A Community Project Goes Native

According to a recent survey, public outreach and education are the top priorities for Florida Native Plant Society chapters, and here is a success story that showcases what can happen when chapter involvement meets up with inspiration from local garden club members. In January, The Ocean Ridge Garden Club hosted a program on natives from the FNPS Palm Beach County Chapter, and here's what happened in April~

The Ocean Ridge Garden Club has just installed a native garden at the entrance to the town hall.  Why native? Native plant landscaping contributes to the preservation and restoration of our natural heritage.  It creates an awareness of the beauty of the plants native to south Florida and it is especially fitting for a public building to be adorned with plants native to the area

This little oasis of native plantings in Ocean Ridge will soon fill out the space

A native garden has benefits beyond the beauty of the plantings.  At a time when we are drought conscious,  a native garden will help conserve  water, minimize or eliminate the need for fertilizers and pesticides and conserve energy resources.  Once established the
plants will require minimal maintenance.  A native garden also has the added benefit of attracting butterflies and birds.

Installing natives that will survive coastal conditions
The challenge in planning this garden was to select plants that could thrive in sometimes harsh coastal conditions.  All of the plants are wind, salt and drought tolerant and suitable for coastal soil.  A struggling red cedar was replaced with two 14 ft. curved Sabal palms.  Seven Thatch palms were planted between them to complete the centerpiece design for the garden.  The Sabal palms are appropriate for the setting of the town hall; they are the state tree of Florida and appear on the state flag. A quarter of the grass was removed and non-native plants such as oleanders and struggling plants were replaced with 200 new dune daisies, coonties, and dwarf schilling hollies to provide a border and architectural design to enclose the garden.

Two benches will be installed at the entrance to the garden in front of a gazebo like structure.  The shape of their pedestals  mirrors the design elements of the cape architecture of the town hall.  The benches will sit atop crushed shells to further add to the native
coastal theme.  This is phase one of the garden which will continue to be refined.   Future plans include plant labels and descriptions of their history and botanical characteristics.

This project owes its thanks to the Ocean Ridge Garden Club that provided the funding and particularly to Julia Walker, chairperson of he Beautification Committee, Zoanne Hennigan, president, Dr. John Wootton and Rita Ginsky.  Two generous residents from Ocean Ridge
donated the benches.  Finally, Bob Glynn of the Delray Garden Center provided the necessary labor, machinery and much of the plant material at cost allowing this project to become a reality. 

~Rita Ginsky

Wow! They really did things right! They chose the right plants, for the right reasons; and just wait till those duneflowers start to bloom! In addition, the club is planning to place ID markers on the plants and provide information about them on the inside of the kiosk. Nice work!

Here are a few of the plants that Rita and her committee chose.

Coonties, aka zamia, Zamia integrifolia, a native cycad that should be used more widely. Host for the blue Atala butterflies.

These prolific bloomers will sprawl over wide areas. You can cut them back if they stray too far. 

Florida only has nine native palms, and this is one of them. A tough and graceful palm, significant for wildlife and host to the monk for the monk skipper butterfly. Slow growing, lovely in flower.

Let's see more community projects like this one!

sue dingwell


daisy g said…
How great to see someone in the community doing the right thing! Hope others follow...
Thanks, Daisy! More and more people ARE hearing the message, and it really is fun to be part of such good progress.

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