Gardeners Out East hopes to attract new members as it celebrates its fifth anniversary in Lakewood Ranch.
Nancy Schneider, one of the founding members of the Gardeners Out East club in Lakewood Ranch, had just come back from a flower arranging class with the notion she would plant papyrus in her yard.
Papyrus was an important plant in ancient Egypt and was used to make paper and woven goods. Since the plant loves a moist environment and heat, Schneider was excited about seeing how it would adapt to her yard.
As Gardeners Out East approaches its fifth anniversary celebration on Sept. 16 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall North, Schneider and three other club members were asked to share a few of their gardening successes and failures. In some cases, those were one and the same.
"It took over," Schneider said of the papyrus. "I kept hacking it back as it reached 6 feet tall. I eventually had to pull it up. The good news is that Karen Eckert (the club's president) came over and helped me. I didn't have a spade. We live in Florida, I didn't think I would need one anymore."
The point was that those who are interested in joining Gardeners Out East, which currently has 44 members and is a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, don't need to be a Master Gardener, such as Eckert.
"I joined because of the friendships," said Eckert, who moved to the area from South Carolina in 2016. "They gave me such a warm welcome and everyone was fun. Everyone in the club helps when we have programs in terms of setting up and tearing down.
"I also think the club helps to put down roots in his community. Through our club, people learn a lot about Lakewood Ranch. Gardening is the medium."
Eckert talked about some of her own gardening successes and failures.
"I was living in Annapolis, Maryland, and it was river bottom land," she said. "We lived just off the South River and we had this fabulous soil. We had 10-foot-tall tomato plants and voluptuous green peppers, and a huge garden."
Twenty years later, Eckert lived in Edgefield County in South Carolina and her experience was quite different. The soil in her community garden plot had gone through 200 years of plantation growing. She worked every day during the growing season and all she got was some "stringy, nasty, green beans."
Fortunately, she wasn't the only one. "I had fellow sufferers," she said with a laugh. "I wasn't the only victim. You learn a lot more from your failures."
Gardeners Out East provides a support group for exactly those kind of situations.
Esplanade's Carolyn Lowry-Nation was a driving force behind organizing the club five years ago. She had five other people (Brenda Morris, Trevor Cramer and Carol Edwards who are no longer with the club, along with Mary Auger and Eileen Amesbury) and she needed 10 total if they wanted to be affiliated with the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. She "cracked the whip" and got Norma Kisida, Mary Beth Steffens, Flossie Paul and Jill Yuengling to join and that formed the first 10 founding members.
Since that time, the club has built the Butterfly Garden at Town Hall North in Summerfield Park, has raised money to erect the Blue Star Memorial in front of Lakewood Ranch Town Hall and has supported the Vets 2 Success nonprofit and its hydroponic growing facility.
That's along with all the beautiful plants the members have grown ... and pulled out.
Amesbury, who lives in Edgewater Village, said she never has considered herself a wonderful gardener, but she is proud of the Big Diamond Confederate Jasmine she is growing on a trellis in her front yard. Like Schneider, she has good and bad news about the beautiful plants.
"It's out of control," she said with a laugh. "I have to chop it all the time because it has covered the whole side of our garage. My husband (Dick) said, 'I am taking it down.' I said, 'Oh no!' He was doing it all, but now I'm in charge."
Lowry-Nation said she has been gardening since she was 5.
"I should know everything there is to know, but I am still learning," she said.
She constantly starts plants at the wrong time of year just because she sees them in the big box stores and wants them so badly.
The club welcomes those who have their own gardening faults with open arms.
The members share their successes as well.
Lowry-Nation purchased milkweed at a Lowe's because it already had some butterfly eggs on it. She took it home and nurtured the eventual caterpillars and and eventual butterflies in her lanai.
Schneider, Lowry-Nation, Eckert and Amesbury watched as a Monarch butterfly landed on some plants on Lowry-Nation's lanai.
Amesbury pointed at it. "Doesn't that Monarch Butterfly look happy."