Neighborhood volunteers complete a native plant project

By NewsLine Staff

On April 1, 2022, the plan came to fruition when native plants were installed in the Ricky Road neighborhood park of Garden Homes of Lake Mandarin. The city of Jacksonville planted oak trees in the neighborhood with a matching grant program decades ago. Then, in March 2021, the neighborhood received nearly 50 native trees through the Jacksonville Mitigation Program.

“I’ve always loved the outdoors and have been a native plant enthusiast since the 1970s,” said resident Anjie Palmer. “At first my interest and passion for plants was focused on my own garden, then I volunteered with a non-profit organization that set up a native garden for the town of Orange Park. We didn’t design it well and it was removed, but I 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 views, and she wondered if the HOA would be interested in planting native shrubs and grasses in 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 do post-planting needs — mostly watering,” Palmer said. “Lindstrom was responsive and asked for more details. He anticipated questions the board might have and encouraged me to carefully research and provide details I never would have thought of.
When he had his questions answered and thought it might work, he asked for a design and plant list. So Palmer recruited her friend, Laurie Gilmore, master gardener and plant enthusiast, to design an area of ​​about 1,000 square feet. Gilmore’s design was fantastic and practical, incorporating the plants best suited to the conditions in the area.

Palmer said Lindstrom then presented the plan to the board and the design was approved with a budget of $1,000. Tenders have been sent out. Clean Cuts, the HOA’s landscaping and maintenance company, offered to provide the labor for free. This allowed the group to add a 30 gallon pine tree, additional highbush blueberries and fakahatchee grass.
Lindstrom waited for the next board meeting and presented the new information which was also approved. Plant orders and deliveries have been planned in coordination with volunteers and installation has been set for April 1, 2022.
Williams Plant Nursery offers a wide selection of healthy native plants that they have 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, along with the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, jumped right into the planting and also helped with some last minute design ideas for any additional plants they were able to purchase.
Once Brent Hobbs and his Clean Cuts team arrived, the installation accelerated. Installation only took about three hours. The Gleba family have been recruited and are helping with the watering.
On April 29, Clean Cuts applied the mulch and the project was complete.
Palmer said neighbors are now looking forward to a few more birds singing, a few more flowers blooming and a bit more shade.
“We hope our native planting project might encourage others to offer to incorporate native plants into their HOA’s common areas,” Palmer said. “It might be easier than you think when you have a well thought out plan and people working together for the good of the community!”

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

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