Family Garden Club of Englewood
Fifty Years of Community Service

In 2018, the Family Garden Club of Englewood celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. The club was started fifty years ago by several men in the community that wanted to learn and share ideas on gardening in Florida. In order to do this, they founded the Men’s Garden Club of Englewood. The organization was established with the following objectives: promoting an active interest in gardens, their design and management; cooperating in the protection of wildflowers, native plants and wild birds; promoting and encouraging civic interest in individual or private gardens, community plantings and parks.

The initial meeting of the club was held at the home of Ernest Bjorklund on April 1, 1968. There were 13 members present and Arthur Gumm presided as the first president. The meetings were held in the homes of the thirteen charter members until December 11, 1979 when they began meeting at the Saint David’s Church parish hall.

Over the years, the club membership grew. There were many speakers on interesting topics as well as planned field trips. In January 1989, a series of hands-on community projects were begun with the first being the landscaping of the courtyard of the L. A. Ainger Junior High School. This effort was coordinated with the Native Plant Society and the Kiwanis Club of Englewood. That same year the club was instrumental in labeling the plantings at the entrance to Barnett Bank (currently the Suntrust bank) at 333 S. Indiana Avenue. Members also participated in the planning of the landscaping at the West Charlotte County Library. In October 1991, the club did landscape planting of Live Oak, Southern Wax Myrtle and Slash Pine at Lemon Bay High School. In 1993 additional landscaping was done as part of the L. A. Ainger Junior High School project.

On November 8, 1994, the meetings were moved to Lemon Bay Park. Around this time a park bench was purchased for the Dearborn Street beautification project and club members built a planter as part of this project. The club was awarded the Golden Gavel Award by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for community service. In 1996, more landscaping was done at Lemon Bay High School. And in 1997, work was begun on the Day Lily and Rose Garden at Lemon Bay Park, which was dedicated on April 28th 1998. The dedication coincided with the club’s thirtieth anniversary. This garden included 17 antique roses as well as over 800 Florida friendly daylilies. For this project the club was awarded Silver Gavel Award for community service to Englewood as well as a certificate of recognition from the Sarasota County Government for volunteering a total of 450 hours.

In March 1997 the Men’s Garden Club of Englewood began publishing a newsletter named Gardening News as a source of club information and gardening knowledge. Community projects continued and another club endeavor was to help the Bon Secours Assisted Living facility in Venice determine how they can improve the grounds to make them more environmentally and butterfly friendly.

In April, 2002 the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners recognized the club for the time and effort contributed to Sarasota County GIVE (Government Involving Volunteer Energy).

In 2003 the meetings were moved to the Elsie Quirk Library where they are still being held on the second Tuesday of the month from October through May. The meetings are open to all members of the community and the attendance averages between 25 and 30 people. In addition to the monthly meetings there are two executive board meetings.

Over the years the club has held plant sales to raise funds to subsidize projects, participated in the plant sales at Lemon Bay Park and volunteered for the annual Florida Clean-up. Plants were raised at home by members and brought to the sales. Members also brought plants to the meetings and a raffle was held to raise funds. To encourage civic interest in gardening, the club has donated gardening and landscape books to the Charlotte County Tringali and Sarasota County Elsie Quirk libraries in Englewood. Some of these were given in memory of deceased members. In 2007 about $600 worth of books were donated. These books were purchased with funds raised from plant sales.

In 2008 funds raised were used to provide a $1,000 scholarship to a Lemon Bay High School student who has an interest in gardening or a related science such as Biological, Environmental, or Horticultural and is enrolled in college program.

This endeavor was one that coincided with the club’s 40th anniversary. The celebration of the club’s 40th anniversary was held at the May Picnic Meeting at Lemon Bay Park and the scholarship winner was announced. As of 2018, the year of our fiftieth anniversary, there were 13 students who received a scholarship from the garden club with a total of $23,000 awarded. This year the club also donated $250 to the Friends of the Elsie Quirk Library.

At our December, 2011 meeting the members approved a project for the Lemon Bay Conservancy’s Wildflower Preserve (WFP). The project includes allocation of funds to purchase materials and to build an outdoor classroom. There were a total of nine benches arranged in a semi-circle with the tenth bench, for the instructor, facing the class room benches. The completed classroom was dedicated on February 14th, 2012. We held our meeting there consisting of a short dedication ceremony followed by a trail walk to view the flora and fauna at the preserve.

The club donated and installed a viewing bench in the Butterfly Garden at the Wildflower Preserve. On April 5, 2017 there was a dedication ceremony to honor Paul Jarvi for his dedicated efforts to the club for our plant propagation project, our scholarship plant sales, and the work he has done at the Wildflower Preserve.

In 2015 the club was invited to participate in the Wildflower Preserve Open House sponsored by the Lemon Bay Conservancy. It was an opportunity for the club to provide information to the community about plant propagation activities, our scholarship plant sales, and our meetings and community service. We also provided visitors with the benefits of club membership in order to increase our membership. This has been an annual event since that time.

In 2016 the members of the Men’s Garden Club voted and approved a name change in order to become more inclusive. So, after nearly 50 years of learning and sharing the club changed its name, and now all are welcome as members to the Family Garden Club of Englewood.

The club is very active and has a total of 28 full time members with some for as long as 19 years. Our membership ranges from the very inexperienced gardener, who has just moved to Florida, to the experienced long-time resident. One will find that there is something for everyone at the meetings. One of the clubs goals is to continue to grow and, as always, we welcome new members in order to achieve this goal. The Family Garden Club of Englewood is inviting all gardeners or potential gardeners to join them in learning some of the complexities of growing plants and trees in Southwest Florida. Please join us at a future meeting for lectures on gardening, answers to gardening questions and coffee and donuts. Join today and start mastering gardening in Southwest Florida. You may join at any meeting or signup online.