Calusa Garden Club begins installation at Leigh Plummer Park

Sara Wolf
Special to the Eagle
In preparation for the celebration of this 40th anniversary, Calusa Garden Club has begun installing a beautiful garden in Leigh Plummer Memorial Park, located on Barfield Drive.

Next year, Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its founding. The club was founded in 1982 and became affiliated with Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and National Garden Clubs, Inc. in 1983.

In preparation for the celebration of this 40th anniversary, Calusa Garden Club has begun installing a beautiful garden in Leigh Plummer Memorial Park, located on Barfield Drive. The club worked with the city of Marco Island to locate a space for the garden, which will feature a variety of Florida friendly plants. Chairpersons of the endeavor are Marianne Foley and Susan Oldershaw.

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The club chose Leigh Plummer Memorial Park as the location for its latest project due to the long history of collaboration between the club and Collier County (now the city of Marco Island).

In 1982, Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island contacted Collier County to propose establishing the park as a native plant educational area. The area located at 400 North Barfield Drive, and surrounded by Piedmont Circle, had been set aside by the Deltona Corporation developers as a park, and the Garden Club members wanted it to display plants native to Southwest Florida.

Sue Oldershaw and Marianne Foley with Eva Schliesser's large orchid.

Under these joint efforts, Leigh Plummer Memorial Park was established in 1984 and named for Mr. Leigh Plummer, a Marco Island resident and longtime board member and president of Marco Island Civic Association. Plummer’s wife, Nell, was a Calusa Garden Club member. At the 1984 dedication of Leigh Plummer Memorial Park, the county announced that the pond would be named Calusa Lake, after the first Native American settlers of Marco Island.

Marianne Foley and Sue Oldershaw presented the idea of the anniversary garden in the park, and the club members enthusiastically agreed to donate plants from their collections and to volunteer their time to make the garden a reality. Foley and Oldershaw recruited members to work on fastening orchids and bromeliads to trees planting bromeliads under the trees. 

Charlette Roman and Marianne Foley show orchids mounted in trees.

In addition to collecting plants donated by garden club current members, Foley and Oldershaw contacted the family of the late Eva Schliesser, a founder of Calusa Garden Club, and asked permission to transfer some of Schliesser’s tree-mounted orchids to the new garden.  The results are spectacular!  Two extremely large orchids made the transfer and are mounted in the seagrape trees in the garden.  Foley and Oldershaw plan to populate the garden with as many plants from Calusa Garden Club founders’ gardens as possible.  The photo shows Foley and Oldershaw fastening a large orchid from Schliesser’s collection to one of the seagrape trees.

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Charlette Roman and Linda Shockley, friends of Calusa Garden Club, have been Marco Island orchid growers for over 20 years.  They recently donated some of their collection of orchids to the garden, and Roman is pictured with Foley mounting orchids in the trees in the new garden.  In addition to orchids, the garden has a huge variety of bromeliads, some hanging from trees and some planted in the ground, many tillandsia, and a staghorn fern.   The Calusa Garden Club’s plan for the new garden is to plant it now during our Marco Island rainy season, and to nurture it and improve it this coming year for it to be ready for the club’s 40th anniversary celebration in the fall of 2023.

Calusa Garden Club is a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and membership is open to those interested in horticulture, floral design and environmental matters residing 5 months or more in Collier County. 

Calusa Garden Club meets October through April. Contact the Garden Club at calusagardenclub@yahoo.com, or visit the Garden Club’s website calusa.org, or its Facebook page Calusa Garden Club.