Next Meetup

A free uncommon orchids class, with tips for beginning orchid growers as well
Experienced orchid expert Jerry Meola has invited us back to his Orchids Amore nursery in Fort Myers, where we'll learn all about choosing and caring for the very wide range of these tropical beauties. This class has been so popular in the past that it will now be given twice in one week. You can choose to attend the event either on Thursday, January 25, or on Sunday, January 28. Each event has an attendance limit of 45 members or guests permitted to register. Both classes take place from 1:30 to 3:30 PM. During these seminars we'll be surrounded by hundreds of orchids, many of which are rare varieties. Jerry and his wife Sharon have been raising and selling magnificent orchids for years, and can answer all our questions. At our last event there a year ago, our more experienced gardeners requested an advanced class so that they could raise some of the rarely seen orchids that have recently come on the market. These two classes are ideal for those members, but they will also include basic orchid cultivation instructions for all beginners. We'll be discussing which varieties should be planted in soil or a range of potting mixes, and which others require nothing around their roots. Many can simply be mounted on the branches of trees or attached to walls, or have their roots contained in (or overflowing out of) slotted wooden boxes. We'll talk about clay vs. plastic pots, organic vs. chemical fertilizers, various pesticides, trimming roots, dividing plants, light requirements, and any other orchid-cultivation topics that members bring up. Most orchids growing in south Florida's semi-tropical environment need very little care, yet provide great beauty in our homes and gardens. These seminars will be held in one of Jerry's screened greenhouses. Very little seating is available, so those who prefer to be seated are advised to bring along some folding chairs. Garden group members who don't know how to identify or divide or pot or revive an orchid they already have can bring the plant to these classes for professional help. Members can also purchase orchids and accessories here, and take advantage of the generous 15% discount given to members of our group. After each class, Jerry will give us a guided tour around the nursery, where we can admire and learn about the hundreds of varieties of orchids displayed there. His Orchids Amore ( web site includes an ever-growing photo gallery of over 3,200 varieties of orchids identified by name. As usual at our events, members can bring along their favorite foods and drinks to share with others during the traditional snack-and-chat portion of the class. And those who bring their excess plants for the free plant-exchange table can take other plants home for their own gardens. To let our hosts (and your friends in our group) know whether you will or won't attend either the Thursday class or the Sunday class, register your intent by clicking on the green RSVP panel near the upper right corner of the screen, and selecting either Yes or No. If you're inviting any friends to come along, please add in your RSVP the number (as a +1, +2, etc.) who will be coming. And if your plans (or their plans) change, you must update your RSVP by changing your Yes to No so that members on the Waiting List can take your place. Neglecting to do so is unfair to them. Thank you.

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What we're about

Public Group

We are the Gardeners of Southwest Florida, an informal group of avid gardeners based around Naples and Fort Myers. Membership and everything else is free in this group; all expenses are paid by leaders Peter Kacalanos and Suzanne Cherney. Current membership totals well over 1,300 gardening families. We usually meet on most weekends in group members' gardens or in local nurseries, discussing a different gardening topic each time, usually presented by an expert in that subject. The number who attend these events has ranged from ten to 83 members and visitors. We all learn about the particular problems of gardening in this sub-tropical environment, exchange our excess plants for free, share light foods and drinks during the snack-and-chat period, and trade gardening information and advice.

Many members focus on planting a variety of wildlife-attracting species of flowers, shrubs, vines and trees, ideally those native to Florida. At our meetings we've discussed growing flowers, vegetables, fruits, cactus, succulents, bromeliads, orchids, bonsai, native plants, tropical plants, flowering shrubs and trees. Other topics included organic gardening, water gardening, vertical gardening, butterfly gardening, wildlife gardening, landscaping, composting, fertilizing, pruning, indoor plants, invasive plants, pest management, horticulture, permaculture, and hurricane-resistant trees.

Do you have a gardening business that would be of interest to our members? You can schedule an informative presentation at one of our future meetings to share your knowledge, and let our members know about your company. Your firm can also offer discounts to the members, as 20 garden centers and other other businesses do. You'll be listed for free in our website's Our Sponsors section on the left side of each page of the extensive site. Your listing will include your company's name, its logo or photo, your discount offer, and a direct link to your firm's web site to let our members instantly see and purchase your products and services.

Everyone is welcome to join Gardeners of Southwest Florida. You can instantly sign up with no obligation on the group's informative website at (It won't take long, did it?) When you do, you'll be handed your colorful membership card (printed with your full name) at the first event you attend. The membership card will give you discounts of 10%, 15% or 20% at all the gardening companies listed on the "Our Sponsors" column of the group's website. You'll also get an equally colorful name tag (printed with just your first name and your town) to wear at each event, which helps all members become good gardening friends. The membership is free, the garden classes are free, the refreshments are free, the advice is free, and your gardening pleasure will increase as you share creative ideas and good conversation with other avid gardeners in our area.

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