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Yes! I want to support the West Martello Garden.

Thank you for your support to help us in our mission of education, conservation, and enthusiasm for gardens and history.

Key West Garden Club is a 501(c)(3) Organization.
Please be assured that we do not share your personal data. If you are making an offline donation, please download and complete the donation form and send it with your check to the address on the form. Thank you.

1100 Atlantic Blvd, Key West, FL 33040
1100 Atlantic Blvd
Key West, FL 33040

Here are some other ways you can help the West Martello Garden:

History of the Key West Garden Club

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Beginning of the Key West Garden Club

1934

The Garden Club was created in 1934 as a part of a WPA project to convert Key West into a tourist town.

1935

In 1935, the first flower show, led by Jessie Porter Newton, occurred during the “Week of Joy” and was held at the Elk’s Club, now the Hard Rock Cafe. According to a newspaper report, the show was judged by Hemingway and Dos Passos (although they were both out of town at the time) and guests were served “Southern swill punch heavily laced with rum.” Flower shows continued to be held on a regular basis until the Club temporarily shut down during World War II.

1950

 

In the early 1950s, Rep. Joe Allen saw city workers tearing down West Martello. It was considered an eyesore on the beach. Allen rescued it, saying it was a historical site and should be preserved. He suggested that it be leased by Monroe County to the Historical Society and then to the Key West Garden Club.

1952

A flower show held in 1952 attracted the attention of National Geographic Magazine which printed lavish pictures of Key West’s tropical splendor, including many local beauties. In 1958, Gene Otto (of Robert the Doll fame) used Dade County Pine timbers from the fire-damaged Hotel Jefferson to construct the Pavilion and the Birdcage rooms.

1953

The Garden Club voted to take possession on May 7th, 1953. Allen helped with putting in 18 inches of mineral-rich seaweed followed by street sweepings to create dirt. Members donated plants from their gardens. They established a tradition of responsibility for sections of the garden.

1960

In 1960, Life Magazine took note of the Club’s flower show and published multiple pictures.

1962

In 1962 missiles sprouted from Smathers Beach because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Searchlights and communication equipment blossomed but did not affect the Martello.

1976

 

The West Martello Tower Garden Center was declared a National Historic Monument by the State of Florida in 1976.

1984

In 1984, the name was changed to the Joe Allen Garden Center to honor Joe Allen.

2000 – present

2001

 

In 2001 an orchid arbor was established in the old citadel, utilizing antique Cuban tiles. Restroom facilities were added. The Garden Club adopted the Berg and Kitso Nature Preserve. Hurricanes Georges (1998) and Wilma (2005) heavily damaged the fort and plants. The Garden lost seventy percent of its plantings and was redesigned and replanted. Also after Wilma, restoration work included tuck-pointing the bricks, re-roofing and adding wrought iron fences.

2006

 

In 2006 the family of Fran and Bill Ford established the Ann-Francis and William R. Ford Endowment for Key West Garden Club Fund.

2008

A weekly botanical column in the Key West Citizen began in 2008.

2011

 

The Club received a grant in 2011-2012 from the Florida Department of Forestry to promote native trees. As a companion to Plants of Paradise, a four-color book was produced: Roots, Rocks and Rain: Native Trees of the Florida Keys, which won a Florida Federation of Garden Club’s National Publishing Award.

A native tree garden was planted by the back gate to improve “curb appeal.” Many native trees were planted inside the garden, as well as in the community. The Nursery benefited with improved plant benches and propagation tools.

2012

The Garden Club became a Certified Wildlife Habitat in 2012.

2014

 

The Garden Club became a Certified Butterfly Habitat in 2014. The gazebo on the hill was repaired and re-painted in 2014. The Propagation Committee produced Plumeria, a book about frangipani trees.

2015

In 2015, the educational Pavilion Room was completely renovated, with upgrades to the electrical system, air conditioning and decor. Magnetic painted walls are used to display photographs pertinent to current lectures.

The Propagation Committee produced another book, Seasons Project, which describes the biologic progression of a series of plants throughout the year.

“Pat’s Garden,” featuring native plants, was established in 2015 outside of West Martello on Atlantic Boulevard in honor of the late horticulturalist, Garden Club member and a former Garden Club President, Pat Rogers.

2016

 

In 2016, the Garden Club installed Flexi-paving on the pathways going up the hill, making that area accessible for disabled visitors and much safer for all guests to walk to the top of the gardens, admire the beautiful sea view and enjoy the native plants.

2017

 

In early 2017, all of the existing wrought iron gates throughout the Fort were refurbished, and new gates made to the same design were manufactured and installed within the Fort itself.

In September 2017, Key West was hit by IRMA, a Category 4 hurricane, devastating parts of the gardens. The giant, iconic strangler fig fell over, tearing up the little brick tunnel and brick walls on either side, plus some bricks in the courtyard. Many other trees fell, eliminating much of the tropical tree canopy, but which provided a beautiful sunny view of the Fort ruins. Much of the garden was consequently redesigned as a sunny flowering garden.

2018

A white perfume garden was created in the Inner Courtyard, and a large fountain and pool were installed opposite the double iron gate, bracketed by two stands of giant black bamboo and brilliant red-trunked lipstick palms. Opposite the green gazebo a “Dinosaur Garden” was created, planted with plants which were around in pre-historic times: Cycads, Dioons and Zamias. Replacing the fallen giant Pandanus and opposite the white gazebo on the side of the hill, is now a collection of rare Cuban palms.

The last post-Irma project was to rebuild the damaged orchid arbor with marine-quality wood and to expand our orchid collection throughout the gardens.

2019

During 2018 and 2019 the newly planted gardens became more established, with the addition of a swathe of native wildflowers overlooking the ocean on top of the hill, and a colorful new design for the Colonel’s Garden on the way to Reception.

A major project to restore the crumbling bricks throughout the Fort began in the fall of 2019, with an expected finish date of spring 2020.

Present