Sunday, December 21, 2014

When Lightning Strikes

One of our members, Tess Hart Ross, Dogwood Circle, has a unique experience to share with us.

July 4th came early at our house this year. On June 3rd during a driving rainstorm lightning struck an 85' laurel oak tree about 20' from our house. We were not home at the time but various neighbors have described the event in vivid detail. Most included finding religion from the vantage point of under their kitchen table.

We came home to find the A/C, the computer, our phone recorder and four remotes, and one TV totally fried. And because of the proximity of the underground telephone and TV cables to the roots of the tree, all their connections to the house were toast as well.

Living in Mandarin under a canopy of live oaks, laurel oaks, water oaks, black cherry trees, longleaf pine, and hickories such occurrences don't come as a surprise. We don't even bother to call our insurance agent anymore as he disowned us years ago after the first strike.

We set about making contact with all the service folks needed to get back up and running, with a special trip to purchase heavy duty surge protectors for all the new electronics. We've got it down to a fine science.

They say lightning does not strike the same place twice. NOT TRUE! Three weeks later in the middle of another downpour, the wounded oak took another hit. The same underground cables were fried but nothing else in the house was damaged. In three days every leaf on the tree was brown. It was a goner.

We lived with its standing corpse for a couple months hoping for signs of life and attracting all kinds of drive-by tree removal companies, full of advice. We were too fond of our giant and were just not ready to see it go. It was safely in a far corner of the yard so falling limbs were not an immediate threat to pedestrians but we needed a unique solution to the tree's demise.  (Click below to read more)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Magnolia's Kick-Off

Stacia Snuggs and Ramona McCormack, Magnolia’s Circle Leaders, welcomed everyone back from their summer and started the year off with a wonderful program on Herbal Skin Care.

Becky Bathen, Master Gardener and Soap Maker, shared her extensive knowledge of soap-making and the benefits of herbal skin care to a crowd of around 50.

Everyone was so thrilled to be back from the summer break and over a lovely brunch had time to catch up.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mandarin Garden Club Plant Exchange

On Saturday, September 6th, the Mandarin Garden Club held a plant exchange.  Members of the club brought plants, gardening accessories, garden art, books, and magazines.  With a crowd of 50 or more ladies and gents, the exchange was quite lively!  Might I even say rowdy???

Watching the members jockey for position, and laying hands on their first choice was quite entertaining.    Some were discreet, and some were bold in marking their territory.

The plant exchange takes me back to a time when guests to our homes always left with a “cutting” in hand for their garden.  Watching our  Exchange plants grow or making use of the garden accessories will be a constant reminder of the friends we have made at the Mandarin Garden Club.

Many thanks to Becky Bathen and Mary Forester for their organization of this fun event and the memories we made.

This post was written by Karen Rowe, a member of the Mandarin Garden Club's Dogwood Circle.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Master Gardener Tip: Planting Fall Annuals

All of the “Big Box” stores now have gorgeous displays of fall annuals – Don’t fall for it (pun intended). It’s way too hot to plant Marigolds, Chrysanthemums, etc. These past few summers have had extended hot weather, so the “traditional” planting times in September are better put off until October. Of course, we do have the occasional early frost in November, but it’s usually not so severe that the October transplants won’t survive even though they may get a little burnt around the edges. When you do start to plant, pay particular attention to the new varieties of chrysanthemums – all colors and shapes, big ones and small – you may not even recognize them for the plants they are, but they will perform spectacularly!

This post is written by Martha Dysart for the Mandarin Garden Club member's September newsletter.

Friday, September 5, 2014


This poem and photos are written and provided by Tess Hart-Ross of the Dogwood Circle.  Enjoy!

And now as I grow old and gray I shall gather 'round me--CATS, for keeping a smile on my weathered face and mirth in my tired heart...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Secret Garden

Diane Frisco's Secret Garden

On the hottest day in July, I went to visit Diane Frisco's Secret Garden. Diane is a member of the Dogwood Circle, and has created a beautiful garden in honor of her dog Abby. She told me this story.

After losing their beloved black lab, Daisy, the Frisco family went looking to rescue another black lab. Their granddaughter, Rachel, was with them the day they visited the shelter, and fell in love with a white American Bull dog. So Abby came home with the family instead of a black lab. Abby had been abused and was found roaming the streets so the family knew it would take a lot of work to gain Abby's trust.

It took about a year of Diane talking to Abby for that trust to be gained. Abby is now a quite, gentle dog that welcomes visitors to the Frisco home. Since Joe and Diane are "gardening people", they decided to create a place in their backyard for Diane to sit with Abby and to talk to her.  Diane told me she tells Abby all of her secrets, and that's the story of how the "Secret Garden" came about. Oh, Yes, Diane says, "Abby understands me when I tell her my secrets".

There is a fence around the garden and a mailbox at the entrance. Inside the garden you will see an old fashioned water pump, a table with a tea set and two chairs, a water garden in a tub, birdhouses, and mirrors. Diane's favorite item in the garden is an old chandelier that was found at a yard sale. Her husband turned it into a solar chandelier and it now hangs in a tree in the garden. You will see a yellow bird cage with a miniature rose bush growing through it, gingers, caladiums, rudbeckias, yellow lilies, and a red drift shrub rose hibiscus. Diane is a succulent lover and planted desert plants in a framed window on the side of the shed next to the garden.

It is a lovely place for a lady and her precious dog, Abby,  to relax and share secrets together early in the morning or late afternoon.

This post was written by Mandarin Garden Club member, Betty Waldrep.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Milkweed Seed Pods

On Monday, our own Butterfly Garden mistress, Mary Howe, shared this lovely picture of beautiful giant milkweed seed pods in the Butterfly Garden.  The butterflies were out in full force proving all the hard work that goes into our Butterfly Garden pays off.  Our Butterfly Garden is a wonderful place to pause and reflect.  Let us know what you think.

Milkweed Pod Seeds in the Butterfly Garden

Native Garden

Native Gardens at the Mandarin Garden Club

Our Native Garden is really taking on a new look.  Martha Dysart took over responsibility for this area and has made many new additions to the garden.  Nothing is more peaceful than a stroll through the garden in the early morning.  One of our members, Betty Waldrep, did just that and took some pictures to share with all of us.

Enjoy our Native Garden!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Yard of the Month Mandarin Garden Club

Yard of the Month
Mandarin Garden Club
Driving down Mandarin Road in the late afternoon, you will come upon a beautiful neighborhood called Mandarin Place. Betty Waldrep, Publicity Chair, and members Marilyn Clark, Diane Frisco,and Eileen Hauge were headed to the home of Barbara Poust in this neighborhood to award her the Mandarin Garden Club's Yard of the Month.

As you arrive at Barbara's, you  will see the lovely front yard she has created. Barbara and her family ( she greeted us holding her beautiful grandson) moved to the property 28 years ago. She told me everything was bare when she arrived except what the builder had installed. Having lived in California and Georgia before moving to Jacksonville, she had to figure out North Florida gardening. And believe me she has!

Barbara works from home and enjoys her gardens all day long. Her neighbor, Diane Frisco, nominated her for the Yard of the Month, and tells me Barbara works in her yard every day after work. Barbara said she had always enjoyed gardening no matter where she lived. She has created a "little heaven on earth" for her family, friends and neighbors to enjoy.

We started our tour on the left side of her house where she has a beautiful rain chain hanging from a gutter. As we walked around the house, we saw huge Snake Plants, Bird of Paradise, Blue Saliva, Purple Passion Vines, Sunflowers, bird houses and feeders, Roses and other plants and flowers I forgot to write down. I was so thrilled with what I was seeing! Heavens, as we walked into the back yard, my fascination continued! Barbara has created a beautiful water garden with huge goldfish swimming around. There was an angel fountain pouring water into the water garden. Pots of Coleus, Caladiums, and other plants surround the pond and fountain. It was a very peaceful place to sit and enjoy the quite and beauty of the summer evening approaching.

When you turn around and look into the backyard, Barbara has a huge butterfly garden. She has planted loads of Milkweed, Lantana, Daises, Herbs, and every kind of plants that attract butterflies. She has installed several lovely butterfly houses. I was just amazed at all of the Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, Sulfurs, Swallow Tails, and Skippers flying around. It was a beautiful sight in the late afternoon. Her yard has large trees and tall ferns surrounding the trees. The birds were singing and butterflies were flitting around. It was indeed a pretty sight! We continued around the right side of the house where there are large light green Caladiums planted and the approaching evening light caught their beauty. Then we proceeded to the front yard and installed the Yard of the Month Sign. What a lovely visit we had to Barbara's yard and gardens! We all agreed it was worth a trip down Mandarin Road.

To nominate a neighbor's yard for The Mandarin Garden Club's Yard of the Month Program you can contact us at or call 904-268-1192.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dogwood Circle - Garden Visit with Mary Anne Williams

On a beautiful June afternoon, I visited with Mary Anne and Charlie Williams in their lovely home. It was such a pleasure to sit with this couple at their kitchen table, which looks out on their gardens, and listen to them tell me about finding the perfect place to build their home sixteen years ago and how they started designing their gardens. They knew they wanted a wooded lot with lots of trees, grass, plants and flowers. And believe me they found the perfect place to make their dreams come true!
You enter their property by driving down a long driveway, and along the driveway, you will see the large trees and beautiful flowers Mary Anne has planted. Recently they installed street lights along the driveway for night driving. Sometimes this summer I'm going back for a night drive down the driveway. Ha! As you arrive at the front of the house, you will find a large fountain enclosed in a circle using bricks, and inside the circle around the fountain, Mary Anne has planted blue Plumbago. The beds at the front door are filled with Saliva Gregg ii and Blue Daze. What a magnificent welcoming sight!
On the back of the house is a screened porch, that leads to the English Knot Garden. A Knot Garden is a formal design in a square frame using hedges, plants, annuals, rose bushes, herbs and focal points in each area. Squares and circles seem to be the most popular designs that are now used in a Knot Garden. Walkways of gravel, flagstone, bricks or other materials are weaved among the knots. The Williams put down 85 pallets of grass on their property and then began work developing the gardens. Sixteen years later their home and gardens are spectacular! 
As you enter the knot garden you will see mint, parsley, oregano, two kinds of chives, and basil. Along the west side of the garden is a row of rosemary bushes and spirea bushes. On the opposite side of the garden are three fully grown Holly Stevens Trees, which were planted to give privacy to the garden and to separate it from the rest of the property. Mary Anne has included
Mexican Sage, bush daisies, hibiscus, Florabunda roses, and Firecracker plants in the back half of the garden. In the center of the knot garden is an old fountain surrounded by dwarf Marigolds and multicolored Pinatas. Agapanthas (Lilies of the Nile) surround two sides of the garden and were just beautiful when I was there. The back side of the garden has Knockout Roses and "7 Sister Roses" which flank two stone benches. The walkways wind through the different knots of the garden allowing you to just walk around enjoying all the loveliness. Charlie and Mary Anne have created a haven for humans and birds (and squirrels).
The day I was there I was just amazed at the beautiful birds. As we sat at the kitchen table talking, the birds and butterflies were all a flutter feeding on the flowers and at the bird feeders. Mary Anne did tell me how much the squirrels enjoy her garden, too, much to her distress. She has shared some of her bird pictures with me and I will be featuring them on Facebook.
The garden is rather sad in the Winter according to Mary Anne, but I just can't see that. She plants petunias in the winter, where the pinatas are in the summer, for color. She does try to use perennial plants to keep the cost of replanting in line. But each year she uses some annuals. This property has to be beautiful in all seasons!
You can tell Mary Anne and Charlie love their home, and have worked hard to make it a special place for their family and the wildlife that live there. Mary Ann told me that," she works hard to keep her little piece of earth something the Good Lord would like looking down upon". I would say she and Charlie have accomplished this big time! Thanks for the visit.
Mary Anne is a member of the Dogwood Circle at Mandarin Garden Club and Charlie is a retired dentist who enjoys woodworking.
Article written by Mandarin Garden Club member, Betty Waldrep

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterflies (Diane Frisco - Dogwood Circle)
Diane Frisco, from Dogwood Circle, is raising Monarch Butterflies.  She had a question about some of the crystallis turning black.  Mary Howe, also from Dogwood Circle, shared a link about the signs and causes of "Black Death".  This is a link that should be helpful to all Gardeners:

Thanks to Diane and Mary for sharing with us. We are all waiting and watching for the butterflies to return! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bonsai Presentation by David Easterbrook - Thursday 6/19/14

David Easterbrook
Image Source:
The North Florida Bonsai Club has been conducting their club meetings at the Mandarin Garden Club on the second Monday each month for several years.  Thursday, June 19, 2014 from 7:00-10:00pm they will present a special program featuring David Easterbrook at the Mandarin Garden Club.  You will see a demonstration during this session from a master and his bio is below.  This program is open to the public and all are welcome to attend.  This style of gardening is quite an art.

David has been studying and creating bonsai for over 40 years.  He began studying bonsai with Jerry Stowell and then apprenticed for one year in Japan at Kidoen with Isao Shinkai.  Afterwards, he started his own bonsai nursery, which he still runs today.  In 1982, he became Curator of the Montreal Botanical Garden’s bonsai collection and recently retired in 2011.  He has always pursued an active teaching career in a variety of locations including the Montréal Botanical Garden’s School of Horticulture, in the eastern U.S. and abroad.  Further, he has served as judge of several national and international bonsai competitions.

He is a founder and past president of the Montreal Bonsai and Penjing Society.  It is now one of the largest and most active bonsai societies in North America having over 400 active members.  As well as monthly meetings, it offers four levels of bonsai classes, three study groups and several workshops.  In 1988, David chaired the ABS Annual Convention in Montreal.  Also, he served on the ABS Board from 2005 to 2008.

David has quite an eclectic collection of more than 900 bonsai.  His trees have been widely exhibited in both Canada and the U.S., including U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions, and they have appeared on the covers of International Bonsai Magazine.  During his long career he has trained and cultivated almost every species grown as bonsai.  As a young man, he favored fruiting and flowering trees.  Subsequently he specialized in group and forest plantings and today is well known for his collection of conifers: junipers, pines and especially wild collected larch trees.

David now dedicates much of his time to refining bonsai (with the help of over a dozen of his assistants) and studying the art of bonsai presentation.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Aloe Vera Plants - Donation Request

Aloe Vera Plant
Image Source:
The Men’s Garden Club wants to provide Aloe Vera plants as a topical treatment to cancer patients to help relieve the effects from radiation burns. They are working with the Jacksonville Zoo who will provide a protected growing space.

If you have any plants that you would like to donate, please drop-off the plants to the Mandarin Garden Club nursery on the table in front of the mailbox at 2892 Loretto Road, Jacksonville, FL 32223.

Master Gardeners and Men’s Garden Club members, Dom Colanero, Marty Gottlieb, or Russ Snyder are willing to pick up the donated plants on their Master Gardener workdays.

For more information, please contact Mandarin Garden Club at (904) 268-1192 or

Bumblebee Circle: Appreciation Plaque from the Mandarin Community Club

Bumblebee Circle - Appreciation Plaque
The Bumblebee Circle was awarded a plaque of appreciation for their wonderful efforts in helping our sister organization, Mandarin Community Club, at the Billard Park.  These young volunteers helped with Billard Park's ground and butterfly garden in order to get it ready the 46th annual Mandarin Art Festival (held Easter weekend 2014) as well as prepare the grounds for the new unveiling of the Billard Commemorative Park sign.  Thank you for all of your hard work; recognition was well-deserved!

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Make & Take" Compost Tumbler Workshop

The Duval County Extension is having a workshop for a "Make & Take" Compost Tumbler.  Pre-registration and pre-payment ($65) are required for this workshop.  Please contact Becky Davidson at (904) 255-7450 to pre-register.  Send your check payment made payable to DCOHAC and mail to:

Compost Tumbler
1010 North McDuff Avenue
Jacksonville, FL 32254

Registration deadline is Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Event: Make and Take Compost Tumbler Workshop
Date: Monday, May 19, 2014
Time:  10 a.m. – Noon
Cost: $65.00

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Martha's Bloom Report

There are more things to write about, this week, than I have space for!  On the drain field the Ornamental Peanut ground cover (Arachis glabrata) is in bloom.  We have two patches - one for sun and one for (not shade but) less sun).  The one for sun is on the southern slope of the drain field and has a compound leaf about 1/2-inch wide.  The other (not presently blooming) in the center of the field and has the same compound leaf, but the width is about 1/8-inch wide.  Same plant, different varieties for different uses.  This is a very useful groundcover - to read more about it, go to

On the west side of the drain field, the Oak Leaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are looking good.  We just planted, back toward the fence, and got (I think) too much water - roots drowned.  Yes, hydrangeas like water, but do not like to stand in water, also Oakleaf Hydrangeas don't like as much water as "mopheads" (H. macrophylla).

In the Crosby Perennial Garden, the newly planted drift roses (Rosa hybrida 'Drift') bear watching as they bloom prolifically, and are becoming highly popular in our landscapes.  Also, in the Perennial Garden, you won't be able to to ignore the False Indigo (Baptista x 'Carolina Moonlight').  This spectacular hybrid does not set seed, but spreads underground into a big patch.  After this patch stretches out its long, yellow spires, it begins to go dormant, and will completely disappear by mid-summer, only to pop up again next spring - Such a satisfactory plant for a sunny spot.  Another new addition(s) is/are the blue and white plumbagos (Plumbago auriculata) - I think these are differing varieties, not species. These plants will dependably flower and spread throughout 3 seasons, only to die back in winter.

If you look very closely as you walk around the grounds, you will see wildflowers blooming underfoot.  Flowering right now are the white and blue Blue-eyed Grasses (Sisyrinchium angustifolium - don't know whether the white is "sunbleached", or a separate species).  As well, you will see Yellow Star Grass (Hypoxis hirsuta), Frog Fruit (Phyla nodiflora), and innocence (Houstonia procumbens).  All of these are almost microscopic, so you will need to really "inspect" the ground, but you will find these tiny treasures to be captivating.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Facebook 101

Did you know the Mandarin Garden Club is on Facebook?  If you're not signed up or not familiar with navigating with Facebook, this post is a quick introduction to it.  In the last few years, social media has been the new and increasing trend.  Everyone is on social media--people, businesses, non-profits, and more.  It's a great way to connect and keep up-to-date with the latest news from your family to the Mandarin Garden Club.

Sign-up is easy; you'll need your e-mail address and basic information to get started.  Your e-mail address and user-defined password will be your log-in information.  After logging in locate the Mandarin Garden Club by searching for us in the search field at the top of the Facebook webpage.  Remember to "like" the Mandarin Garden Club and you'll be automatically following us.  Every time there is a new post on our timeline, you'll be notified on your Facebook feed.  Check out this online article from Mashable for a beginner's guide to Facebook, or click on the YouTube video guide below.

The Mandarin Garden Club shares garden photos from our club members as well as upcoming events at the club or within the community.  So take a moment and check out our Facebook page.


YouTube - Facebook Tutorial