forward, Wickey expects it may lean more toward concrete pieces because of the increased durability.

Each year, the UMA determines how many sculptures it intends to add and issues a call for artists. Interested artists can submit an application with a sculpture idea. The top submissions are then reviewed and chosen by a jury, and new sculptures are added to the museum.

The entire effort has morphed into a collaboration between a number of local organizations. Emerald Coast Scuba in Destin has adopted the UMA, providing scuba certification for some of those in leadership and also by working to keep the site clean. Additionally, when Walter Marine out of Orange Beach comes to Walton County to drop a reef for SWARA, the UMA is able to piggy-backs onto the trip and drop its own sculptures. The partnership reduces expenses for the UMA and makes for a very efficient process.

The sculpture garden is a dive-site only due to its depth and isn’t suitable for snorkeling. While there is currently no tracking of visitors to the UMA, Wickey said that Emerald Coast Scuba takes people out to the site weekly. She also said that those interested in seeing the sculptures should contact Emerald Coast Scuba for more information.

“This began as a grassroots effort and we had very little experience with anything like this,” she said. “We’ve learned every step of the way, so it will be interesting to see how it evolves over time.”

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WaterColor Phase 2 3 Bedroom Home for Only 1,097,000

I know you see this a lot, but truly this one will be gone fast! 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 1,999 sq feet this home is on Thicket Circle which is just 2 blocks from the new Camp WaterColor and backs up to nature preserve with a park in front.

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Gearing up for Summer Fishing

Gulf Coast Anglers Gear Up for Summer!

Upcoming fishing seasons and tournaments

The Florida Gulf Coast is widely-recognized for its amazing sport fishing opportunities and tasty catches—many sought out by even the most discriminating foodies. It’s why the city of Destin has long been coined the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” and why ardent anglers travel from all over the world to get in on the action.

The good news is that our region offer endless options for wetting a hook year-round, whether trolling or bottom-fishing on the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico or fishing in the Emerald Coast’s plentiful bays and lakes. But, not all months offer the same opportunities, and fishing aficionados will want to be aware of the seasons for various species of fish. Notably, the summer months offer some of the region’s most sought-after fishing opportunities that visitors and residents alike will not want to miss.

17th Annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic

One of Destin’s premier offshore fishing events, the Blue Marlin Classic is recognized as the “Richest Fishing Tournament” for its sizeable prize purse. In fact, the tournament set a Gulf Coast record in 2016 when the purse reached a whopping $1.95 million. Scheduled for June 29-23, 2019 at the Baytowne Marina, the event features cash categories for billfish, dolphin, tuna and wahoo as well as individual angler prizes. Nightly entertainment is offered and open to the public, including a live cooking demonstration, fireworks and live music.

Redfish Tournament Series

For those who prefer the quieter, more laid back atmosphere of inshore fishing, the Emerald Coast Redfish Circuit tournament schedule runs year-round. Next dates up include May 18 in Gulf Breeze and August 17 in Navarre. The organization promotes itself as a family-oriented club for all levels of anglers.

Seasonal Salt-Water Fishing

Anglers will find that summer is popular for many saltwater species including wahoo, dolphin, tuna, mahi-mahi, marlin, king mackerel, chicken dolphins, snapper and grouper.

Red Snapper

For many Gulf Coast anglers, catching the coveted red snapper is the holy grail of summer fishing. This sought-after, flavorful fish has not only put Emerald Coast dining on the map, but it’s great fun to catch for people of all sizes and experience levels. Caught in deep water (60-440 feet), red snapper typically top out in size around 25 pounds, although Destin holds the record for Florida’s largest weighing in at 46 pounds. The Emerald Coast is home to many species of snapper including blackfin, cubera, dog snapper, gray snapper, queen snapper, lane snappers and the schoolmaster, but the popularity of the red snapper has resulted in restrictions that many of the other categories don’t share. Overfished due to its value, red snapper season is typically limited and varies by year. The 2019 red snapper recreational season will be open from June 11-July 12. For federally-permitted for-hire vessels, the season runs from June 1-August 1, 2019.  

Grouper

Grouper is another popular catch along Florida’s Gulf Coast that is celebrated for its mild, sweet flavor. Also caught in deep waters, many categories of grouper exist including black, gag, red, scamp, snowy and warsaw. Grouper size varies widely depending on the type. For example, a black grouper can reach nearly 100 pounds while a gag grouper typically ranges in size between 15 and 30 pounds. While restrictions also exist for catching and keeping gag grouper, June 1st marks the beginning of the 2019 season, which runs through December.

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