SPRING HILL — The U.S. 19 entrance to Spring Hill is a showpiece, with its waterfall, carefully manicured greenery and flower beds making a statement that in this community, someone cares. Whom, some residents may wonder, do we have to thank?
Well, Hernando County mows the grass but it is the volunteers of the Spring Hill Garden Club who ensure that everything else growing is pruned, watered, fed and otherwise kept in tip-top health. It’s a job that club members take on happily.
The club’s beginning dates to 1989. Hernando County donated 4.5 acres to the group adjacent to the fire station on Parker Avenue in Spring Hill. Work to establish the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens and plant nursery began there in 1992. It’s been a building process since, said Mary Wuest, garden manager. Some 60 volunteer members alternate helping with the gardens, which include many native species, flowers, some exotics and special stations along the garden’s path, including a memorial garden, a rose garden, bromeliad garden, a tropical rain forest, a waterfall and miniature train and picnic area. There also is a carefully duplicated desert scape, butterfly and orchid garden, wildflowers and palms. The gardens are a shady escape and a peaceful place unknown to most.
“We’re one of the best-kept secrets in Spring Hill,” said Kathryn Pierson, president of the club. “One visitor who has been in Spring Hill for 30 years didn’t know we were here; people are always glad they found us.”
The gardens are free to tour from dawn to dusk seven days a week. Pets on leashes are allowed.
The gardens are not only a popular destination among locals, they are rented by many groups for events and weddings. There is a small fee, and the money is used to improve the garden. Currently fundraising is focused on brick pavers to complete the paved trail winding through the garden. Much of the work is complete, and the goal is to have all the walkways installed by the end of next year.
The holiday event also will feature Angels on High, an artistic display of painted angels and a long tradition in Spring Hill at The Lake House until it was moved to the botanical gardens.
The next big event at the garden will be the 11th Holiday in the Gardens, which features a Christmas tree decorating contest. Groups or individuals are asked for a $25 donation to reserve a tree they will decorate. The holiday trees and displays will begin Dec. 1 and run until January.
There will be a poinsettia planting at the Spring Hill waterfall from 9 a.m. until noon Dec. 1. Anyone interested is invited to attend any of the club’s events and join in. Just be ready to roll up your sleeves and get dirty, said Wuest.
“This is a working club, so you’ll need to get your hands dirty,” she said.
Pierson said most of club members doing the gardening work are women.
“They men don’t usually hold up well,” she joked. They are needed, though, so she encourages them to join in to help with the heavy lifting.
The mission statement of the garden club in part is to “inspire understanding, appreciation and conservation of plants.” For those interested in learning more about plants, trees and flowers and transform themselves into a bona fide Florida green thumb, the garden club is the group that can help make it happen, said Wuest. The club’s website is at https://www.naturecoastgardens.com.