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Gardeners Out East club grows flowers, friendship

The 40-member club in Lakewood Ranch was founded on friendship and stresses environmental education.

There's a pool down the street from her Esplanade home, so Carolyn Lowry-Nation opted for a garden on her lanai.
There's a pool down the street from her Esplanade home, so Carolyn Lowry-Nation opted for a garden on her lanai.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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If members of the Gardeners Out East club aren’t feeling well, one thing they don’t have to worry about is not being able to tend to their garden.

Their fellow club members have their back.

“We go pull weeds. We take care of it,” President and Founder Carolyn Lowry-Nation said of the club members. “We’re good to each other. It’s nice because you don’t see a lot of reaching out in this day and age. We started as a friendship club.” 

What started with six friends blossomed into an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with 40 members. When the club gained its nonprofit status in 2014, it only had 10 members, the minimum required to join the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs.

“It was all about long-lasting relationships. That’s what I wanted,” Lowry-Nation said. “I love my garden buds, but you’ve got to have a true purpose.”

The purpose of Gardeners Out East is now environmental education and veteran appreciation. The club has been leaving its mark around the Lakewood Ranch area since forming. 

The Blue Star Memorial plaque in front of Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, was donated by Gardeners Out East.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Those who drive through the circle in front of Town Hall will see a Blue Star Memorial plaque donated by the club. The plaques are part of a program through the National Garden Clubs to honor men and women serving in the military. 

When the Lakewood Ranch Library opens, the club will be dedicating a Gold Star plaque to honor fallen soldiers and their family members. 

One of the club’s first projects in 2015 was to restore and expand the butterfly garden in Summerfield Park. In conjunction with Lakewood Ranch Development District 1, and with help from students at the Pinnacle Academy, Gardeners Out East designed a garden layout and added new plants, a trellis and a shell path. 

Native gardening and water conservation are two things members learn about and discuss in the club. Expert gardening skills are not a prerequisite for joining, just a $35 membership fee and an appreciation for gorgeous gardens. 

Carolyn Lowry-Nation is the president and a founding member of the Gardeners Out East club.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Lowry-Nation is a certified Master Gardener. 

One step onto the lanai of her Esplanade home displays her skills. Where a pool would normally sit, water trickles down over mossy rocks in a massive water feature surrounded by a garden. 

A thick patch of bromeliads anchor the front right corner, while tall begonias and hibiscus flower along the left side. The stunning centerpiece has evolved over the six years since it was installed. 

Lowry-Nation usually has a little dirt under her fingernails as she said gloves take away from the feel of dirt in her hands. She gardens and tends to the water feature a couple hours each day. 

“I wanted something that I could tend to,” she said. “Gardening is excellent exercise. It’s good for your mind and body, and it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.” 

Beyond accomplishing community projects, club members also take field trips to local gardens and nature centers. They throw garden tea parties and meet for luncheons because friendship is still an underlying force behind Gardeners Out East. 

The club is always open to new members and meets the second Monday of each month at 1 p.m. from October through May at the Robert Toale & Sons Celebration of Life Center. 



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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