Garden Club Turns 60!


Anniversary Tea November 1

A recent saying states that 60 is the new 40! If that is so, then the Estero Island Garden Club (EIGC) is still young and strong! With its 60th anniversary Tea Program Luncheon on Monday, November 4, the EIGC not only reflects back on its long and eventful history, but looks forward to decades’ more accomplishment and community contributions.

“Our current membership is roughly 60 people and that has been increasing for the last few years,” reported Cindy Richardson, Co-chair of the Tea Luncheon with Cheryl Walz. “Much of that is attributable to the hard work of our Co-Presidents, Carol Davis and Bonnie McClure. Our membership is open to everyone and if you want to see what the EIGC is all about before you commit, we welcome you to attend a meeting or two so you can experience it for yourself. We meet the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month at the Fort Myers Beach Woman’s Club, near mid-island, at 175 Sterling Avenue at 9 a.m. If you like what you see, an EIGC membership is just $30-per-year. Right now, we do not have any male members, although many husbands have helped us with previous projects, so it sure would be great to have a few men join our ranks!” For more information, see

To celebrate its six decades, the EIGC hosts its anniversary Tea Party & Luncheon on Monday, November 1, at the Coste Island Restaurant in the DiamondHead Resort at 11 a.m. “We will devote the first half-hour to a slide presentation to review the Garden Club’s history,” offered Cindy. “We then move into the dining room where the incredibly talented Laurie Nienhaus speaks on all things related to tea, as she does an entire program on the subject, so we are thrilled to have her! Laurie is even providing us with tea cups, tea pots untainted by any other tastes, and two tables of art devoted to tea parties, so this will not only be informative but fun! She will bring as well pure grade tea from China that will complement our lunch of assorted tea sandwiches along with macaroons, and you know there will be tasty desserts! We thank Coste for hosting us as they are not ordinarily open at this time. Unfortunately, we already turned in our reservations, so there are no longer any tickets left for the Tea Party Luncheon.”

EIGC History

From the EIGC history collection: Berne Davis and Elaine Keltner at a 1974 garden event. Photo submitted.

According to the EIGC official history, “In 1959, two Fort Myers Beach women shared one idea – to learn about gardening in Florida in order to beautify Estero Island, and before long, the Estero Island Garden Club was born!

“Since then, the EIGC took part in many island beautification projects and improvements, including entryway signs, the former stone archway, Lee County parks, the Fort Myers Beach Public Library, the entrance to Matanzas Pass Preserve and the Estero Island Historical Society cottages, as well as projects at its member homes and yards. Recently, the EIGC established and maintains the Ann Reasoner Memorial Garden at the Bay Oaks Recreational Center, projects at Matanzas Pass Preserve including a $5,000 contribution to improving the site, and creating the initial ‘Guardian Guides’ when trails were done. The EIGC actively participates in many phases of the Florida Federated Garden Club work, along with the Lee County Garden Council.

“The EIGC has a long history of working with the Beach Elementary School. Garden Club members work with students on Arbor Day activities, classroom projects, and community gardening, as well as establishing a Butterfly Garden on the school grounds and a raised vegetable garden that the kids plant and cultivate. Garden Club members provide scholarships for the students to attend Camp Wekiva, along with making donations to the Camp while volunteering as camp counselors during the summer.

“Members assisted the Town of Fort Myers Beach in producing the ‘Shades of Fort Myers Beach’ streetscape booklet by providing photography, editorial support, and by serving as consultants for this unique educational guide to our island environment. After a year of working on this project, the Arbor Day Foundation awarded it with the ‘Lady Bird Johnson’ Award in April 2009!” Streetscapes is available at Town Hall.

Invaluable Resource

“The EIGC is a significant contributor to many Fort Myers Beach projects,” Cindy added. “The Beach Elementary School Butterfly Garden is an excellent example, as the school uses it conjunction with the Kindergarten program from the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation, so the kids can take what they learn in the classroom and see it in action in the Butterfly Garden and that is so cool!”

Estero Island Garden Club members plant shade trees at Beach School in this undated photo.

As the EIGC moves forward, Cindy expects the organization to continue to make lasting contributions to Fort Myers Beach. “We can be an invaluable resource to island residents, especially with native plantings. Many of our members took numerous classes on Florida native plants and can provide expertise to help you transition your yards to that look, and this can be a major benefit to assist with our water quality. I live near the Mound House in a home first purchased by my Father. Dad, like many transplanted Midwesterners, loved his green grass, but after he passed away, we transformed the yard into all natives. It is wonderful not to pay for irrigation and fertilizer, because when you live between two major bodies of water like we all do, that makes sense for your pocketbook and our environment.”

Cindy sees that resource mentoring as a major strength of the EIGC. “Most of us moved here from the Midwest or East Coast, and the first mistake we often make is we try to grow things here like we had back home, like tomatoes and roses. The EIGC, however, makes field trips and hears from educational speakers on what does work here, and we are anxious to pass along that knowledge to our neighbors. Of course, another great part of the EIGC is that we just have a lot of fun!”