Sunday, February 25, 2007

Garden Club

Below are excerpts from a recent SHT article about the Sarasota Garden Club - one of Sarasota's great spaces.

Article published Feb 24, 2007

Andy Papineau, the new president of Sarasota Garden Club, has something in common with and something in contrast to his predecessors. Like other presidents, he's vigorously dedicated to preserving and promoting the 1.4 acres of city-owned lushly planted parkland on Boulevard of the Arts near busy U.S. 41.

Papineau is the first male ever elected to Sarasota Garden Club's highest office. Mable Ringling established the organization in 1927. Papineau, a Wisconsin transplant, wasn't looking to break an 80-year-old tradition. He was just looking for a garden to putter around in.

"When my wife, Mary Fran, and I moved to Sarasota five years ago, we settled in Village Walk, which is a no-maintenance, gated community," he said. "I missed my garden. Back in Sun Prairie, I had vegetable and flower gardens, as well as a rock garden; working in those spaces was stress relief from my job. Even though I retired to Florida, I didn't want to retire from gardening."

Architect John Crowell designed the [main building] structure in 1959 in the Sarasota School style with wide overhangs, a discreet profile and a Japanese feeling with the inclusion of shoji screens. Three sides of the function room are walls of sliding glass and when they open, interior and exterior spaces merge and the architecture disappears.

Other garden spaces to enjoy include a butterfly garden (25 varieties), cactus garden and a bromeliad garden. An exotic garden of hybrid hibiscus is dedicated to the military dead of World War II, and throughout the various specialty gardens are comfortable benches that have been given to Sarasota Garden Club as memorials to loved ones.

The potting shed, with its vivid blue-tile roof, reminds visitors of a Japanese teahouse and was a gift to the property from Marie Selby. Bert Brosmith was the architect."Some mornings, artists come to sketch or paint," said Papineau. "Other times, residents from the local high-rise apartments will wander over just to sit and listen to the waterfall and look at all the flowers. I call this place one of the hidden treasures of our town. It's here for the citizens of Sarasota to enjoy, and it's free."

Papineau believes his job as president is to promote Sarasota Garden Club's botanical property as one of the city's attractions and to insure that it remains an asset to the town. "We're in the part of Sarasota slated to change with the expanded cultural district," he said. "I've been attending city meetings to make sure that proposed roadways don't compromise this green space. This special land belongs to the City of Sarasota, but Sarasota Garden Club owns the buildings and leases the property on a five-year renewable contract. We're vigilant about wanting to preserve it."

All Sarasota Garden Club members (there are 185) take turns working at the Boulevard of the Arts property. To be part of Sarasota Garden Club, you join one of eight garden circles, based on interest in the specific activities of the circle. Some circles are craft oriented, others general purpose, others take on community projects. Driftwood Circle, for example, maintains Mable Ringling's secret garden at Ca d'Zan as one of its projects.

Membership in Sarasota Garden Club is $50. These dues support the club's scholarship program and help maintain the botanical park. Additionally, each garden circle has a membership fee. Circle members meet in private homes, but circles meet at Sarasota Garden Club for special events.

Besides maintaining the facilities, Sarasota Garden Club is actively engaged in community outreach through an annual flower show in March, scholarship programs, fee-based educational events, lectures, demonstrations, social activities and a variety of civic beautification projects through its circle members and through Sarasota Garden Club at large.

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