When gardening guru Neil Sperry talks, people listen. And pay to do so.
So when the Grapevine Garden Club presented Sperry at a fundraiser to build a greenhouse at the Grapevine Botanical Gardens at Heritage Park, the organization’s coffers got a little greener.
Sperry, a familiar voice in Texas horticulture, spoke at a Nov. 26 fundraiser titled “A Morning with Neil Sperry: Texas Home Landscaping — Planning and Plants.”
For $15, garden aficionados were treated to advice from Sperry as well as photos of his own garden along with other notable gardens he has visited.
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About 220 people attended the event at the Palace Theatre, according to club president Pam Braak.
“We had a whole room full of gardeners,” Braak said. “We raised $3,840.”
She added that “it was a happy environment.”
“Gardeners like to learn,” Braak said.
The windfall was pure profit. Sperry made the appearance free due to a business relationship of more than 30 years with Grapevine Garden Club member James Smith.
Smith reached out to Sperry “as a sweet gesture to me,” said his wife, Debbie, also a club member.
“He did this sweet thing because he knows of my enthusiasm for the club,” Debbie Smith said. “They are a wonderful organization.”
The Grapevine Garden Club and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department are seeking funds — the later is obtaining grants and raising matching funds — totaling $150,000 to build the greenhouse. The gardens, located at 411 Ball Street, feature trails, streams, ponds, sitting areas and several hundred plant varieties.
“We have been doing lots of fundraising for our greenhouse fund,” Braak said. “We are closing in on $90,000 and are very excited.”
Funding comes from the club treasury, fundraising projects such as plant sales including Plant Native — Plant Now and working festivals including the annual Butterfly Flutterby and sources such as companies, service clubs and other garden clubs.
The Sperry event was a huge success, Braak said.
“He’s the man who knows all about gardening in this area,” the club president said. “He’s like the grandfather of residential gardening.”
In addition to being incredibly knowledgeable, Braak said that “Mr. Sperry is quite sentimental.”
“He asked his young grandson to hand out prizes and said that his daughter had done the same thing when she was his age,” Braak said. “He had a quiz with some difficult questions and the winners got a one-year subscription to his magazine.”
After the talk, Sperry and his family toured the Mitchell House at the Grapevine Botanical Gardens guided by Lisa Grove, site horticulturist, and Kevin Mitchell, Grapevine Parks and Recreation assistant director of parks.
The city will build the required infrastructure and access road during construction of the greenhouse. After the greenhouse is constructed, the annual expenses for it will be budgeted for and managed by the city.
“We believe that a greenhouse will provide opportunities to expand the gardens’ educational classes by creating an “all season” growing environment and provide a laboratory for hands-on lessons in plant propagation, floriculture, transplanting and soil preparation,” said longtime club member Joetta King
The proposed 52X72-foot aluminum frame greenhouse will include a 22X24-foot head house for potting and tool storage. It will have a strong polycarbonate adjustable roof and side windows. Temperature and ventilation will be automatically regulated with energy efficient environmental controls and shade system. It will have multiple irrigation zones including mist, drip, and overhead watering. The facility will be landscaped to blend into the natural setting of the garden and will be ADA accessible.
“The greenhouse will support conservation and environmental classes that teach native plant and water-wise sustainable gardening practices, composting, how to create a wildlife habitat and how to grow vegetables and still have a beautiful garden to enjoy,” King said.
Classes will be taught by educators and horticultural professionals and offered to residents in Grapevine and surrounding communities, including seniors, adults, schools and youth groups. The Botanical Gardens’ docent program will be offered to challenged individuals and other volunteers who want to “get their hands dirty” working in the greenhouse facility.
The greenhouse will serve as a center to grow a wider variety of plants for the botanical gardens, special interest groups and civic events, King said. Vegetable plants can be started from seed then given to local community gardens. Seasonal baskets and containers can be grown for public displays and festivals.
Rather than purchasing large plants for city events, “loaner plants” can be grown and moved to a facility during the event.
“Plants grown from seed in the greenhouse could be used for class materials or given to school gardens or used to reward volunteers, all for a substantial savings to the city, schools and local organizations,” King said.
The club and gardens horticulturist will use the greenhouse to propagate and grow plants for the Grapevine Garden Club’s Community Plant Sale. Proceeds from the sale provide funds for scholarships and civic projects. Last year, the garden club provided more than $8,000 to civic projects and scholarships for students studying horticulture, forestry and floral culture.
In 2010, more than 45,000 visitors came to the Gardens from across the world, according to parks officials.
The Botanical Gardens at Heritage Park is recognized and for innovative design in park development and historical significance. In 2012, Texas Recreation and Parks Society (TRAPS) designated Heritage Park as a Lone Star Legacy Park. This designation is only given to parks that have “endured the test of time” and “become iconic to those who have visited, played and rested on their grounds.”
The Grapevine Garden Club promotes participation in horticulture, environmental awareness, protection and conservation of our natural resources, plus landscape and floral design, all through educational programs, volunteering, and civic enrichment projects.
The Grapevine Garden Club was established in 1932 and has more than 200 members who live in Grapevine, Colleyville, Keller, Roanoke, Southlake and Trophy Club and other surrounding communities.
In 2011, the Grapevine Garden Club won numerous National Garden Clubs awards and was designated “Garden Club of the Year” by the Texas Garden Clubs. The award is determined by highest score calculated by the number of Club projects receiving state awards, number of youth projects, number of members and amount of monetary contributions. GGC was also awarded the Bronze Leaf by Cross Timbers Urban Forestry Council, whose mission is to promote urban and community forestry.
King said they hope to begin construction of the greenhouse this year.
“Intangible success of the project will be an increased awareness of nature and how residents impact their environment,” King said. “Success of this type might be assessed when residents buy products made of sustainable materials and natural ingredients, eat local or organically grown produce, conserve and use renewable energy products in their homes, plant more trees and/or increase recycling.”