Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gifts Galore and More

Christmas came early with a surprise gift in the form of a GEM (Global Electric Motorcar). The little red buggy looks like a toy (see picture, attached) but it’s completely street legal, reaches a maximum speed of 25 mph, and is cute as a button. The unexpected gift came from Jeannie and Christopher Smith, the brother of David Smith, who, with his wife Vicky, is underwriting the Children’s Garden. Jeannie and Christopher have been involved with the Garden for several years and are campaign supporters. A test drive demonstrated GEM’s street worthiness and had us whooping and hollering like kids. Hort has been told it’s not a utility cart in no uncertain terms --- no dirt on this sweet baby.

Another surprise came after this past weekend’s Southwest Florida’s Yard and Garden Show. The Croton Society, which had a booth at the sale staffed by Terry Seeley of Croton Connection, donated its unsold plants to the Garden. Terry stopped by Monday with a truckload of some 40 crotons of all types — strap leaf, petra leaf, interrupted leaf --- in every color combination imaginable. If you haven’t looked at crotons lately, take another look. They are enjoying a renaissance of form and color and bear no resemblance to the Buicks of yesteryear. We are thrilled to add them to the Garden’s growing collection of crotons.

Ever wonder what it would have been like to exist in the Everglades in the 1800s? The Bucket Flower by Donald Robert Wilson takes you there through the life of 23-year-old Elizabeth Sprague. This young woman heads for the Everglades to study the plant life — a radical idea for a young woman back then. Considered a "bucket flower", a term for someone pampered and soft, she must get tough fast or perish. She faces enough terrifying animals, savage men, and the rigors of the swamp to make us modern Floridians count our blessings.

The Thomasson Drive approach to the Garden never looked so good. That area has been plagued by torpedo grass (Panicum repens) and nutsedge (Cyperus). The final planting went in the ground last week just before the rain, completing the renovation of that landscape. Nursery foreman Kurt Van de Wouw and Carlos Lopez planted dwarf pitch-apple (Clusia major ' Nana), natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa ‘Emerald Blanket’), red ixora (Ixora ‘Taiwan Dwarf’), yellow ixora (Ixora ‘Maui’), Ficus microcarpa 'Green Island’, flax lily (Dianella ensifolia), and Philodendron x ‘Xanadu’.

Another dramatic change is the visitor parking lot. In preparation for Hats in the Garden, the Garden’s fundraiser on November 12th, a hedge had to be removed. Vanquished are the golden dewdrop (Duranta erecta) and three satin leaf trees (Chrysophyllum oliviforme), one of Florida’s loveliest native trees. This makes way for the giant tent that goes up for the occasion.

Not to be missed is Colville's Glory (Colvillea racemosa), just inside the wall along Thomasson Drive. This ferny tree comes from Madagascar and is closely related to the royal poinciana (Delonix regia). The tree gets its name from the British Governor of Mauritius, Sir Charles Colville. Racemes of flower buds start out looking like clusters of bright red grapes, which is where we’re at right now. Each tight flower bud unfolds gradually, darkening to red and revealing a yellow stamen. Eventually it forms woody flat capsules of seeds.

Drum roll please. The Lifelong Learning Program is back! David Webb, manager of education, has come up with a list of exciting lectures and hands-on workshops that are sure to get you back here. Be forewarned: Continuing education is addictive. I speak from firsthand experience --- that’s how I got hooked on the Garden many years ago.

Topics in this series range from orchid how-to and fruit-tree growing to landscaping with native plants and a talk by award-winning landscape architect and designer Raymond Jungles on his plans for the Garden’s Brazilian Garden as well as 20 other design projects. Peruse the whole list (attached). For registration information please visit or call 239.643.7275.

The November topics are:
Growing and preparing herbs
Monday, November 17, 10am
Join herbalist Pat Johnson as she demonstrates the mixing of herbs to make teas, vinegars, and oils. You will leave this hands-on workshop with a few samples of your own herbal creations and ready to make new blends at home.
$20 member/ $30 non-member; maximum 30

Using native plants in your yard
Wednesday, November 19, 10am
Discover the benefits of using native plants in your yard, which species are ideal and some simple tips for success as Chad Washburn discusses why native plants are low-maintenance, inexpensive, and attract birds and other wildlife.
$15 member/ $20 non-member; limited seating

See you around the campus!

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Ashley said...
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