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.

Buying a Second Home on the Emerald Coast

Some things to consider before taking the plunge

The Emerald Coast is an attractive area for investing in second homes. In recent articles we’ve told you about the area’s healthy tourism and economic outlook and why the future of real estate sales is expected to remain promising. Just as a refresher, visitor numbers in South Walton alone grew from 3.2 million in 2015 to 4.1 million in 2017. The Emerald Coast enjoys a high volume of return visitors (more than 10 times for many), and the majority rent condos or homes during their stay.

Here at The Premier Property Group (PPG), we understand why so many people fall in love with the communities we serve and want to own property here. It’s our goal to make sure that customers make the best choices for their own unique circumstances. Recognizing that many factors will come into play before an individual is ready to make an offer, PPG Broker Barbara Schott offers insights into some preliminary steps that should be considered before beginning the second home investment process.

1. Identify your short-term and long-term goals
While all property purchases are investments on some level, the factors influencing purchases will vary greatly depending on an individual’s goals. If the end-game is to generate a steady revenue stream or turn a profit within a couple of years, then the approach to buying becomes much more about value than personal preferences. For instance, many investors look to the shoulder seasons—spring and fall—to make a purchase as the inventory for good investment properties tends to go up. A buyer may consider a rehab property during the fall, giving them time to spruce it up and either put it on the rental or buyer’s market before the high tourist season.

In contrast, a family interested in having access to a vacation home or a retired couple looking to invest in a winter home will have much different goals. In these cases, the decision to buy becomes much more emotionally-based, and personal preferences may outweigh value.

2. Learn about the area
It’s true that many potential 2nd home buyers have visited the Emerald Coast multiple times and have some familiarity with the area. But, when it comes to making a 2nd home investment, it’s important to have a deep understanding of the varying neighborhoods and communities that exist. Some important questions to consider may include: What are the demographics of a community? Are most homes primarily occupied by owners or visitors? How does the high tourism season impact a neighborhood? How convenient is a neighborhood to shopping, dining and entertainment? What are the homeowner’s association dues and requirements?

While there are no wrong answers to any of these questions, they can be important considerations when trying to align with a buyer’s specific goals and needs.

3. Determine your price point
Having a clear understanding of financial parameters is a critical first step before embarking on a second home purchase. For instance, if a family wants to purchase a vacation home in our area’s popular Watercolor community, it’s important that they evaluate a realistic budget before investing a substantial amount of time looking.

At PPG, we suggest potential second home investors pre-qualify with a bank early in the process. In addition, it’s important to consult with a certified public accountant or financial advisor to fully understand tax liabilities of property investments.

4. Consider how you will manage the property
Property management is an important consideration, especially since many second home owners along the Emerald Coast live outside our geographic boundaries and in other states. Those seeking to invest in property should consider how they will address such things as repairs, general property upkeep and yard maintenance. They will also want to determine how decisions align with any homeowners association requirements. The good news is that many options exist along the Emerald Coast, from use of a property management company to concierge services and self-management.

5. Align with a Strong Real Estate Partner
The best way for potential investors to make smart second home investment decisions is to align with knowledgeable, customer-focused real estate group. At PPG, we are one of the top, locally-owned, independent real estate firms in Northwest Florida and have ranked in the top 10% of luxury sales from the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors since our first year of operation. Simply put, we know the Emerald Coast and pride ourselves in being the local experts across the region’s top communities including South Walton, Destin, Miramar Beach and  Scenic Highway 30A.

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Emerald Coast Chefs Craft Flavorful Food, Memorable Experiences

(My favorite YaYa Gritts from Great Southern Cafe in Seaside’s recipe is at the end of the Article!!) Distinctive experiences come in many shapes and sizes along the Emerald Coast. A feast for the senses, our region is home to stunning water views and lush natural surroundings, soft, sugar-white beaches, the smell of warm Gulf breezes and, of course, tastes that will delight even the most discriminating palate.

Award-winning restaurants and celebrated chefs are abundant across the communities served by The Premier Property Group. Whether you are seeking a Gulf-to-table experience, Southern cooking, healthy fare or international cuisine, the chefs of the Emerald Coast strive to create dining experiences that will keep you coming back for more.

Here are a few of our favorites.

Jim Shirah, executive chef at Dewey Destin’s Seafood, grew up fishing the waters of the Emerald Coast with his family. Local to the Destin area, when the family launched the restaurant 10 years ago, the plan was to serve locally-sourced seafood, which can be a bit of a challenge sometimes.

“Locally-sourced seafood is the freshest possible, but it sometimes means we don’t have every fish available on the menu because it’s out of season,” Shirah said. “Changing the menu keeps the work interesting for our team and the food interesting for our customers.”

Shirah works in a kitchen that once belonged to his great aunt and uncle, and though the building in Destin Harbor has expanded over time, Shirah’s team serves an extensive menu of fresh fish from a surprisingly small kitchen. With four locations along the Emerald Coast, Dewey Destin’s serves original Destin recipes as well as Gulf Coast recipes pleasing both locals and visitors alike.

At George’s at Alys Beach, executive chef Camille Withall oversees a menu of regional coastal dishes flavored with global touches. Originally from the Philippines, Withall enjoys traveling the globe to learn about food, bringing that knowledge back to the customers at George’s.

“Food is everything. I believe that food has the ability to inspire, create lasting memories, and it can gather and unite people together almost like a universal language,” she said. “You can express love and emotion through food as well.”

The team at George’s crafts its offerings with locally- and regionally-sourced produce and the freshest seafood available for its lunch and dinner menus. Withall says that her team’s love for food is reflected through their creativity and enjoyment in crafting uncommon dishes.

Withall added that many customers are surprised to learn that the chef at George’s is female. “Although women are still not predominant in this male-driven industry, they are just as hardworking and talented as the rest of them,” she said. “Almost half of my kitchen staff are women, and I couldn’t be more lucky and proud to have them in my team.”

Chris Joyner serves as executive chef at The Saltwater Grill in Panama City Beach, which specializes in steak and seafood dishes on its dinnertime menu. Home to a 25,000-gallon tropical saltwater aquarium, The Saltwater Grill receives whole fresh fish daily, making its menu offerings among the freshest on the Gulf Coast. Joyner points to people’s increasingly busy schedules as the motivation for creating a memorable dining experience.

“As society evolves, we have less time to spend together at the dinner table,” he said. “Those 30 minutes together may be the only time that people get to spend with one another. A good meal can turn a bad day into a great one.”

Restaurant IRON, led by executive chef Alex McPhail, serves Southern contemporary cuisine driven by locally-sourced ingredients in handmade recipes. The dishes feature Gulf seafood, grass-fed beef, artisan products, and produce fresh from the on-site garden.

McPhail points to local markets like the Palafox Market in downtown Pensacola as a source of seasonal fruits and vegetables for everyone in the area, and a variety of products like locally-produced cornmeal and honey.

McPhail finds his inspiration, and the secret to Restaurant IRON’s success, in the teamwork of a talented staff, the beauty of his surroundings, and his freedom to create the freshest offerings from native ingredients.

Jim Shirley, chef and owner at Great Southern Cafe in Seaside, is affiliated with numerous well-known restaurants in the area, including The Fish House, The Atlas Oyster House, 45 Central Wine and Sushi, The Meltdown on 30A, The Bay in Santa Rosa Beach, and Baytown Provisions.

Great Southern Cafe promotes what it calls “New-Fashioned Southern Cuisine,” a mix of international cuisines with Southern cooking and locally-sourced foods. Shirley, a Pensacola native, has extensive knowledge of the waters along the Emerald Coast, and he couples that with his family’s farming history to promote what he calls “New Ruralism,” a concept that champions sustainable agriculture.

Check out Shirley’s recipe for Grits à Ya Ya, or many others at the Great Southern Cafe website.

Ingredients:

Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound Dixie Lily grits
¼ pound butter
1 pound shredded smoked Gouda cheese

The Ya Ya
8 strips applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallots
3 tablespoons butter

White wine
1 pound peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
¼ cup diced scallions
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups smoked Gouda cheese grits

Instructions:
First, make your grits. Run the chicken stock into a thick-bottomed saucepan and turn on high till it boils. Mix in the grits and stir like crazy. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cream if you need more liquid. Then tumble in the butter, drizzle in the rest of the cream, and stir ‘til it’s all in the family. Then shake in the shredded cheese and stir very well ‘til it’s all nice and smooth.

While your grits cook, bring a large saucepan to medium heat. Add bacon and cook for about 3 minutes, then add garlic and shallots. Sauté and then add butter and a splash of white wine. When the butter is half melted, add the shrimp. When the downsides of the shrimp become white, flip them and add mushrooms, scallions, and spinach. Sauté for 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp. Pour in heavy cream and let simmer while stirring. When reduced by one-third, add salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Return shrimp to the sauce and combine. Spoon the sauce and shrimp onto heaping mounds of cheese grits.

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Destin Harbor Sunset Views

Destin Harbor Sunset Views Condo for Sale

Destin Harbor Sunset Views Condo for Sale

Only West End (Sunset View) Corner Unit Available in Harbor Lights one of Destin’s Newest Condominiums on the Harbor. Rental Restricted  2,364 sq. ft 3 bedroom 3 1/2 bath.
This listing is no longer available.

Below is an up-to-date list of all of the Harbor Front Condominiums in Destin with 3+ Bedrooms:

Radical Price Reduction In The Empress

Unobstructed Gulf Views at The Empress in Miramar Beach

Unobstructed Gulf Views at The Empress in Miramar Beach

Radical price reduction to 625,000 on this 2,675 sq ft. 3 bed, 3 bath end unit with unobstructed Gulf views.  The Empress is a fantastic luxury building located in Miramar Beach, across from the beach and just down from the Whales Tail. Too many details to list, please click on the link below for all details and photos. There is also a second link for all units for sale in the building.

All Empress Units

Florida Open House Weekend

Hope you’re getting outDestiny by the Sea home for sale for the Florida Association of Realtors statewide open house weekend Saturday March 26 and Sunday March 27. Christine and I  will be holding an open house at 32 Verazze Cay in Destiny by the Sea. If you have ever wanted to see homes in Destiny by the Sea, this would be a perfect weekend. Open houses are only allowed one weekend a month in Destiny by the Sea. We will be providing information on what homes are currently on the market and market analysis  for Destiny by the Sea, Destiny East and Destiny West. If you want to know how much you should be paying for a home, or how much your home is worth, feel free to stop by. If you are not able to make it, send us an email and we will be happy to provide you with the information.  Happy Home Shopping!

Airline Merger Means New Opportunities for Destin and the Beaches of South Walton

Southwest Airlines, which provides flights to and from the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City Beach, planned purchase of AirTran will bring customers from new markets to Destin and The Beaches of South Walton. With the acquisition, Southwest Airlines will operate from 100 different airports carrying 100 million passengers. Southwest Airlines will expand to new routes including International routes, Mexico and the Caribbean. It will gain access to the high traffic hubs of Atlanta and New York, East Coast cities such as Boston, as well as many new smaller markets.