MIA receives donations from Calusa, Naples Botanical

Sara Wolf
Special to the Eagle

On May 2, members of the Calusa Garden Club and students from Marco Island Academy teacher Jerry Miller’s Environmental Science class began a day of hard work to transform the campus into beautiful grounds.

MIA students with Marianne Foley, project chairperson, and Kathy Hershberger.

The group planted more than 40 new plants and transplanted about 10 plants to areas better suited to the needs of the plants.

Calusa Garden Club members and Naples Botanical Garden donated all the new plants.

With Marco Island Academy students watering their new landscape plants for the rest of the month of May, nature and summer rains will take over and complete the project so that by September, the beautiful grounds of Marco Island Academy will be a showplace.

The hard work of the students and Calusa Garden Club members was preceded by a three-month project by the Garden Club to review and revise Marco Island Academy’s landscaping. The project began when Marianne Foley, scholarship chairperson for Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island, was in discussions with Chris Zumstein, guidance counselor of Marco Island Academy, about applicants for the Calusa Garden Club scholarship.

Calusa Garden Club members and MIA students.

Foley was pleased and surprised when Zumstein asked her, “Would Calusa Garden Club members be interested in helping Marco Island Academy with its landscape plans, and work with the Academy’s Environmental Studies class in achieving the plans?” This question was the spark for Foley, who enjoys gardening and getting her hands in the dirt, but who lives in a condominium on Marco Island. So Foley recruited other volunteers from Calusa Garden Club to work with her and Marco Island Academy on an ad hoc committee to improve the school’s landscape, and even brought in an important partner when she approached Naples Botanical Garden and asked for donations of surplus plants.

Academy Principal Melissa Scott, Dean of Students Kelly Monott, Environmental Science teacher Jerry Miller and Guidance Counselor Chris Zumstein comprised the committee from Marco Island Academy, and Marianne Foley, Linda Colombo, Susan LaGrotta and Sara Wolf were the principal participants from Calusa Garden Club.

The Garden Club presented a comprehensive report to the Academy after touring the grounds and analyzing the existing plants on the school’s campus. The joint Academy and Garden Club group identified three planting areas to work on: the land surrounding the Academy’s main sign on San Marco Road, the Academy’s main entrance to the plaza between buildings, and the Academy’s existing Memorial Garden, with both sun and shade areas.

When plans were adopted to work on the three main planting areas, Foley sent an enthusiastic email to Calusa Garden Club members asking for donations of plants for the Academy. Garden Club members responded with numerous donations of plants from their own gardens and from local garden suppliers. Next, Foley contacted Naples Botanical Garden and Chad Washburn, deputy director. The Botanical Garden definitely had surplus plants that would fit the needs of MIA’s plans.

Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island meets the second Monday of each month, October through March, at Wesley United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 350 S. Barfield Drive, Marco Island. Business meetings begin at 12:30 p.m. and programs begin at 1:15 p.m. Calusa Garden Club welcomes visitors interested in our educational programs and visitors interested in membership. Contact the Garden Club at calusagardenclub@aol.com, or on the Garden Club’s website, calusa.org, or visit the Club’s Facebook page Calusa Garden Club.