New Streetscapes Planted in Druid Hills to Expand "Garden City" Effort

Lake Wales Heritage Continuing Work to Replant Famous Olmsted Landscapes

 

Last updated 7/3/2023 at 12:34pm

Robert Connors

A crew of volunteers works along South 12th Street to plant a long row of ornamental holly trees, a contribution toward the completion of the Olmsted landscape plan for Lake Wales.

Fourteen new Southern Live Oaks and ten Florida Holly trees were planted last week as the latest landscaping contribution toward recreating the "City in a Garden" ideal of Lake Wales founders. Lake Wales Heritage, an Olmsted Conservancy, undertook the plantings as part of their city-wide efforts.

The trees in the Druid Hills neighborhood are the latest step by the Heritage organization toward completing the landscape design of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., who planned both the neighborhood and its street-tree component in the late 1920's.

The 24 trees were "a lot easier than some of our past plantings," according to Heritage volunteer Preston Troutman. The work was conducted by four members of the board of the organization, along with three paid workers. The five-hour project "went well," Troutman said.

Lake Wales Heritage is a five-year old non-profit conservancy that is dedicated to the completion of the Olmsted landscape designs. The extensive plans created for the City of Lake Wales were funded by Edward Bok shortly after the completion of Bok Tower Gardens in 1928.

The 105-year history of Olmsted projects include the US Capitol and White House, the Biltmore Estate, Niagara Reserve, Mount Royal, and more than 100 other famous parks. Olmsted's father founded the prominent design studio shortly after completing the design of New York's Central Park.

Florida hollies have distinctive red berries during the winter holiday season and are different from invasive Brazilian pepper bushes. The trees were sponsored by donors who contributed various amounts, many to honor loved ones or special memories. The cost to purchase, deliver and plant a new tree averages about $250, according to Heritage officers.

Each tree was watered using a 300-gallon water trailer which was loaned to the group. The oak trees line Druid Circle between 11th and 12th Streets, while the native Florida hollies, an Eagleston cultivar, now decorate most of 12th Street north of SR 60. Heritage plans to plant several more hollies to complete the plantings on that street.

Lake Wales Heritage has replanted other streets as part of Olmsted's plans, which covered most of the city as it existed at the time. The revived plans provided much of the inspiration for the designs of the Lake Wales Connected projects now under construction.

More than 30 magnolias were planted by Heritage last year along Lakeshore Boulevard, although some did not survive the severe winter drought. The group plans to replace "four or five" that died, according to Heritage president Robert Connors.

"It's a constant challenge to keep newly-planted trees alive," Connors said. "We are very grateful that many residents have basically adopted their trees and water them on a regular basis. We've learned that frequent small doses of water are more effective than occasional heavy waterings."

Olmsted Jr. named the Druid Hills neighborhood in honor of his father's famous neighborhood by the same name, located in Atlanta, Georgia.

The design follows the Olmsted signature style by allowing the topography of the land to guide the placement of streets. That allowed him to preserve a four-acre park north of Druid Circle. Lake Wales Heritage is developing plans to landscape the vacant park.

Robert Connors

Heritage director and volunteer Ron Poller of Lake Wales carries an armload of protective sleeves which were placed around the vulnerable trunks of young trees to protect them from mower and trimmer damage. Two dozen trees were planted in the Druid Hills neighborhood during the recent effort, and more are planned.

Dr. Bruce Stephenson, Professor of Environmental Studies at Rollins College, has offered to bring his environmental landscape class from Winter Park to assist in the design, along with Bok Tower Gardens rare-plant conservator Cheryl Peterson. The plan is to create a sandhill restoration study area, already dubbed Olmsted Heritage Park in honor of the renowned landscape architect.

Lake Wales Heritage also sustains an educational effort supported by Mountain Lake Community Service that is offering area students a three-hour introductory class and field trip program called "Student Naturalist." The class is being offered at local middle schools this summer.

 

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