Sunday, April 22, 2018

Garden Club Grows Friendship


Sandi Johnson (member since 2004) with Lindy Kowalczyk (member since 2006) admiring Lindy’s floral design entry. Photos by Maria Lamb

Sandi Johnson (member since 2004) with Lindy Kowalczyk (member since 2006) admiring Lindy’s floral design entry. Photos by Maria Lamb

The first garden club in America was founded in January 1891 with 12 women who wanted to share plants and plant cuttings. In 1979 Eva Schliesser, a new transplant to Marco Island, placed an ad in the local paper to see if anyone was interested in forming a garden club. To her surprise, a group of both men and women responded – thus the seedlings of the Calusa Garden Club (CGC) were sown.

For Susan LaGrotta, it started with a small backyard at her childhood home. Being a transplant from New

Three CGC friends enjoy the view from the Marco Island Yacht Club: From left, Connie Lowery, (member since 2008), Janice Engel (member since 2015), and Sue Oldershaw (member since 2000).

Three CGC friends enjoy the view from the Marco Island Yacht Club: From left, Connie Lowery, (member since 2008), Janice Engel (member since 2015), and Sue Oldershaw (member since 2000).

York, she wanted to know more about the unique environment of Marco Island. “Friendships grew over the years through the love and passion of gardening,” added LaGrotta, a (CGC) member since 2012.

Donna Kay, a member since 2011, wanted to meet people in the community that shared her passion for gardening and horticulture, and learn what grows well in Marco’s sandy soil. She was sold by the club’s environmental mission.

There is an amazing accumulated knowledge from a roomful of people who have been gardening for many years. Today, you can Google

Still active, Calusa Garden Club founder Eva Schliesser tends to her backyard plantings.

Still active, Calusa Garden Club founder Eva Schliesser tends to her backyard plantings.

almost anything related to gardening and get a YouTube instruction, but nothing can compare to having a personal exchange of ideas with another club member.

After her retirement, Linda Colombo had time to do the things she enjoyed, and gardening was a major interest. She attended her first flower show and her first meeting in 2007, and the rest is history.

Linda Turner moved from Michigan and realized that gardening was vastly different in Marco Island. She joined CGC in 2010 to become more familiar with the flowers, plants and trees that

Butterfly Garden Committee members Gwyn Goodman (member since 2013), Mary McInstosh (member since 2012), and Barbara Messner (member since 1993) check out the wild lime for giant swallowtail butterfly eggs at the Calusa Park Butterfly Garden.

Butterfly Garden Committee members Gwyn Goodman (member since 2013), Mary McInstosh (member since 2012), and Barbara Messner (member since 1993) check out the wild lime for giant swallowtail butterfly eggs at the Calusa Park Butterfly Garden.

are drought and salt tolerant. Linda also learned the basic principles of floral design through CGC’s informative floral design workshops.

Some members joined to give back to the community through CGC’s civic projects; to work with the local schools through the club’s Junior Gardeners Program; CGC’s guest speakers and hands-on design and horticultural workshops are very popular. Others look forward to the monthly “gad abouts” or field trips to interesting parks and gardens; the monthly new member luncheon at a member’s home is CGC’s best-kept secret.

Dale DeFeo, past president of CGC,

Juliette Flasche (member since 2008) with Tommie Barfield’s Junior Gardeners design display.

Juliette Flasche (member since 2008) with Tommie Barfield’s Junior Gardeners design display.

has always been very active in the local and national level of garden clubs during the past 46 years. You can say she has a lifelong passion for gardening. She joined CGC in 2008 where she has shared her deep knowledge and expertise with CGC members. For Dale, “Garden club friends are the very best.”

Garden clubs in the future may go totally virtual, but for now, sharing a meal is about friendship. During the club’s social hour, you can sit at the table and talk and it doesn’t have to be garden-related. That is the best part.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *