Beautifying and Restoring the Jean Willis Flowering Tree Park

-By Steve Pearson-
On April 6, 2014, volunteers from our Society joined with TREEmendous Miami and the South Miami Urban Tree Committee to plant 93 new flowering trees and shrubs at the Park, as well as to weed, fertilize, mulch, and trim all of the existing trees.  Located in South Miami on SW 61 Court, just south of Sunset Drive (SW 72 Street), the Jean Willis Flowering Tree Park first became a showplace for tropical flowering trees over 22 years ago when the Flowering Tree Society donated trees, labor and planting materials to plant over 60 flowering trees in the Park. It was the Society’s first public landscaping project, and our effort created the first park in our area that was dedicated to flowering trees. It was a magnificent project, and most of the originally planted trees are still there, outliving some of our early members like Walter Perry and Joe Sweeney, who helped lead the project. Our work won the Society an award from the City of Miami Beautification Committee and a very complementary article in the Miami Herald appeared shortly thereafter.
However, over the years, some of the original trees had been lost or, in at least one case, stolen. The survivors were in need of some TLC, almost crying out for some fertilizer and mulch! So, our return on April 6th was needed and we not only cared for our existing trees but added many exciting new flowering trees and shrubs. Some of the great flowering trees that were planted in the Park on April 6th wereLagerstroemia loudonii, Erblichea odorata, and Radermachera sp. ‘Kuming’, as well as beautiful flowering shrubs like Clusia lanceolata,Justicia spicigera ‘sidicaro’, Portlandia grandiflora, and Whitfieldia elongata. It is interesting to note, and a real tribute to the work of the Flowering Tree Society, that none of the above-named species were even available locally when the original planting took place.
One of the main reasons that so many of the original trees at the Park thrived and continued to live in what was, at best, benign neglect, is that our Society has always tried to adhere to the best planting practices. In the original planting, that included having all the holes dug with a back hoe. Although we didn’t have that luxury on April 6th, we followed Larry Schokman’s admonition to “Don’t plant a $5 plant in a 50 cent hole” and did our best to give our new trees and shrubs a good start.
Please go by and see the Park sometime. It was designed to have something in bloom everyday of the year, and it is a beautiful, urban oasis. It is also another reason to be proud that you are a member of the Tropical Flowering Tree Society!
P1160518 Lennie Goldstein and friends Jean Willis planting P1160524 mulch mulch mulch Larry's mantra willlisss
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