Nearly a dozen people signed up for garden plots; many hands dug in to plant the first flowering bushes in the butterfly garden; and speakers representing nine collaborative organizations said, “Thank you!” during ground-breaking festivities for Tampa Heights Community Garden.
“I am so thrilled that (the garden) has finally sprouted!” Tampa councilwoman Lisa Montelione told a crowd of about 50 adults and children Saturday. “If it weren’t for (organizers’) persistence and patience to deal with the bureaucratic process that is the Tampa City Council, we would not be here today. … It’s like planting a garden: You sow the seeds and you wait and you wait and you wait. Finally, something’s sprouting.”
Virginia Green, president of Tampa Garden Club, which worked with Tampa Heights on the project for more than a year, said it’s been an eventful experience.
“When you join a garden club, you expect to learn something about planting, maybe flower arranging,” she told the audience. “You don’t anticipate you’re going to have to go down and tackle the city council.”
After the speeches, speakers and residents grabbed gold-painted shovels and dug into the first phase of the butterfly garden. Kitty Wallace, the club’s point person for the project, brought canna lilies, coral honeysuckle, cassia and an array of other butterfly attractors donated by club members. She even took advantage of a teachable moment, pointing out a root-bound plant to young members of the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, and explaining how to loosen the roots before settling it into the earth.
During a butterfly workshop hosted by Lois McClain of Town ‘N Country Garden Circle, part of the Tampa Garden Club’s association of clubs, resident Alton Thomas, 45, made a paper butterfly and planted a milkweed – a favorite of monarch butterflies.
“I’ve been very much looking forward to this,” Thomas said of the garden. “I think it will bring more families into the community. I like to hear kids outside playing. That’s how I grew up.”
Meanwhile, resident Arielle Milligan and her 4-year-old daughter, Arie, were signing up for their own plot.
“We’re not gardeners,” said Milligan, whose husband, Hamik, attended many of the planning meetings for the garden. “I’m doing it to be involved in the community and to get Arie involved in the community.”
The garden is located on 16,800 square feet of land at 605 E. Frances Ave. Part of the Tampa Heights Greenway, the property along Interstate 275 is being leased from the city. Community organizers envision it as a place where neighbors and generations can come together to work, socialize and grow organic vegetables. It’s part of a broader effort to revitalize and rebuild the sense of community in Tampa’s first suburb.
To sign up for a garden plot, call (813) 225-1341 or email garden@THJCA.org.