The Gardens Gate – February 2021

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The February 2021 Gardens Gate Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens

The Gardens Through The Eyes Of Olivia Holley


“KAHN” The Dragon Bench NEW At The Gardens


Garden Center, Pavilion & Gift Shop Hours: Thursday, Friday & Saturday 10am - 1pm Sunday 12pm - 3pm

Board Member and Volunteer Spotlights


Make Your Garden Smell Like Chocolate


2410 SE Westmoreland Boulevard Port St. Lucie, FL 34952 Phone: 772.337.1959 Fax: 772.237.5952 Core Volunteers: 772.302.4393 E-mail: Web:

Garden Center, Pavilion & Gift Shop Hours: Thursday - Saturday 10:00am - 1:00pm Sunday 12:00pm - 3:00pm Gardens Hours: 8:00am- 5:30pm 7-days a week PETS ARE NOT PERMITTED IN THE GARDENS Suggested Donations: Adults $5 • Students $2 Children 12 & Under Welcome Free for FPSLBG Members and Active Military with family (IDs required)

Mission Statement... Friends’ mission is to create and maintain a beautiful, serene sanctuary in the center of Port St. Lucie that is environmentally sound and naturally diverse and to provide educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for all who visit.

Officers & Directors... President: Vice President: Secretary: Treasurer: Directors:

Heather Furnari Jeff Chambers Mary Petrone Brenda Gustafson John Erickson Dale Johnson Laura Mehr Judy Nash-Wade Tim Sutton Beth Willard

Standing Committee Chairs... Election Committee:

Stephanie Alessandrini-Giarraffa Brenda Gustafson Laura Mehr Brenda Gustafson

Finance Committee: Gift Shop Committee: Horticulture Committee: Membership & Volunteer Committee: Judy Nash-Wade Resource Development Committee: Heather Furnari Strategic Planning Committee: TBD

Newsletter... Editor & Design:

Mark Barnes

The Gardens is managed and operated by Friends of the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity organization, that was founded to help support the daily operations of The Gardens. Friends volunteers provide hands-on daily oversight of the facility, including staffing to handle the many visitors year round. Please consider becoming a member of Friends. Friends' is a 100% volunteer organization. In all cases, donations are deductible to the extent allowed by law.


Dear Friends, Well, here we are in the new year. We had a successful Arbor day as we celebrated our loved ones, while remembering how important all trees are to us. This year we planted a Flame Palm (Chambeyronia macrocarpa) a donation from Nature's Keeper. We thank the city for coming and sharing the day with us too. We have started our wacky weeders back up this month on the 23rd to get our grounds ready for Botanica.

Botanica is on February 13th and 14th . There is no better way to celebrate Valentines Day than walking through a garden and buying plants and garden accessories. (I hope my husband reads this). I've been told by visitors that the air seems so fresh here at the gardens, which makes walking the paths and standing in the garden rooms so pleasant. Again thank you trees. January is a great month to plant a new tree, help improve the air we breathe by planting one in your yard. As the general Election brings in new or returning directors to the Friends board, we are excited about this new year ahead. There are plans for placement of the amazing dragon bench that was carved by Gene Kovacs, one of our own and an amazing artist. Right now it is inside the Pavilion, so make sure you come by and see it if you didn't get out for the Art Show that was on the 2nd and 3rd. There are improvements coming in the garden for our daylilies as well as some surprises yet to be unveiled. There have been improvements in the Garden center and the Gift shop too. A new fence has been placed in the garden center to highlight the plants they have there. The gift shop has new a new design to it and many new items that just came in so check em out. Soon we will be starting back horticulture classes here at the gardens, so keep checking the calendar. All events are continuing with CDC recommended protocols in place. With the weather so much nicer, come on down and maybe get inspired to start or add to your garden at home. If that's not your thing then just come done and enjoy the gardens here.

In closing, May I say it has been an honor to have been President of the Friends these last 3 months. And it's always an honor to work beside all of our volunteers here.

Heather Furnari President


What’s Going on at the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens in




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Commissioned by the Friends of the Port St Lucie Botanical Gardens, ‘KAHN’ is our newest art piece and will be placed in the Bamboo Gardens for all to enjoy. Gene Kovacs is the creator of this impressive dragon bench. This is Gene’s second carving to be placed in the garden—The Secret Garden Gate was the first and is one of the most photographed art pieces in the garden. A master woodcarver and designer, Gene has been working on this masterpiece for over a year. The Dragon Bench KAHN is 42” long and 22” long at the base. It sits 16” off the floor. The dragon is 60.5 inches long and approximately 24“ high at the back. The wood used for the dragon and back of the bench is cedar and the front seat is one piece made from Sycamore. Mahogany and Cherry were used for the claws and tongue. Joe Shotto, owner of TIKI-THIS a locally owned sawmill company that makes custom hardwood pieces, created the beautiful brass medallion inlay giving KAHN a unique highlight. Gene Kovacs worked at Northrup Grumman as a Ship Fitter and Tank Tester for 35 years’ building aircraft carriers and submarines for the Navy. In retirement, he uses his talents as a Custom Woodcarver and creates intricate pieces from benches to small horses and many other artistic pieces. All of his carvings are sketched freehand and then carved into the wood. He often creates custom pieces for his customers. Check out the gift shop for some of his carvings that are on sale. Be sure to stop by the Bamboo Garden to see this magnificent addition to our botanical garden. Article by Brenda Gustafson, Photos by Laura Mehr


Top Left: Gene Kovacs, KAHN creator with Jolien Caraballo Councilwoman, District 4. Jolien is a big supporter of the Gardens. Top Right: The unveiling of KAHN. Gene Kovacs with presenter Mark Barnes at the 2nd Annual Art Show in The Gardens.

Middle & Lower Right: A one year project - The creation and carving of KAHN





The Gardens The Gardens need donations of the following items in mint to good condition. • • • • • •

1-Gallon Plastic Pots Clay pots Ceramic Planters Yard Art Copy Paper Plants to Propagate

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Home Improvements Gift Cards Spray Nozzles TLC Garden Tools Volunteers New Members


All board members started off as volunteers. So, why did you choose to volunteer at the PSL Botanical Gardens? When I retired in 2011, I started looking around for a hobby to keep me busy. I really enjoy working outside the house but since I live in an HOA there are limited opportunities to do much landscaping. A friend gave me two “grocery store” orchids which I had no idea how to grow. While I was doing some research on the subject, I left them in my entry way that got direct sunlight in the afternoon hours. When I came back to them two days later, they were severely sunburn and died soon thereafter. I decided that before I bought any replacements, I needed to join the orchid society and learn more about growing them. I did so, and two years later I started volunteering to help maintain the Orchid Room in the Port St Lucie Botanical Garden (PSLBG). What made you want to become a director? What are your goals? While working in the Orchid Room I would frequently have people stop by and say how beautiful the PSLBG was. I felt I could expand my efforts and help maintain that beauty while at the same time work towards adding new gardens. What do you find most rewarding about being on the board? Developing an understanding of the “big picture” and an appreciation for the dedication and hard work the many volunteers put into the gardens. What do you like to do when you’re at the Gardens? As a board member, I’m in charge of grounds maintenance. As such, I daily maintain the perimeter of the Pavilion and routinely help maintain the Orchid Room, Bonsai Garden, Cactus and Succulent Garden, Rose Garden, Faerie Forest, and the Veterans Garden. Who was the most instrumental person who influenced your love of gardening? No one individual; rather it was just the fact that while I was in the Air Force, I bought five homes


(two of which were new) and my hobby was to landscape and maintain the yards. What’s your favorite tree or plant, and why? When I was assigned to Patrick AFB in Satellite Beach, Florida, I loved hibiscus; but now of course, it’s the orchid. Orchid’s come in just about every color of the rainbow and many shapes and sizes. Contrary to popular belief, they are not difficult to grow. My favorite variety is the dendrobium because of its long-lasting flowers (up to 3 months). Outside of the Gardens, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? I spend much of my free time maintaining the 140 orchids I’ve got hanging in two trees in my yard. Something is in bloom just about year-round so I’m frequently moving them so their visible from the street for passers-by.

Tell us a little bit about your family. I have a son (Scott) and a daughter (Michelle) who live in Greer SC and Annapolis MD respectively. Scott is married and works out of his house for a company called GTL. They provide inmate calling service for correctional facilities. Michelle is also married and is a realtor. Tell us something about you that’s interesting, or that not many people know. I was a meteorologist in the Air Force and my first assignment was to Hickam AFB, Hawaii. While there, I never made an official weather forecast because Honolulu International Airport (HNL) paralleled the military runway, so the USAF used the National Weather Service forecast. I did, however, forecast for the ariel recovery of imagery from orbiting satellites. Also, while assigned to Patrick AFB I was the USAF Chief, Staff Meteorologist for Shuttle Operations. Thankfully, I was reassigned one year before the Challenger disaster. My replacement spent hours testifying before congressional hearings. What’s your favorite quote or saying? “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.”

love for gardens and nature. My Dad had an impressive vegetable garden and my Mom had a beautiful flower garden at our house in Queens, New York, when I was growing up. They shared their love of nature in every way, with me and my sisters. Plants, trees, birds, bees, butterflies. They are looking down on me every day, smiling at my giving back at this time in my life. What is your favorite tree or plant and why?

Joanne Hurd Why did you choose to volunteer at pslbg? I was Googling things to do in Port St. Lucie and the PSL Botanical Gardens popped up. I looked at the website, planned a visit with a friend, but saw the VOLUNTEER section – somehow, I got sucked right in! That was over 2 years ago! Volunteering was a total blessing, keeping me out of the shopping mall and up & out of the house on my days off from my job as Manager at Superplay USA, the Bowling & Entertainment center in St. Lucie West. Definitely a complete opposite from the loud noise of the pinfall and machinery, blasting music & hectic pace! The Gardens looked so serene, calm, pleasant & beautiful. I felt I had a lot to offer with my 30+ years in Customer Service, Organization, Office Administration, Fundraising and just plain old hard work! I started in the Gift Shop, then the Welcome Desk, then leaned into some Office and Administration work, and of course, got involved in every event and project the Gardens had to throw at me. Do you have any goals for your time here at the gardens? I love my days here and plan to be spending a long time doing what I can and what is needed for the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens. I know I contribute quite a bit with my past life and business experience and knowledge, but the Gardens has no idea how much my being there and being involved has done for me! I have formed very dear, lifelong friendships with the other Volunteers. What do you find most rewarding about your time spent at the gardens? I like to be involved in everything, to a fault! (Lol) I always take a stroll throughout the grounds every time I am here, soaking in the peaceful, calm feeling I get here. Hey, it’s like free Therapy!

What do you find most rewarding about your time spent at the gardens? It was my amazing Mom & Dad who gave me my

I have so many “favorites” as far as trees and plants – absolutely love all kind of wildflowers! I am infatuated with Palm trees. Love to learn about every plant & tree I come across and have soaked up so much knowledge from all of the other Volunteers I am so blessed to spend time with here.

What do you like doing in your free time? I love life and people, and spend a lot of my free time just decompressing while sitting on the beach, at the ocean, or the river, watching the sunrise or sunset, the stars and the moon! I’m a bit of a “lunatic” - I follow the phases of the moon and am nuts over a Full Moon. Tell us a little bit about your family. I come from a very loving, ever growing, extended family (long story!). My son, Adam, and his wife, Basia, and my 2 grandkids, Tyler (9 yrs old) and Lilly (5 yrs old) live on Long Island in New York. I miss them terribly, but get to see them as often as we can arrange my trips to New York and their visits to Sunny Florida and Disneyworld! I live in a beautiful Townhome Villa, on a lake, in Port St. Lucie, with my 17 year old Blue Fronted Amazon parrot, Pancho, and my 8 year old Rat Terrier, Bandit. And, yes, the bird talks to the dog, and the dog obeys!!! It’s so funny! Tell us something about you that is interesting, or that not many people know.

I have been a “Tom-boy” since I was a kid. Played baseball, not softball like girls did, baited my own hooks when fishing with my Dad, got an Air Rifle for my First Communion from my Dad, started using power tools at age 10 or 12, grew up to ride motorcycles, drink Jack Daniels, smoke cigars and have tattoos!!! I thank all the Volunteers at the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens for allowing me to share my time with them at such a phenomenal place, right here, near home! What is your favorite quote or saying?

I try to live by this quote: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But when you listen, you, may learn something new!” - Dalai Lama 15

Local church group visiting The Gardens

One of our resident Gopher Tortoise out for a stroll

Aubrey & Elliot Young

Student from the Montessori School

Turtles relaxing and getting some sun on the lake drainage pipe


Arbor Day celebration at The Gardens

Arbor Day Tree donated by Stu Feketa, Nature’s Keeper

Ceremonial Tree Plant at the Arbor Day celebration

Arbor Day at The Gardens

Arbor Day Tree: Flame Thrower Palm Chambeyronia macrocarpa

Arbor Day Snacks provided by Rio Lindo Garden Club

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Weddings at The Gardens



As A NEWbie MG - by Laura Mehr It’s the first day of the first class of the first ever Zoom class with the Master Gardeners of UF/IFAS in SLC. All 10 of us arrived safely to our living room computers to participate. (It was a short trip.) Our class leaders Kate R and Danielle S were there to make sure everything started smoothly and that we were all ‘hooked up’ and ready to Zoom. Information flowed fast and furious as we learned the history and purpose of the MG organization. It is a HUGE organization with chapters in every state, safeguarding our agricultural history and present day needs. Ah…..a break – time for a walk, a potty break and a cat pet. And onward, to a discussion of 5 different groups of plants – trees, shrubs, groundcover, palms, vines. A short lesson in classifications by group and name, and for next week, a short presentation by 5 of us about a plant from each of the 5 groupings.

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LUNCH! Another walk, food, a hurried trip to the grocery store for dinner. And another cat pet. And then back at it with visiting retired professor of botany Dr Ann McMillian from IRSC. And a fascinating but not too deep dive into the physical properties of plants and the basic idea behind plant naming and classification and the necessity of ONE worldwide plant language. A quick and basic course in plant structure and the different types of leaves, stems, flowers and roots – a lot of which can fool you into believing they are something they are not (think bracts). Ah, those playful plants. And what an amazing amount of information to convey to us in just a couple of hours. She made me feel so smart! Truly the mark of an outstanding professor.

And in a seeming nanosecond of zoom zoom zooming, it was over – the first day !! We made it. Time for decompression and a cat cuddle. Follow the further adventures of a NEWbie Master Gardener on Zoom over the coming months.



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We are currently booking Wedding Ceremonies and Events for 75 guests and under inside our Pavilion and up to 150 in our outside venues. These dates are being booked fast. Email Heather at NOW to reserve your date! As we are in changing times, we will be evolving along with them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 Protocol recommendations are in place and required for ALL events. A floor plan with social distancing and signed COVID-19 Addendum is required to book your event. Thank You.



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We are pleased to announce a new, special membership opportunity for our Friends and supporters—a Ten-Year Anniversary Membership. 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the Port St Lucie Botanical Gardens. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to move forward with our special celebrations and events that were planned for the year, so instead we are celebrating a decade of success. Ten years ago we started with a Founding Membership of 100. What better way to continue than with a Ten-Year Anniversary Membership. And, the best part is that the funds will help ensure continued improvements and longevity of the Botanical Gardens, with 50% of the funds raised allocated to Special Projects and 50%allocated to the Endowment Fund. This “Ten-Year Anniversary Membership” offer is open to new and current members and includes: • •

A “Ten-Year Anniversary Membership” $250.00 per person. Will go to the first 100 Special Memberships

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sold and will expire on March 31, 2021 or when all 100 have been sold, whichever comes first. This offer will include a Special Membership Dedication Plaque with the names of all 100 Ten -Year Anniversary Memberships that will be displayed next to the founding members plaque in the lobby of the Botanical Gardens. You will also receive a Special Ten-Year Anniversary Membership card. 10% off Gift Shop and Garden Center purchases, unless marked otherwise. Reciprocal Admission and/or Discounts to American Horticultural Society (AHS) Member Gardens Members Only Events, Workshops & Seminars Free or discounted. We are offering two (2) payment options. A one time payment option of $250, or you can select our subscription plan and pay $50 monthly for 5 months.

Get Yours Today by CLICKING HERE

In all cases, donations are deductible to the extent allowed by law. Friends is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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Valentines Day Plants That Will Make Your Garden Smell Like Chocolate Now we all love flowers and chocolate, but who would've thought of Plants that smell like chocolate. Many people are planting what’s known as a “Chocolate Garden.” Sounds like something straight out of Willy Wonka’s factory, right? Well, it’s a beautiful reality. There are fragrant flowers and edible flowers, but everyone seems to forget that there are a wealth of chocolate scented flowers out there! (And some of them are even edible too, as a bonus.) Before you start buying and planting all the varieties of plants out there with “chocolate” in the name, remember that not all of these will smell like cocoa. For those of us who have green thumbs and love chocolate, but may be watching our weight, filling our gardens with flowers and shrubs that give off the delicious scent of chocolate are a must-have. Whether your chocolate garden is planted in a window box, in your main garden, or nearest to a window or patio where you tend to sit, most chocolate plants grow best in either full sun or partial shade. If you’re worried that planting chocolate plants will net you an unremarkable, dull garden, take heart. Each chocolate plant in this guide has a unique look, size, and color that will ensure your garden stays varied, beautiful, and above all, fragrant. Let’s take a look at some of the prettiest chocolate scented flowers around! Remember, some of these beauties are edible too! 1. Carolina Allspice

Carolina Allspice is a southeastern native shrub that blooms spring through summer and turns a brilliant gold in the fall. Also known as sweet shrub, Carolina Allspice thrives in USDA zones 4-9 and grows to be, on average, 8 feet tall and up to 12 feet wide. The bark, leaves, and blooms give off a spicy, fruity, and chocolatey scent that many people find very attractive. If you choose to buy one of these plants, find one that is in bloom so you can ensure you get one with the popular fragrance. Plant Carolina Allspice in the spring or fall in well-drained soil. They love full or partial sun, and you do not need to fertilize the plant every year. This is a great plant to add to a garden where deer are a problem, as they are repellent to pests.

2. Chocolate Cosmos

Chocolate Cosmos, or Cosmos atrosanguineus, is a native of Mexico, although it is now extinct in the wild. The plant only survives through cultivation, and produces no viable seeds. Instead, it is propagated by the division of its tubers. The lovely dark red to maroon flowers have a light chocolatey scent, and enjoy full or partial sun. The Chocolate Cosmos blooms from mid to late summer, and does best in zones 6-11, as it is frostsensitive. If you are in a temperate zone, the tubers should be dug up and stored in a frost-free store over the winter.

3. Chocolate Flower


Berlandiera lyrata, or the chocolate-scented daisy, is a quarter-sized vibrant yellow daisy with striking red undersides. It’s renowned for having one of the best chocolate scents for gardens. The small plant makes for great informal edging, but is most fragrant in groups. The flower is native to the southwest, and blooms during the night. The herbaceous perennial can grow up to 2 feet tall. For the best blooms, water regularly, although the plant is drought resistant once established in your garden.

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4. Chocolate Vine

Akebia quinata, the vanilla and chocolate scented vine is a hardy deciduous semievergreen that can grow up to 15 to 20 feet. From May through June, the vines bloom in lovely lilac flowers. These plants do best in partial shade, and require regular pruning, as they can easily take over a garden. They’re favored for use on trellises, pergolas, and fences, as they grow very quickly and have an attractive fragrance.

5. Chocolate Mint Plant

The chocolate mint plant is great grown indoors or outdoors, although it must absolutely be grown in a container, as it tends to spread out of control. It’s easy to grow, loves partial sun, and needs to be watered and fertilized only occasionally. The plant is favored as an herb, and is great for adding to drinks, desserts, and as garnishes. You may harvest throughout the growing season, unless you’d like to enjoy the lovely pink flowers that pop up in late spring and through midsummer.

6. Bird’s Eyes

These beautiful flowers are California natives and are also known as Gilia tricolor. They love full sun and can grow as tall as 2-3 feet in a well-watered garden. They are known for their 5 bell-shaped fused petals that are a vibrant purple-indigo at the ends. These often attract hummingbirds, native bees, and even the occasional butterfly, so they’re great for those who love to watch the garden for animal life. Bird’s Eyes are an annual wildflower, and new seeds can be started immediately after the last frost.

7. Heuchera

Heuchera, or Coral Flower, have beautiful veined foliage and love full sun or partial shade. The tall stems of bell-shaped pink flowers add another element of beauty to this plant. Heuchera love fertile, well-drained soil, and should be mulched annually. These plants do well in USDA zone 3, and will bloom from late spring to early summer, although there are lateblooming varieties available. Once established, you should cut back any woody growth in the spring.

8. Oncidium Orchid

The beautiful, bold Oncidium Orchid loves warm weather and bright light. The plant should be fertilized at least once a month, and should never be in standing water. Typically, these orchids should be potted, as they are trickier to grow than more tolerant orchids, like the Lady Slipper or Moth Orchid. If you live in an area where the temperature dips below 55° at night, keep your orchid in a pot and bring it inside.

9. Himalayan Honeysuckle

Although the Himalayan honeysuckle, or Leycesteria formosa, looks like a vine, it is actually a shrub. It does well in USDA zones 6b or 7, so if you live in a high mountainous area, this plant will not do well in your garden. The flowers start out small and white, but by midsummer, they are surrounded by rich, dark red bracts. In late summer, your plants will begin producing edible fruits that are mature when they turn dark purple. The fruits are said to taste a little like burnt caramel. Often, the plant flowers and produces fruit simultaneously, adding to the beauty of the Himalayan honeysuckle.

10. Chocolate Soldier Columbine

These beautiful perennials are ultra-fragrant, with chocolate-purple and green blooms. They grow to be between 8-12 inches tall, and may spread up to 10-14 inches. They do best in zones 3-8, and love full sun or partial shade. The small, but fragrant blooms appear in the spring, and look gorgeous in a garden as part of the border or flower bed.


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