History of the Garden Club - Staff & Tom Hayden
History of the Garden Club
November 24, 2020
Tracing the roots of Cape Coral’s growth can literally and figuratively be found in a “garden.”
One of the first clubs to organize in the community was the Cape Coral Garden Club. The club got an organizational push from the community’s first club, the Cape Coral Women’s Club, which started in 1959 and was the idea of first resident Kenny Schwartz. The Women’s Club believed a garden club was needed in the community.
In the spring of 1960, Helen Johnson, of the Everglades Nursery, spoke to a group of Cape Coral residents at the Nautilus Inn about gardening. That talk inspired about 68 people, spearheaded by residents Helen and Otto Sheldon and Dick and Sally Crawford, to form the garden club under the direction of first president Thomas Fleming.
The group’s bylaws provided the direction:
“To stimulate a knowledge and love of gardening.”
“To improve and conserve the beauty of Cape Coral.”
The launch of the club also inspired land developers, Gulf American Corporation, to film the start of a beautification mission, which still exists today.
In 1961, Ann Copenhaver took over as president of the club, which had annual dues of $1.50. The dues bought residents advice from gardening experts and horticulturists on the proper ways to prepare soil and to plant or the right techniques to create a beautifully landscaped yard.
Later, the group also collected funds that purchased gardening books for the Cape Coral Public Library and Caloosa Middle School. Members also planted trees and created a project, called the “forest,” between Cape Coral Hospital and the middle school.
The club had members who were gardening experts. For instance, Daisy Shepard specialized in hibiscus varieties and Madge York knew everything about orchids. And there was not a question too difficult for Bill Norton, who was known as the club’s “answer man,” according to Cape Coral Breeze articles.
Cape gardening stayed true to its roots with the formation of the non-profit Garden Club of Cape Coral in 1997. The club was founded by master gardener Marty Ward and longtime gardening friend Beverly Ray. The 23 paid members had their first meetings at Ward’s home under the direction of president Sherie Bleiler. The club quickly established affiliations with the National Garden Clubs Inc., and the Fort Myers-Lee County Garden Council Inc.
As club membership grew, meetings were moved to a local church and then to the Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral.
The club participated in many projects, including planting and maintaining planters along Cape Coral Parkway and maintaining the Tiny Tots Garden for children at Four Freedoms Park.
The group also has an important part of history on its side. It maintains the prestigious Rose Garden at the Cape Coral Museum of History on Cultural Park Boulevard.
The roses were originally part of a national tourist attraction, called Cape Coral Gardens, which also included the famous Waltzing Waters, lakes and water ski shows, plus hosted many celebrities such as Bob Hope. The garden included more than 40,000 roses. The attraction, facing funding issues, closed in 1969, giving way to development. It is now the site of Tarpon Point.
But the roses were soon to bloom again. In 1990, Lois Herbert wanted to pay tribute to the memory of her father, Russell Herbert, and asked the museum if it would be willing to pay tribute to him and to the roses. A new rose garden was dedicated in front of the museum on Memorial Day 1991. The garden was redesigned in 2007 with raised flower beds. A team of garden club members visit the rose garden to take care of the precious flowers.
The Garden Club continues to educate the community about important landscaping and environmental techniques through various events and in a weekly column found in the Cape Coral Breeze.
Submitted by Tom Hayden, a Cape Coral Museum of History board member. As we celebrate 50 years as a city, much of our area’s history, chronicled at the museum, will be featured twice a month in similar articles provided to the Cape Coral Breeze.
Foodscaping for the New Year
December 20, 2020
I typically don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but in these uncertain times traditions can help firm the ground beneath you. In light of that, for 2021, I plan to explore the possibilities of foodscaping in my garden. Foodscaping is a landscaping strategy in which edibles are integrated into a typical ornamental garden. Rather than dedicated yard areas for herb and vegetable gardening, foodscaping takes advantage of small spaces by filling the open spaces around your ornamentals with edibles such as tomatoes, lettuce, pumpkin, garlic and basil. The list goes on!
“The Foodscape Revolution” (2017) by author Brie Arthur, looks at foodscaping design in terms of the principle, “Right Plant/Right Place/Right Time.” She describes her landscape as having three zones based on the amount of attention needed for success. Zone 1 is closest to the house near the foundation with a suggested mix of 50% ornamentals to 50% edibles. Zone 2 is mid-yard with a 60/40 mix. Zone 3, the farthest from the house, requires the least care and incorporates an 80/20 mix of ornamentals to edibles. When considering the right place for your plants, remember, most edibles need full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.
Arthur suggests starting with the edges of your garden beds due to its convenient location for planting and harvesting. Her favorites in the cool season are garlic, salad greens, onion, parsley, and potato. As the weather warms, replace these with basil, beans, peanuts, peppers and soybeans. If you are looking for a groundcover, she suggests arugula or pumpkin. I would include Malabar spinach for a fast growing, heat tolerant, green to purple leaved, vining groundcover. It is both beautiful and nutritious.
As a specimen plant, imagine a 12-foot upright, evergreen Barbados cherry bush or a border of these bushes with their pink to lavender flowers that bloom from May to November. The sweet to tart fruit, although not a real cherry, is small, red and apple-shaped. It is considered a power fruit as it contains high amounts of vitamin C. One study notes that one cup of these tiny cherries is equivalent to the vitamin C in 16 oranges. Be advised, you will be competing with the birds for this flavorful fruit at harvest time.
Planting herbs and vegetables in the winter is counterintuitive to many of us from the north. However, January in Florida provides the cooler weather needed for growing such herbs as tarragon, thyme, dill, fennel and mint. January is also the last month gardeners should plant potatoes, beets, broccoli, kale and turnips, to name a few. The South Florida Gardening Calendar, on the University of Florida/I FAS website, provides a month-by-month planting guide to assist you in planting the right plant in the right place at the right time.
Edibles add color and beauty to our yards, while rewarding us with fresh, healthy food for our table. Foodscaping empowers us, provides us with exercise, purpose and a sustainable food source. Not a bad resolution to start the new year!
Happy gardening and Happy New Year!
Deborah Haggett is a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral. Visit us at Garden CLub of Cape Coral
Arthur, B. (2017). The foodscape revolution: Finding a better way to make space for food and beauty in your garden. Pittsburgh, PA: St. Lynn’s Press
Brown, S.H. & Cooprider K. (2016, March). Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra): Identification, Uses, and Maintenance. (No longer in print).
September 3, 2020
“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” — Loren Eiseley
Our fresh water is a precious, limited resource and, by seeing to it that our landscapes receive only the amount of water needed, we can have a positive impact on both the environment and our wallets. This is the focus of the second of nine principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping, water efficiently. With only .006% of the world’s water supply potable, making efficient use of that supply is critical.
Many homeowners tend to overwater their turf and landscape plants, with statistics indicating that over half of a residential water bill can be attributed to irrigation systems. Overwatering not only depletes the water supply, but also stresses landscape plants and turf, making them vulnerable to pests, disease and weeds. Additionally, over-watering adds to stormwater runoff and water pollution. Proper watering not only reduces water bills, but pest problems and plant maintenance needs as well.
So, what can we do as homeowners? Watering your garden is a good thing but, since many fungal diseases need water as much as plants/turf do, how you go about it makes a big difference and timing is an important factor. If you water by hand or have an in-ground system, irrigate in the early morning. This will permit root systems to get sufficient moisture before evaporation occurs.
When hand watering landscape plants, apply directly to the root system, rather than from above which results in leaves receiving unnecessary moisture, serving as an invitation to disease. For in-ground systems, always follow local ordinances and make certain to properly check, calibrate and maintain the systems. Perform a zone check periodically to ensure sprinkler heads are operating correctly. Sprinklers tend to go on the blink occasionally and catching problems early on can save considerable water and money.
Calibrating your sprinkler system means figuring out how long you need to run the system to apply the correct amount of water. For most Southwest Florida soils, the correct amount is 1/2 to 3/4 inches per application. Our mostly sandy soil cannot retain more than that and any more will result in runoff. What cannot be absorbed by turf and landscape plants will leach into the aquifers and run off to the nearest body of water, taking soil nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous along with the flow. Based on calibration results, adjust the sprinkler heads/irrigation system/timer to deliver only the amount required.
Rather than applying short bursts of water multiple times a week, which result in shallower root systems, water fewer times for a longer period, up to the 1/2 to 3/4-inch limit. And water only as needed, remembering that rain is free irrigation. Just because a sprinkler system is scheduled to run at a given time during the week doesn’t mean the system has to run if it has rained within 24 hours or is expected to rain within 48 hours. Additionally, because most turf grass and some landscape plants go dormant in winter, water less frequently during that time.
Timing of water application, amount used and irrigation methods are just part of the overall picture. Proper landscape maintenance is also important. For example, mow turf grass correctly.
Provided above is a brief introduction to the second principle of Florida Friendly Landscaping. For additional information regarding irrigation methods/systems and the calibration process, beginning with the placement of empty tuna or similar cans in each irrigation zone, visit Water Efficiently Handbook.
Janetta Fox is a Master Gardener volunteer and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.
Selecting a tree for your landscape
November 12, 2020
Trees are vital to our environment. As the largest plants on earth, they provide us with oxygen, store carbon, stabilize soil, conserve energy through shade and shelter wildlife. Trees are also a fundamental part of every community; our streets, parks and backyards are filled with trees that create a peaceful and welcoming environment. And trees are an integral part of creating a “sense of place;” what says Southwest Florida more eloquently than a beautiful royal palm tree?
Adding trees to your yard can not only enhance your existing landscape, but also help establish a theme or foundation for your home’s environment. While palm trees may be one of the first varieties to spring to mind, there are many other tropical and native trees that you can incorporate into your landscape. No matter what variety of tree you decide to plant, there are some important considerations to use in choosing the most appropriate tree for your situation.
My personal mantra for gardening is “The Right Plant in The Right Place.” This is particularly important when choosing a big-ticket landscape investment such as a tree. Trees thrive when they are matched to site conditions, and there are a few easy ways to aid you in evaluating your site. First, you can drive around your neighborhood to identify tree species that are growing well in similar sites in your area. You can also visit local public gardens and nurseries to discover different types of trees that are recommended for your area. Finally, there are vast resources in libraries and on the internet that can provide specific information about selecting and planting trees in your area.
The University of Florida has identified five components critical to choosing trees for a site: 1) Site attributes both above and below the ground 2) potential site modifications 3) tree maintenance capabilities. Once these components are explored and noted you can 4) choose desirable tree attributes and 5) select appropriate trees for the site.
Critical site attributes include factors such as the hardiness zone of the planting site; average annual rainfall; light exposure; soil pH; water drainage and available irrigation; soil texture and density. Site features such as swimming pools, buildings, driveways, curbs and sidewalks and overhead wires and lights will also influence your tree selection. Finally, you need to take into account the necessity and frequency of pruning and other maintenance.
Once you have determined the characteristics of your site, you can look for appropriate trees that will perform best in your setting. There are literally hundreds of tree varieties that will thrive in Southwest Florida. The University of Florida website provides data sheets with information on the growth habits, soil requirements and flowering/fruiting characteristics for 680 species of trees! The site also provides a tree selector tool that you can use to identify trees that meet your requirements.
Trees that are identified by the University of Florida as “standout selections” include familiar Southern standards such as the “D.D. Blanchard” magnolia and the “Cathedral” live oak. The “Natchez” crape myrtle is a beautiful summer blooming tree with spires of white flowers. There are also many native trees to consider including Florida elms, maples and pines, flowering dogwood, fringetrees, holly, gumbo-limbo, and redbuds.
Because planting trees in your landscape can be both challenging and expensive, you should minimize the risk of failure by making informed decisions on the optimal species for your garden. Fortunately, we can rely on the vast resources of the University of Florida website to assist us in making these decisions and identify the perfect tree for our site. You can find all the information you will need for your tree selection process at Landscape Plants
Trees are an essential aspect of our environment that provide beauty to our landscape, clean air, shade, fruit, and habitats for wildlife and birds. When carefully selected, planted and maintained, trees can provide many years of enjoyment and enhancement in our landscape. While the selection process can seem daunting, we have an excellent online resource through the University of Florida to assist us in our decision-making. So, take the plunge and begin your tree selection process — I am confident that you will be rewarded for your efforts!
Cathy Dunn is a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer and Garden Club of Cape Coral member.
Florida Friendly Landscaping Principle #3: fertilize appropriately
November 5, 2020
I used to be of the mind set that, if a little fertilizer does the trick, more fertilizer will do an even better job of ensuring happy, healthy plants. As you might imagine, there can, indeed, be too much of a good thing, and my “more fertilizer is better” approach to plant care led to less than optimal results. What I have learned from the experience is that just because I have a big bag of fertilizer doesn’t mean I have to use it all.
Over fertilization can hurt beneficial soil microorganisms, such as micorrhizal fungi, which work hand-in-hand with a plant’s root system, helping plants absorb nutrients and water in exchange for sugars.
Excess fertilizer can also lead to sudden plant growth which, at face value, may seem appealing. After all, who doesn’t want to see plants grow and bloom sooner rather than later? Unfortunately, the excessive growth above the soil level isn’t met by similar root system development. Therefore, flowering/fruiting is actually reduced and the plant becomes stressed and weakens. A weakened plant naturally serves as an invitation to disease and pests to the detriment of plants and our wallets, as well, as we attempt to “fix” issues by purchasing pest/disease control products that we would not otherwise need.
And as if that weren’t enough, excess nitrogen and phosphorus from over fertilization of lawns and other landscape plants need to go somewhere, and that somewhere is our waterways. These nutrients can easily leech into aquifers, travel into sewer systems and work their way into canals, lakes, streams, rivers and bays, ultimately feeding algal blooms and leading to fish kills and other negative environmental consequences.
So, what can we do as homeowners? Applying the appropriate amount of fertilizer according to label directions can provide important nutrients that may be lacking in the soil, and which plants need to manufacture their own food. If you want to find out what nutrients are currently present in your landscape, you can get a soil test done for a nominal fee. For additional information on how to submit samples for testing, visit the UF/IFAS Soil Testing Laboratory.
When using fertilizer always follow label directions and apply only as needed, keeping in mind that, when planted in the right place and conditions, many established shrubs and trees don’t normally need supplemental fertilization.
Palms are the exception, with application of the proper amount of palm fertilizer 3-4 times per year essential to their health and well-being. Not only does palm fertilizer contain standard macronutrients, but also tiny amounts of various micronutrients, such as boron, iron and manganese, all of which are listed on the back of the fertilizer bag. A lack of any of these important micros can easily lead to palm decline in a relatively short period of time.
In addition to the above, there are a number of other actions you can take as a homeowner. Consider organic alternatives such as compost, which help loosen compacted soil and improve soil fertility. Use a broadcast spreader with a deflector shield if you are the one applying the fertilizer on your lawn. When using a lawn maintenance company, ensure the provider is Best Management Practices (BMP) certified. Avoid weed and feed products; herbicides should only be used for spot treatment. Clean up spilled fertilizer. And last, though certainly not least, always follow local ordinances. In Lee County, application of fertilizer containing nitrogen/phosphorus is prohibited June – September.
For further information regarding the third principle of Florida Friendly Landscaping, check out the IFAS handbook .
Janetta Fox is a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.