ODESSA — The 63-year-old Fern Garden Club is older than most of its members, so no one is certain when the organization first held a plant sale.
“None of us were here,” quipped Becky Perry, among a half-dozen members who gathered recently to prepare 1,200 to 1,400 plants for the sale that long has been an annual event at Keystone Park. The variety of potted plants will include everything from orchids and ferns to flowering shrubs, herbs, succulents, begonias and even trees.
“They’re great sizes to work with; they’re easily workable for anybody, an expert gardener or a novice gardener,” said Barbara Morgan, an 18-year member and former president of the club. Because the club’s plants were propagated and grown in Florida, they’ll thrive in this environment, Morgan said.
She should know. Seven lushly landscaped acres surrounding her lakefront Odessa home attest to her green thumb. The property is where members gather several times a year to prep plants for sale.
Wednesday, members gathered again under Morgan’s “planting tree,” a perfect environment for gardening tasks, she said, as it is shaded and cooled by a morning breeze off Rainbow Lake.
In addition to potting, re-potting and other prep work, members attach photos to budding plants to show what they’ll look like when they bloom, said member Amanda Fountain of Oldsmar. Also provided, “care and feeding” instructions tailored to the plant.
The club’s major fundraiser, the plant sale benefits Southeastern Guide Dogs, Christian Social Services and several local veteran groups. Proceeds also fund two scholarships for University of South Florida botany majors.
Bargain prices may be part of the appeal of the sale. “I don’t like the word ‘dirt cheap,’ but $1 to maybe $8, $10” is the price range of plants, said club president Jo Leonard, of Land O’ Lakes. “Very reasonable.”
The popular sale is an annual excursion for Brooksville’s garden club. Members carpool to Odessa and extend their day with a trip to Tarpon Springs to dine, said Leonard.
But it isn’t necessary to leave the park for nourishment. Club members will be selling home-baked goods, a sellout last year.
The plant sale has long shared the day, and Keystone Park, with a family-friendly event offering a variety of activities, demonstrations, exhibits and refreshments. What began with the defunct Keystone/Odessa Historical Society’s exhibiting farm equipment, antique trucks and the like to provide a sense of the area’s rural character has morphed into the Keystone Family Fun Day, with more than 20 different organizations participating, said Barbara Aderhold, a member of the garden club and the Keystone Civic Association.
There will be displays of antique fire trucks, classic cars and a scale-model railroad. Activities include live music, other performances, sack races, hayrides, butter churning and pumpkin painting.
Food available for sale includes hotdogs, corn-on-the-cob, popcorn and snow cones.
Plant sale and Fun Day activities run simultaneously, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 19 at Keystone Park, 17928 Gunn Highway (between Van Dyke and Lutz Lake Fern roads).
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