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Titusville Men's Garden Club
By Billy Rhodes

In the spring of 1972 a group of men who had retired to Florida from "up north" took a Master Gardener class. At the end of the class these men wanted to continue to learn about gardening in Florida as opposed to gardening "up north." They approached the Titusville Garden Club (some of their wives were members) and asked to join. The ladies would not have it. Since, at that time, the Titusville Garden Club was made up of "circles," some neighborhood based, such as Sherwood and Hickory Hill, and others community wide, such as the Poinsettia Circle, which was made up mostly of ladies from the old Titusville families. The ladies suggested that the men form a circle of their own.

In the summer of 1972, a meeting was held at the home of Nate Klein in Hickory Hills to form the Men's Club Circle of the Titusville Garden Club. As near as I can recall Billy Rhodes, Nate Klein, Gil Bertie, Tom Kennedy, Bill Yeungling and Jerry Ashcroft attended that meeting. (I thought there was a plaque on one of the bookcases in the meeting room with the names on it.) There was another name but I don't recall it because he dropped out after a few meetings. I (Billy Rhodes) was not part of the group that took the Master Gardner class, and was much younger than the rest. I was invited to join because some of the ladies in the Titusville Garden Club knew of my interest in gardening. I was the first secretary.

In the beginning years, we had our sales at a Christmas Bazaar at the Miracle City Mall. We grew our plants in empty dog food cans with punched holes in bottom for drainage. We eventually started using pots and had sales in front of Titusville High School and other places. The Men's Club Circle was a member of FFGC, and the only men's garden club.

Burl Ferguson was tree farm manager for many years, and would bring in supplies and purchase small stock to grow. The main function I saw was ordering new plant material and potting soil. Tony Koromilas also was very involved in the Tree Farm, and did a lot to promote the Club with the City. I would guess that as Burl got less able to function, Tony assumed more responsibility. He was involved with beautification committees and wanted the Tree Farm trees for that purpose. In addition to supplying plants for our semi-annual tree sales, the Tree Farm donated to the City and local groups, such as churches. (At one time the City had a tree farm at the same location. They used some City employees for labor, but I think it was mostly jail crews.)

The purpose of the Men's Club Circle of the Titusville Garden Club was educational and we tried to have knowledgeable speakers at every meeting. I remember the director of Leu Gardens speaking, and, of course, Sally Scalera, our Ag agent. But, we would also have people from various special interest groups such as a Hibiscus Society, Gardenia Society, etc. Frequently these folks came from Orlando and we would pay mileage and a small stipend.

When Burl Ferguson joined, he was very active in the North Brevard Beautification Commission, and he negotiated with the City for us to have a tree farm on City property. Our first Tree Farm site was on the right side of Sisson Road across from the manufactured home subdivision. (I think there is a city pumping station still on the site.) We were later moved to the sewer plant, but the first location was closer to the front of the property. Later, as the sewer plant expanded, we moved to the present location. (Truman Scarborough Jr., local attorney and elected official was a member for a while and may have helped with getting us public space.) For many years the City also maintained a tree farm next to ours with a small staff. I think one reason for the move was to get effluent water from the plant for the trees. This usually worked OK but was tough on pipes and on one occasion burned many of the trees.

Prior to the Garden Club Center, the Clubs met in homes, churches, library, etc. without overhead.

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