Field Trip: Key West Garden Club


 

A toast to all gardeners.

A toast to all gardeners.

Someone once said, “Good things come in small packages.” I may not be positive about who should get credit for the phrase, but I’m pretty sure he or she must have been referring to Key West.

Measuring just 7.4 square miles, there’s a lot crammed onto this legendary Florida paradise — from Ernest Hemingway’s house to Fantasy Fest to the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens to the daily sunsets, often met with a liquid toast.

Tucked away among the touristy attractions is one of the last free admissions on the island: the Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower. Since 1955, the garden club, through strokes of luck and vision, dedication and hardwork in the tropical sun, transformed a Civil War-era fort into a walled garden filled with native and exotic trees and plants.

Key West Garden Club

The entrance to the garden.

An area of the old fort now used for greener purposes.

An area of the old fort now used for greener purposes.

As visitors step outside of the entrance area, they’re in a world that is lush, silent, peaceful — and alien.  It almost feels as if we are all Dorothy as she steps into Oz for the first time.

The butterfly garden.

The butterfly garden.

A spiky ground cover seems quite content under the shade of the Cinnecord tree.

A spiky ground cover seems quite content under the shade of a Cinnecord Tree.

Canna.

Canna.

The water feature.

The water feature.

The orchid house.

The orchid house.

The other water feature.

The other water feature.

A piece of the old wall is able to support the weight of a massive tree.

A piece of the old wall is able to support the weight of a massive tree.

A closeup.

A closeup.

The Strangler Fig, so named because the seeds germinate in the canopy of neighboring trees.    Once its roots reach the ground, it grows and strangles its host.

The Strangler Fig, so named because the seeds germinate in the canopy of neighboring trees.
Once its roots reach the ground, it grows and strangles its host.

The blooms of the aptly named Powder Puff Tree.

The blooms of the aptly named Powder Puff Tree.

 By the end of the tour, I was melted

The bloom of desert rose.

The bloom of desert rose.

By the end of the visit, it was time to return to the conveniences of our modern world — an air conditioned car — but not before one last smile.

Gardener humor knows no climate zone.

Gardener humor knows no climate zone.

34 thoughts on “Field Trip: Key West Garden Club

    • Hi Cinthia. Thanks for stopping by. Actually, the orchid house provided so welcome shade from the summer heat. About the only thing missing was a frosty cocktail! 🙂

      • 😀 I’m hanging in there. As far as I understand, the strangler fig produces a small, bitter fruit. Humans shy away from them, but birds love them. They eat the fruit, but the seeds are indigestible — so when that bird poops, the seeds are viable. They land in the upper branches of host trees, where they germinate. Roots spread down the trunk of the host or dangle in the air until they reach the ground. At that point, the strangler becomes even more aggressive. It competes quite strongly for water and nutrients and literally squeezes and overwhelmed the host. I hope a seed never lands on my head.

    • The other water feature got me, as well, Cheryl. 😀 I’m falling in love with orchids and bromeliads. In addition to the orchid house, the garden club also wired orchids to the trunks of trees. Nice. I also think I’ll stay very far away from the strangler fig.

  1. Hi, Kevin! Loved this post, but was especially intrigued by the beauty of the desert rose and the powder puff tree! Absolutely gorgeous!!!. Glad you found this little oasis in the Keys!

    • Hi Aunt Pat. The desert rose is growing on me — not literally. It’s an interesting plant with a thick, woody trunk — but the flowers are showstoppers. 🙂

  2. Great pictures and sounds like you enjoyed your trip down there. I remember seeing a show where they talked about the struggles with hurricane damage…. Wow, puts my Japanese beetle damage in perspective!

  3. Some very beautiful plants! I love the powder puff tree and that interesting fig! The “spiky ground cover” looks like a popular succulent that does very well in our climate. I have so much of it that after a while I am forced to discard it. What an interesting place for a garden club–a renovated Civil War-era fort! A great space!

    • Hi Debra. The volunteers have done an amazing job in keeping up the grounds — and how fortunate for them to have so much ground to play in! It had me wondering about other garden clubs around the country — if there was a way for them to take a dilapidated property and turn it into their space. Imagine an old warehouse or department store turned into a walled garden!

  4. So you mean to tell me the gardens I saw in my KW trip several months ago was just the tip of the iceberg? Gosh… I really need to go back just for garden exploration!! :/

    Thanks for the great recap.

    • Hi Victor. Key West may be a small island, but it’s big in spirit — and gardens. By all means, visit the Key West Garden Club! Thanks for stopping by.

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