On February 5th the monthly Propagation Guild meeting took place at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park along the A1A in Palm Coast. The State Park measures 21 acres and stretches from the Matanzas River to the coast. Washington Oaks is also famous for the unique shoreline of coquina rock formations that line its Atlantic beach.
Our visit included several presentations and guided tours in the park. First stop was at the plant sale pavilion where Elayne Byrd, a volunteer at the park and a member of our Garden Club, gave an excellent overview of the history of the park.
It started with European settlers developing the area for the production of agricultural crops.
In 1936, the industrialist Owen D. Young purchased the property as a gift for his bride Louise Powis Clark. Mrs. Young developed the estate into a winter retirement resort. She devised the name “Washington Oaks” for the property and is responsible for developing the park’s formal gardens, citrus groves, and house. Mr. Young died in 1962 and Mrs. Young donated the property to the State of Florida in 1964. Her donation specified that the “gardens be maintained in their present form”.
On our way to the next presentation we saw a group of volunteers in action. They were pruning the Crepe Myrtles. They gave us a spontaneous demonstration of the proper method to prune this species. “Pruning instead of Crepe Murder”. Twigs are cut off at the point where they have the thickness of a pencil. The tips and any side branches smaller than that are removed. This gives the tree a more natural look than the amputated trunks one sees around Florida.
Next we stopped at the Rose Garden where Park Ranger Joe Woodbury talked about the history of the Rose Garden. He explained the difference between various types of roses as well as their care, water, fertilizer, deadheading and pruning.
Every year starting on Valentines Day all roses undergo a hard pruning and all leaves are removed. Then the rose bushes rest for about a month and by May they start displaying their splendor again. We saw the roses at the end of their annual cycle and they still looked amazing. Never seen any better roses anywhere in Florida.
Then we went on a walking tour around the gardens, which contain multiple ponds with crystal clear water fed by springs. There are many interesting plants, such as large groups of Ginger plants.
The field of Mondo grass looked very attractive; no mowing required.
The gardens contain many ancient Live Oaks. In addition to ferns growing on their limbs, one even has a Prickly Pear Cactus growing on a branch.
From one of the branches a huge Stag-horn Fern cluster is suspended by heavy chains.
Then we moved to our next stop, the greenhouse. The green house has recently been renovated and the old glass panes have been replaced by safer plexiglass. The green house is used for the propagation of a large variety of plants.
The propagated plants are sold at the Park’s monthly plant sale held every second Saturday of the month between 10am and 2pm.
Our final stop was at the picnic area where we consumed our lunch and had our business meeting.
This has been an excellent excursion with a very interesting program.
Kudos to Jane Villa-Lobos, our inspiring leader and Director of the Propagation Guild. Thank you so much!!!
Article by Marínus G.
Photos by Marínus G.