The upper tier of all three gardens reopened on November 11 – the Museum’s 56th anniversary! Although the lower spaces must continue to stay closed, you will be able to visit the Cummer Oak and see Diana of the Hunt and some of our other sculptures.
After several weeks of hard work, we were finally able to finish debris removal following Hurricane Irma – resulting in 12 dumpsters full of lumber, a stand-up paddle board paddle, plant material, trash, and various other waste. We also came across several water moccasins.
During our cleanup efforts, we have also been able to have our onsite well repaired and power restored to the pump house, which allowed irrigation zones to be run for the first time since the storm. This is critically important as fresh water is needed to help lower the electrical conductivity (EC) of our soil. During the storm, the gardens were submerged under about four feet of brackish water from the St. Johns River, leaving behind salt deposits that affect plant health and ability for new plants to survive in the space. The first round of soil tests, completed immediately following Irma, showed that none of our gardens had plantable soil conditions. The second round showed some improvement, and we are now repeating these tests every other week, in conjunction with a heavy watering schedule to help flush the soils. It may take several months to see enough of an improvement to be able to start replanting.
The work of testing the soil is being done by the University of Florida, through the Duval County Extension Office. Did you know their lab provides free pH testing for any Jacksonville resident? They also have Master Gardener volunteers to answer plant and insect questions five days a week from 9 a.m. to noon and 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
As we move forward, Museum staff is talking with partner gardens throughout the southeast who are currently or have previously experienced similar storm-related damage. We are also building a team of advisors who will work with us to plan the next steps of reconstruction, working toward a solid plan and timeline that we will share with you in the coming weeks and months.
In the meantime, we are thrilled to announce that beginning in January we are launching Inspired Palates: A Dinner Party Series. This three part, themed dinner series will support garden reconstruction. Choose from an Italian family-style feast, an posh English-inspired pub crawl, or a swanky Southampton soirée, or purchase tickets for the series.
Thank you as always for your support of the Cummer Museum and your patience as we work to recover from Hurricane Irma.