MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island “grew” in importance among area gardeners Friday. Approximately 112 members of 30 Southwest Florida garden clubs converged on the Hideaway Beach Club for the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs’ District IX Fall District Meeting.
Gathering indoors, but surrounded by plantings and centerpieces created in plastic beach buckets by members of the host club, the garden ladies, and a couple of outnumbered males, took care of business, including appointments, financial and credentials reports, and heard from local naturalist Charlette Roman.
The Ninth District extends all the way up to Lakeland, and members came from all over the region. City Council Chairman Jerry Gibson officially welcomed the delegates, and the Lely High School JROTC opened the meeting with a Presentation of the Colors.
Gardening dignitaries on hand included Jan Sillik, state president of the Florida Federation, and Brenda Norris of the Jasmine Garden Club, District IX Director. But perhaps the most significant attendee for members of the Marco club was the island’s own Eva Schliesser, who single-handedly began the Calusa Garden Club nearly 30 years ago.
“I put an ad in the paper in December of 1982 asking who was interested, and I got back 35 responses,” said Schliesser, looking mysterious in a black hat and dark glasses.
Sillik said she and her four statewide officers are on a whirlwind trip throughout the state’s districts, traveling from Miami to Pensacola to assist the state’s 41 affiliated garden clubs and over 1,400 members.
“Manure doesn’t work till you spread it around,” she said. They were having a great time, stayed at the Old Marco Inn, and were learning about island history, she added, and heading off to Sarasota for that evening.
The Calusa Garden Club had a display of bromeliads for sale, along with gardening books, gloves, signs, photos, postcards, license tags, refrigerator magnets and cocktail napkins. Gloria Tyson of Lake Placid looked over the bromeliads, selecting more to go with those she had already bought. “I’ve got my collection under the table,” she confided.
Displays covered the requirements for growing plants in the subtropical environment, the history of the club, and horticultural projects, including one gardening initiative hosted at the Avon Park Penal Institute. Exotic flowers were carved by Hideaway Beach Club dining room captain Indra Mulyana, using melons, fruits and vegetables as his medium.
After lunch, the ladies, who focus on local flora, heard a presentation centering on fauna. Charlette Roman, a naturalist and retired Army full colonel, presented a talk entitled on “Marco’s Natural Magic,” focusing on the birds and marine life of Marco Island, including Sand Dollar Spit, visible through the picture windows of the dining room. She showed stunning wildlife photos, including closeups of sea stars, and the first-ever magnificent frigate bird identified locally after being wing-tagged 1,400 miles away in the Lesser Antilles.
The Calusa Garden Club hosts regular monthly meetings at the Wesley United Methodist Church on the second Monday of the month. In 2013, the Southwest Florida District will host the Federation’s State Convention.