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Show 4/2704
Gardening In A Civil War Fort

Summary of Show

Key West Garden Club
Sue Sullivan is the President of the southernmost garden club in the United States, the KEY WEST GARDEN CLUB. And they have a rather unusual garden club site. And, it has a tremendous amount of history. West Martello Tower was built before the Civil War along with Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas and Fort Zachary Taylor. This structure was a battery for Fort Zachary Taylor and was started but never finished. Soldiers were initially stationed here to root out pirates. These were union soldiers so as soon as the Civil War started they had the distinction of becoming the southernmost Union outpost for the Army and the Navy.
For More Information Click here

The Courtyard
Rosie and Eric next visit THE COURTYARD. This is the lowest part of the garden so it was the most flooded. They had about 6 feet of sea water here during the worst time. And seawater really kills plants. It did here, with the exception of several very strong trees. A lignum vitae is an endangered tree and only grows in the Keys. It's nickname is the "Tree of Life" and was supposedly found in the Garden of Eden. The wood was used for the Holy Grail. It's been used by natives for a lot of remedies - arthritis, for instance.
For More Information Click here

Fragrant Garden
The next AREA SMELLS FANTASTIC. It's near one of the primary entrances so as guests walk in they're greeted by a wonderful fragrance. Rosie talks about some of the plants chosen for this part of the garden and the garden design. It was by design that the fragrant plants are by the entrance. One of the advantages of having a garden devastated is you can re-plant from scratch. Rosie has always been interested in fragrance and this seemed the ideal place because it's more of an enclosed courtyard and the first thing that hits you when coming out of the reception area is the fragrance. They planted primarily fragrant plants here.
For More Information Click here

Fruit Orchard
There are many nooks and crannies in this garden. The next area visited is a particularly nice area where they've added their FRUIT ORCHARDS and they have some amazing species. Rosie feels they were fortunate. After Wilma she sent out begging letters to all their friends and one of the nurseries on the mainland sent them numerous trees and unusual tropical fruit plants. The wax jambu, which she had never heard of, has funny little red, sort of plasticine-like flowers. There is a mulberry and a breadfruit tree, probably the only one in Key West. But her favorite is called a strawberry tree. The flower explains why. It looks exactly like a strawberry, the fruit doesn't look like a strawberry but tastes exactly like a strawberry.
For More Information Click here

Butterfly Garden
Rosie and her club have been intentional about creating specific HABITATS FOR BIRDS AND ANIMALS like butterflies. They're in the middle of the butterfly garden and Eric is impressed. Rosie talks about the kinds of plants best designed to attract butterflies. She feels the most important thing in designing a butterfly garden is to have plants that are attractive for caterpillars. Those are the host plants, the plants that caterpillars eat. The nectar plants are for the butterflies to drink from. One needs a good balance of both.
For More Information Click here

Xeriscape Plants
It's only fitting that the rain would roll in right when we start talking about PLANTS DESIGNED FOR LOW WATER USAGE. Water is a big issue in most communities today. There are very few gardeners that are actually able to irrigate whenever they wish. A lot of communities have watering restrictions and more and more gardeners are looking for plants that have very low water needs. These plants are often referred to as xeriscape plants.
For More Information Click here

Native Plants
This garden was designed as a display garden where people coming through could look at what is planted and get ideas for planting in Key West. It was put together strictly for educational purposes. They have NATIVE PLANTS, ground cover plants such as the white buttercup which comes out in the summer and is very pretty. The sensitive plant is cool because the little feathery leaves come together when a human touches them. They're very sensitive but their flowers are beautiful, little globes of purple feathers. There are quite a few out at the moment and a great ground cover. For trees they have the silver buttonwood.
For More Information Click here

The Dungeons
The next site is over what were THE DUNGEONS. Just one of the problems of gardening in an old fort, it means the soil is only about 6 inches thick. They can't put in a watering system because they would end up watering the dungeons which wouldn't be good. So, they applied some of their xeriscape techniques in this area. They have used mainly natives.
For More Information Click here

Planting Techniques
The next area was difficult, they had to completely rethink how they planted. This was an AREA COMPLETELY WIPED OUT BY THE HURRICANE. Trying to avoid a future wipe out they incorporated different techniques. They have terraced walls and have built in natural breaks by using rock edging. Here they lost 2 sides of the hill. The rain was very strong and the winds brought down big trees and that brought down the soil on both sides of the hill. So they decided to invest in terracing. Then they put in trees with really strong roots to stabilize the soil. They've done that across the top of the hill and on the sea side or wind side. These are designed to be a windbreak. They're planted in a zig zag formation.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Key West

Key West Garden Club

Compass Realty

Plant List

 

Show 4/2704
Gardening In A Civil War Fort

Transcript of Show

Sue Sullivan is the President of the southernmost garden club in the United States, the KEY WEST GARDEN CLUB. And they have a rather unusual garden club site. And, it has a tremendous amount of history. West Martello Tower was built before the Civil War along with Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas and Fort Zachary Taylor. This structure was a battery for Fort Zachary Taylor and was started but never finished. Soldiers were initially stationed here to root out pirates. These were union soldiers so as soon as the Civil War started they had the distinction of becoming the southernmost Union outpost for the Army and the Navy.

The fort appears to have undergone a bit of damage. Sue explains - In 1876 they stopped building the fort and Fort Zachary Taylor, the larger fort, started using this structure for target practice. In 1947 the Federal Government released the forts to Monroe County. Monroe County decided to tear the buildings down, feeling they weren't worth anything. Their local State Representative and County Commissioner, Joe Allen, was an avid gardener and offered the fort to the Key West Garden Club as a permanent home. And, it has been their home every since.

Sue tells a little about herself. She has been in Key West off and on since 1989 but joined the garden club in 2001. She has become more and more involved, got on the board, has been involved in membership, then last year became President. Sue explains that Rosie will lead the tour today and knows Eric will really enjoy the time with her. Eric and Sue exchange thank yous and Eric is off.

Eric meets Rosie and learns she is the President emeritus, the Past President, of the Key West Garden Club but now is in charge of Fort Martello Towers and its gardens. Eric wants to know more about Rosie. Rosie, as we can tell from her accent, is not from around here, instead originally from England. She moved to Chicago in '96, then moved to Key West permanently in 2000. So, she's been here 10 years. Rosie is a farmer's daughter, which is undoubtedly one of the reason she loves plants. But unlike her father who planted corn and stuff she plants flowers and beautiful things to look at and to smell. So the first thing she did when moving here was to join the Key West Garden Club. A normal day for Rosie is very busy. Right now is "in" season and several hundred people visit each day. Plus, Sculpture Key West is in full swing and that's generating interest. Rosie also has a day-to-day job running a research company which takes her out of Key West some of the time. But, every Monday she's here along with all the other volunteers who help maintain the gardens. And, like any garden there is work involved. Rosie and Eric start the tour.

Every garden and every gardener has their own set of challenges. The wind here is one. But 5 years ago, in 2005, they had 4 successive hurricanes, one a month, July, August, September and October. Each successive hurricane weakened the plants but Wilma, the last one in October 2005, caused tremendous flooding. The sea is on the other side of the wall of the fort, thus near by. And the Fort is located on an area that juts out into the ocean. During Wilma the fort was flooded with about 6 feet of sea water for a long time. Plus, the winds were amazingly strong. So, the garden was devastated either by winds or by salt water. In fact, the hill behind them was lost. The soil came down like a mudslide, it was incredible. Eric can't imagine the damage but wonders about plants being submerged in sea water. What's that do to the soil? How does one care for that? Rosie reports that they actually had to wash the soil. It sounds silly but there was so much salt in it that they could not plant in it until they had washed all the salt out. After washing the soil they brought new soil in but it took about 6 months before they could get the earth in any shape to replant. They have some very nice established specimens, Eric can only imagine what the cleanup entailed. The big trees like the Seaside Mahoe and the Strangler fig were lost. Some 80-100 year old trees were lost. It was sad. Plus because of the walls they couldn't get big equipment inside so they had the debris chopped by hand. A team of Haitians came in with machetes and chopped the big trees and then hauled them away a bit at a time. It took weeks and weeks to just clear out the rubbish. But looking at the garden today it's hard to imagine that it happened. It's lush and beautiful. That's one lovely thing about living in the tropics, things grow quickly. Most plants here are less than 4 years old. Eric thinks they've done an amazing job of rebuilding this garden.
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Rosie and Eric next visit THE COURTYARD. This is the lowest part of the garden so it was the most flooded. They had about 6 feet of sea water here during the worst time. And seawater really kills plants. It did here, with the exception of several very strong trees. A lignum vitae is an endangered tree and only grows in the Keys. It's nickname is the "Tree of Life" and was supposedly found in the Garden of Eden. The wood was used for the Holy Grail. It's been used by natives for a lot of remedies - arthritis, for instance. It's a very useful tree, has very dense wood, so dense that it's the only wood that actually sinks instead of floating. It came through the hurricane. It's a big tree, probably about 80 years old. The other tree that survived is the Bottlebrush Tree. The flowers hanging down look like bottle brushes. It is a beautiful tree. Eric imagines that for a plant like this to have survived it must have a very deep root system and then suckered back after time. Rosie agrees. It has long roots and was protected by the wall, even so it took about a year to come back. They thought it was dead thus were very pleased when they saw little green leaves appear. So the message here is - Don't ever give up on your plants.
Top

The next AREA SMELLS FANTASTIC. It's near one of the primary entrances so as guests walk in they're greeted by a wonderful fragrance. Rosie talks about some of the plants chosen for this part of the garden and the garden design. It was by design that the fragrant plants are by the entrance. One of the advantages of having a garden devastated is you can re-plant from scratch. Rosie has always been interested in fragrance and this seemed the ideal place because it's more of an enclosed courtyard and the first thing that hits you when coming out of the reception area is the fragrance. They planted primarily fragrant plants here. Fragrant plants typically have white flowers or very pale flowers. The white or light colored flowers show up in this courtyard which is a little darker area. The main specimen tree is the ylang-ylang which is the main ingredient in Chanel No. 5. It smells lovely when in bloom, the whole garden will smell of Chanel. It reminds Rosie of Marilyn Monroe. There are other non native plants in the area, ginger and jasmine included. A wonderful gardenia in a pot catches Eric's eye. Rosie loves gardenia which is why it's here. It won't grow in their soil, it's totally the wrong soil, thus is growing in a pot. With a bigger pot they could have a larger gardenia. Gardenias will actually bloom on and off all year round in Key West. Eric notices a Lady of the Night and assumes it is included to provide fragrance at night. Rosie confirms that is correct, they have evening events, the Lady of the Night is nothing during the day but in the nighttime she blooms. The fragrance is released around sunset and the lovely fragrance lasts for several hours. Fragrance is an important dimension for a garden and they have done a fantastic job of incorporating it into this garden.
Top

There are many nooks and crannies in this garden. The next area visited is a particularly nice area where they've added their FRUIT ORCHARDS and they have some amazing species. Rosie feels they were fortunate. After Wilma she sent out begging letters to all their friends and one of the nurseries on the mainland sent them numerous trees and unusual tropical fruit plants. The wax jambu, which she had never heard of, has funny little red, sort of plasticine-like flowers. There is a mulberry and a breadfruit tree, probably the only one in Key West. But her favorite is called a strawberry tree. The flower explains why. It looks exactly like a strawberry, the fruit doesn't look like a strawberry but tastes exactly like a strawberry. Like strawberry candy. And since this is Key West what garden would be complete without a Key Lime tree. It is iconic and where Key lime pies originate. It produces limes every year. They lost theirs in the storm so this is a new tree, only about 2 or 3 years old but it produces limes every year. Next to it is the allspice. It is used in all sorts of cooking and is super fragrant. Many of these plants don't grow much further north, they are all tropicals, thus very sensitive to cold. But gardeners shouldn't shy away from using these plants. They are wonderful in containers. People can move them in in the winter, put them in a sunroom, then move them back out in the spring when the threat of frost is gone. If you do this you can enjoy fresh fruit year round.
Top

Rosie and her club have been intentional about creating specific HABITATS FOR BIRDS AND ANIMALS like butterflies. They're in the middle of the butterfly garden and Eric is impressed. Rosie talks about the kinds of plants best designed to attract butterflies. She feels the most important thing in designing a butterfly garden is to have plants that are attractive for caterpillars. Those are the host plants, the plants that caterpillars eat. The nectar plants are for the butterflies to drink from. One needs a good balance of both. That is what they've tried to incorporate in this garden. There are a number of different plants that one might see in many butterfly gardens. The Asclepias tuberosa, the traditional milkweed is included. Ginger and cannas too, but there are a number of plants that are much more unusual. The giant milkweed is one. It looks nothing like the little milkweed. It was Lord Shiva's favorite plant because of the purple waxy flowers that look like sugar icing. These are important for monarch butterflies. Their migration path brings them straight from Mexico and they stop here in the Keys. This is an important food stop before they go up the West coast of the U.S. They have butterflies here year round because there are different butterflies at different times of the year. The monarchs tend to arrive around April but this year has been a bit odd because it may have been too cold in Mexico, they may have actually left Mexico early this year. Native lantana is another beautiful plant. Shrimp plant looks like a dainty little, pink shrimp. Firespike is a plant Eric hasn't seen before. It is native to the Caribbean, it will only grow in zone 11 and upwards. It usually is bright red but Rosie found a purple variety and loves the color. It blooms all year round, has narrow trumpet flower and is very attractive to hummingbirds. So, this garden will attract butterflies but on a nice day one will see quite a lot of hummingbirds. By featuring beautiful flowers but additionally bringing in visitors like hummingbirds, birds and butterflies it adds a whole other dimension to a garden. This garden has just been awarded a Wildlife Habitat Environment by the National Wildlife Federation. Eric is impressed.
Congratulations.
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It's only fitting that the rain would roll in right when we start talking about PLANTS DESIGNED FOR LOW WATER USAGE. Water is a big issue in most communities today. There are very few gardeners that are actually able to irrigate whenever they wish. A lot of communities have watering restrictions and more and more gardeners are looking for plants that have very low water needs. These plants are often referred to as xeriscape plants. When selecting these plants first and foremost look for native plants because native plants have evolved or adapted to live in the situation where they were planted. Rosie will obviously be talking about plants native to the Keys, but if you live in Connecticut, for example, and you want a xeriscape garden look for plants native to Connecticut because they've evolved to suit the weather conditions, whether rain, sun or frost. So first and foremost select native plants, secondly drought-resistant or as drought resistant as possible. A great group of this type plant would be the succulents, sedums, those type of plants, plants that have the ability to store water either in their leaves or in their trunk material. They can store water when rainfall occurs meaning they're drought resistant because of the reserves they have. The desert rose is an example. The beautiful desert rose has a bulbous trunk at the bottom and that is where it stores its water. It can last for up to 6 months without rain because it stores water for that purpose. It's a very clever plant.
Top

This garden was designed as a display garden where people coming through could look at what is planted and get ideas for planting in Key West. It was put together strictly for educational purposes. They have NATIVE PLANTS, ground cover plants such as the white buttercup which comes out in the summer and is very pretty. The sensitive plant is cool because the little feathery leaves come together when a human touches them. They're very sensitive but their flowers are beautiful, little globes of purple feathers. There are quite a few out at the moment and a great ground cover. For trees they have the silver buttonwood. Its leaves are sort of leathery and succulent thus hold water very well and are drought resistant. Joewood is a rare tree, a native. And some of the palms do very well. The Florida thatch palm, Thrinax radiata is stunning. The coconut palm is not native although many mistakenly think they are. The ornamental grasses are another great group of xeriscaping plants. Carex and a number of other similar plants are typically found in all parts of the U.S. They're very good plants for drought resistance and beautiful as well, particularly swaying under the palms. Drought resistance does not mean it is plain. Many flowers are relatively showy yet have the added benefit of being drought resistant.
Top

The next site is over what were THE DUNGEONS. Just one of the problems of gardening in an old fort, it means the soil is only about 6 inches thick. They can't put in a watering system because they would end up watering the dungeons which wouldn't be good. So, they applied some of their xeriscape techniques in this area. They have used mainly natives. Duranta, which is golden dewdrop has beautiful blue flowers. Beauty bush is another native that is stunning. Oleander is not native but is really hardy and has done very well for them. Importantly, it provides flowers in an area where they can't water.
Top

The next area was difficult, they had to completely rethink how they planted. This was an AREA COMPLETELY WIPED OUT BY THE HURRICANE. Trying to avoid a future wipe out they incorporated different techniques. They have terraced walls and have built in natural breaks by using rock edging. Here they lost 2 sides of the hill. The rain was very strong and the winds brought down big trees and that brought down the soil on both sides of the hill. So they decided to invest in terracing. Then they put in trees with really strong roots to stabilize the soil. They've done that across the top of the hill and on the sea side or wind side. These are designed to be a windbreak. They're planted in a zig zag formation. They're presently small but in a couple of years they'll grow larger. They planted in the zig zag formation to help provide a strong windbreak, because strong winds are commonplace. And, hopefully they won't loose the trees in a hurricane. The plants behind the trees should be protected by the trees. And they have some interesting plants behind the windbreak trees. The autograph tree is a good tree, a fun tree. It's grown all over the Caribbean, particularly in ports. Sailors used this tree as a mailing system. They could write on the leaf, the next ship in could then read their messages. Rosie encourages that tradition and visitors sign the leaves. Kids love it. Behind these Rosie has some more beautiful plants. The Pride of Barbados does not have a strong root system so it needs protection. So hopefully the screen will protect them. Scorpion tail is another perennial that's good at holding the soil. It looks like a scorpions tail, is native to the area and attracts butterflies. Rosie likes it as a filler, thus has put it in clumps around the native trees. It blooms all year long and only comes in white. So on the other side Rosie has the firecracker. It's exactly what it sounds like, it looks like its on fire. It has beautiful long tubular flowers and attracts hummingbirds. Eric is impressed, this is a beautiful garden.

Eric feels they have done a terrific job working with the elements and thinking forward and protecting the garden for the future. Rosie knows they will get hurricanes again but they don't want to lose the garden again. Eric believes that gardening is one of the richest, most rewarding things one can do in life but it has it's challenges. It's heartwarming to see the way the Key West Garden Club has taken something that was a catastrophe and through tremendous effort and hard work turned this back to a paradise. Rosie thanks Eric but credits the club, a large group of very passionate volunteers, without them this garden wouldn't be back to where it is today. It really is a beautiful and unique garden.

Thanks Rosie and Sue.

LINKS:

Key West

Key West Garden Club

Compass Realty

Plant List

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