Viva Florida grant funds enhanced wetland garden
In May, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Native Landscapes and Garden Center was awarded the Viva Florida Landscape Demonstration grant funded by the Florida Wildflower Foundation, and the funds were used to enhance an existing demonstration garden at the Bailey Homestead Preserve.
Stacey Matrazzo, program manager for the Florida Wildflower Foundation, said SCCF’s project was “only the second wetland garden ever proposed to the foundation.”
“We saw it as an opportunity to showcase the beauty of wetland wildflowers while demonstrating how they can be used in home landscapes,” she said. “We have great confidence in SCCF staff and volunteers to create and maintain a beautiful and beneficial project.”
The wetland garden area was originally implemented in 2015 as a dry, wildflower meadow demonstration garden. The following year, an irrigation system was installed in the retail space adjacent to the site. Over the course of the year, the irrigation runoff from the retail area began to settle in the lower-lying dry wildflower meadow, causing many of the plants to die off or become unhealthy.
The Viva Florida grant allowed the SCCF to address drainage issues and introduce native wetland plants that were more appropriate for the existing site conditions. The redesign and replanting vastly improved the aesthetics and utility of the garden and the space now teaches visitors about the many benefits of wetland or littoral plants.
Over the summer, the Hammerheads — a group of local volunteers — constructed an elevated walkway through the center of the garden that allows visitors better access to the plants without getting their feet wet. A drain was installed around the perimeter of the garden to divert standing water away from the main walkway.
Once the site preparation was finished, Garden Center staff planted about 30 different species of wetland plants. The new wetland pollinator garden showcases native wetland shrubs, wildflowers and groundcovers that locals can utilize in areas of their yard that hold water seasonally or year-round.