By NewsLine Staff

On April 1, 2022, the plan came together as native plants were installed in the Garden Homes of Lake Mandarin’s Ricky Road neighborhood park. The City of Jacksonville planted oak trees in the neighborhood with a matching grant program decades ago. Then, in March 2021, the neighborhood was the recipient of almost 50 native trees through Jacksonville’s mitigation program. 

“I have always enjoyed the outdoors and have been a native plant enthusiast since the 1970s,” said resident Anjie Palmer. “Early on my interest and passion for plants was dedicated to my own yard, then volunteering with a non profit that installed a native garden for the Town of Orange Park. We did not design it well and it was removed, but I sure learned a lot.”  

When the native trees were planted in March 2021, Palmer found that walking her dog was more enjoyable. The trees already provided some shade and improved the view and she wondered if the HOA would be interested in planting some native shrubs and grasses in the Ricky Road park.

So in July 2021, she reached out to HOA president, Don Lindstrom with this idea.

“The park borders my cul-de-sac, so I volunteered to attend to the after planting needs — mostly watering,” Palmer said. “Lindstrom was receptive and asked for more details. He was anticipating questions the board might ask and prompted me to carefully research and provide details that I would have never thought.”  
When he had his questions answered, and thought it may just work, he asked for a design and plant list so Palmer recruited her friend, Laurie Gilmore, master gardener and fellow plant enthusiast to design an area of  approximately 1,000 sq ft. Gilmore’s design was fantastic and practical, incorporating plants best suited to the conditions of the area. 

Palmer said that Lindstrom then presented the plan to the board of directors and the design was approved with a $1,000 budget. RFPs were sent out. Clean Cuts, the HOA’s landscape and maintenance company, proposed to provide the labor at no charge. This allowed the group to add a 30 gallon pine tree, additional highbush blueberries and fakahatchee grass.
Lindstrom waited until the next board meeting and presented the new information which was also approved. Plant orders and deliveries were scheduled in coordination with volunteers and installation was set for April 1, 2022.
Williams Plant Nursery has a wide selection of healthy native plants which they delivered. Chiappini Farms in Hawthorne has acres of hard to find natives. Gilmore picked up blueberries from Chiappini and the installation began.

Longtime resident Jimmy Badolata helped unload and immediately began digging and planting. Another neighbor, Bonnie Miller Ciaravino, brought refreshments. Walter Bryant, with the Ixia chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, jumped right in with planting and also helped with some last minute design ideas for the additional plants they were able to purchase.
Once Brent Hobbs and his Clean Cuts crew arrived, the installation accelerated. The installation only took about three hours. The Gleba family was recruited and are helping out with the watering.
On April 29, Clean Cuts applied the mulch and the project was completed.
Palmer said that neighbors are now looking forward to a few more birds singing, a few more flowers blooming and a little more shade.
“We hope that our native planting project might encourage others to propose incorporating native plants to their HOA’s common areas,” Palmer said. “It might just be easier than you think when you have a well thought out plan and folks working together for the betterment of the community!”

Photo courtesy Anjie Palmer
More native plants in the park after completion of the project.

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