This is the fourth in a series on five local garden clubs.
By Jan Engoren
What, you may ask, is the Briny Way?
Briny Breezes Garden Club President Doris Hambacher says the Briny Way reflects the residents’ commitment to work together as a whole to always better the community.
Compared with other garden clubs in the area, the Briny Breezes club is smaller. It is private and open exclusively to residents of Briny Breezes.
Founded in 1985 to encourage and promote cooperative projects for upgrading the town’s general appearance, the club works to stimulate interest and concern for South Florida horticulture through education and participation of the residents.
One of the club’s signature events is the Mad Hatter Tea Party, last held before the pandemic began in March 2020.
Typically, the club has between 25 and 30 members who meet for a work session the first Thursday of the month and for a business meeting on the third Thursday of the month. Annual dues are $5.
Hambacher says, “My family is in its sixth generation coming to Briny and we all think it is special.
“One of Briny’s hidden gems is the Butterfly Garden, a place that can be cool and calming,” she says. “I love to garden and our unit in Briny has limited gardening options with almost no shade. Working in the Butterfly Garden provides a gardening fix while helping to keep this special space going another year.”
Hambacher, 67, is a retired global records and information manager from Chicago. She is in the process of creating a map of the garden with plant descriptions and care guides.
“Hopefully, this will allow us all to provide better care for the garden and identify/replace any plants lost over the summer or in storms,” she says.
Other future projects include replacing the water feature with one that can be dismantled at season’s end (Hambacher says people love the sound and its calming effect); developing more educational opportunities; replacing the orchids in the trees, and creating a mosaic-top table.
The garden club claimed the space next to the corner of State Road A1A and Briny Breezes Boulevard, formerly a kids playground. It was originally called the Shade House Garden, and some of the initial plants such as the Queen’s wreath (Petrea volubilis) vine with its cascading purple flowers are still thriving, according to Hambacher.
Hambacher says that the garden has become quite lush under the various palms and large shade trees, including a pitch apple tree (Clusia rosea), also known as the Autograph Tree because you can write on the fleshy leaves with your fingernail.
But visitors beware: The “apples” are poisonous to pets.
As with other South Florida garden clubs, Briny’s club focuses on introducing native plants as well as those that will provide for the life cycle of butterflies. To that end, some of the plants in the garden include bougainvillea, elephant ears (Colocasia), different varieties of croton and Star of India (Dracaena reflexa).
Vice President Beth Fowler, 56, took over her mother’s place in Briny Breezes in 2017. The retired teacher and administrator from New Hampshire gives credit to Hambacher for her vision and dedication to the garden.
“Dory takes the time to figure out the garden and choose the right varieties of native plants,” she says. “She’s thoughtful about which plants to add.”
Fowler has been going to the Briny garden for as long as she can remember. “My mother always told us, “Briny is a healing place.’”
She credits the Briny Way for residents’ support of clubs, whether or not they actively participate. Some offer support as a way of perpetuating the Briny legacy of their parents and grandparents.
Back home in New Hampshire, where Fowler goes each summer to be with grandchildren, she enjoys foraging for medicinal plants such as purslane, St. John’s wort, chamomile, dandelions and wild mushrooms.
She’s surprised by the rate at which plants grow in Florida — morning glories that took 10-15 days to sprout in New Hampshire sprouted in only two days here.
Besides enjoying the omnipresent ocean that is her backyard, Fowler takes respite in the Briny garden — open to all residents and guests.
“It’s a wonderful, peaceful place to meditate, do yoga or enjoy a conversation,” says Fowler. “Besides the beach, this is the only other place I can sit for hours and be by myself — it’s very relaxing.”
And that is the Briny Way.
The Briny Breezes Garden Club meets twice a month, for a work session the first Thursday of the month and for a business meeting on the third Thursday of the month. Annual dues are $5. The club is open only to Briny Breezes residents.
Doris Hambacher, left, is president of the Briny Breezes Garden Club.