Arbor Day comes early to Tuscawilla Park

While traditionally observed in April, Florida celebrates Arbor Day in January.

More precisely, the third Friday in January. The unofficial holiday sees thousands of trees planted across the country. This year, at Tuscawilla Park, the Pioneer Garden Club of Ocala will hold its tree-planting ceremony on Jan. 15.

“Planting Florida native trees is a great way to personally celebrate Arbor Day,” said Judy Greenberg, the club’s first vice president.

The event will include the planting of sweetbay magnolias. The garden club and the Marion Big Scrub Native Plant Society chose the tree to replace dying crepe myrtles located alongside the pond at Tuscawilla Park. The garden club used a grant from the National Garden Club (NGC) to help fund the project.

The tree-planting ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m.

“The project brings together the Marion Big Scrub Native Plant Society, Marion Audubon Society, Marion Daylily Society and the City of Ocala for a restoration project to beautify Historic Tuscawilla Park,” said Greenberg.

The collaboration was central to their selection for the grant.

“This project implements the environmental practice of restoring native plants in a publicly accessible urban landscape to create a bird/pollinator habitat,” she said.

The sweetbay magnolia is noted for its showy white flowers, which typically appear from June through September. Once mature, the tree will provide shade for those who enjoy walking along the pond, Greenberg said.

The event also will feature the launching of the Pioneer Garden Club’s 2021 “Penny Pines” program. The fundraiser benefiting the U.S. Forest Service raises money for replanting forested areas damaged by hurricanes.

Tricia Evans, president of the Pioneer Garden Club, said she chose the theme of “Bloom Ocala, Bloom Marion County” for her two-year presidency because she loves seeing blooming plants.

“No matter what is going on in the world, you can look at blooming plants, and they make you happy and feel good,” Evans said. “Enjoying blooming plants is good for the spirit, and I think we could all use a little more of that, especially right now with all that is going on in our world.”

She noted that the Pioneer Garden Club has participated in Ocala’s “Adopt a Park” program at Tuscawilla Art Park since 2015. Members helped beautify the park. Previously, they planted daylilies, native and non-native plants with help from the Marion Big Scrub Native Plant Society and the Marion Daylily Society.

In November, members planted poinsettias in the Pioneer Garden at Tuscawilla.

Although it has been a challenge for the Pioneer Garden Club’s four garden “circles” to hold their monthly meetings in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Evans said they have adapted.

The Pioneer Garden Club of Ocala was federated in 1927 and is a member of National Garden Clubs Inc. as well as the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. For information, visit pioneergardenclub.org

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