Members of the Port St. Joe Garden Club, joined by supportive neighbors, recently planted a wildflower garden at the Under the Palms Park in Mexico Beach. The project was spearheaded by member Mary Gessert and funded by a Viva Florida grant from the Florida Wildflower Foundation.
According to their webpage, “The Florida Wildflower Foundation protects, connects and expands native wildflower habitats through education, research, planting and conservation.” It receives financial support through the sales of the Florida Department of Transportation’s State Wildflower license plates which currently feature two varieties of native coreopsis as well as a vanishing monarch.
Gessert envisioned the native plant garden almost a year ago and the Port St. Joe Garden Club was eager to undertake a second point of outreach in Mexico Beach. She researched and selected plants that were suitable for the dry, sandy site which receives full sunlight all day long.
Her free form garden design included fine textured false rosemary (Conradina canescens), spiky saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), wispy purple blazing stars (Liatris spp.), bold black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), and much more. The plants were sourced from Sandhills Native Nursery in Fountain, Florida which specializes in the propagation of native plants that grow naturally in the Panhandle.
The city of Mexico Beach provided the site located near the corner of Fifth Street and Georgia Avenue. In addition, they installed a much-needed water spigot to ensure the transplants will weather the ordeal successfully. Finally, within days of the planting, the city constructed a sturdy wooden bench for those who pause to admire the blooms and the flitting pollinators.
Home Depot in Panama City made in-kind donations that stretched the budget, such as hoses and pine straw mulch that will suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, and serve as an aesthetically pleasing blanket.
Gessert conceptualizes the native wildflower garden as a showcase for some of the alluring plants that were growing in the New World at the time of the arrival of the European explorers before the introduction of varieties from different parts of the world.
She anticipates that the Under the Palms Wildflower Garden will inspire local interest in creating other natural habits in residential landscapes.
For more information about the Port St. Joe Garden Club, visit its Facebook page. The home of the garden club is a lovely venue for family reunions, receptions, and showers while accommodating up to 70 guests. Please contact rental coordinator Lanann Tuttle at 404-932-0646 for details.