How Our Garden Grows
A history and update of the gardens at the Sarasota Historical Society
By Marsha Fottler, HSOSC Board VP and Landscaping Chair
After the Bidwell-Wood House and the Crocker Memorial Church came to rest side-by-side at Pioneer Park in 2006, the land in front of and surrounding the buildings were sprinkled with car-friendly white gravel and some green ground cover. The property was already home to some trees – pines, palms and an imposing pig-nut hickory. Catering to the needs of the two historic structures was paramount; the ground they sat upon, not so much.
Then three years ago, the Board decided we needed landscaping to improve curb appeal, to attractively frame the buildings and to add some color. A committee was formed to access the needs, which by then included a safe and attractive walkway from the sidewalk and parking area to the front of the Bidwell-Wood House. We met with City of Sarasota historical buildings authority Dr. Clifford Smith to determine our restrictions. His primary consideration was that we not obscure the “view corridor,” which meant no shrubs higher than three feet in front of the elevated porch. We eventually put Indian Hawthorne there, which proved ideal in terms of height, maintenance and color. From the beginning we decided on Florida-friendly plants to minimize watering and fertilizing.
HSOSC applied for and received a $2,000 grant from the Founders Garden Club and with that we built the nucleus of the garden. Ruck Bros. Brick donated bricks for the pathway, volunteer Phil Stevens donated and installed the irrigation system and the rest of the committee members bought plants from places such as the Master Gardeners annual sale, Selby Gardens annual sale and Community Haven.
We organized several work days where volunteers came with tools and planted. Additionally, HSOSC members and friends such as Bob and Mimi Kempton, Viola Goldberg, Chuck Resh, Alec and Lynn Harding and others donated flowering plants, shrubs and trees to the landscape. Over a period of about six months, the Bidwell-Wood House garden was installed. Some of the Florida-friendly specimens we have growing there now include several varieties of bromeliads, palms, American holly, crape myrtle, Indian Hawthorne, pentas, fire spike, fire bush, various ferns, dwarf heliconia and plumbago. They are all doing well.
Next time – The Herb Garden
Editor’s note: While searching for graphics to illustrate this article, we discovered a wonderful source of SW Florida gardening resources and information at Top Tropicals. If you have other Internet sources for Florida-friendly plants and gardening advice, please share with us in the comments.