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The Gardenias are Blooming

The Gardenias are Blooming

This morning as I was pulling out of our driveway, I spotted it.  The first gardenia of spring and laughed out loud, jumped out of the car and went running in to deliver it to my husband.  When I arrived back to the driver’s seat, my 13 year old asked me why I made such a big thing out of a flower.

You see, I am a Florida girl and never really spent extended periods of time in areas that enjoyed the “blooming” season, other than a 4 year stint in Virginia.

During those years I experienced all 4 seasons and enjoyed two of them-spring and summer.  Summer because it met my temperature criteria and spring because I have never seen such a beautiful pageant of nature.  I was introduced to things like hydrangeas, peonies, azaleas, and cherry blossoms.  But my all-time favorite was the gardenia.   The scent of the flower was intoxicating and I planted the bushes all over our 10 acre property.  Something about the first gardenia blooming signaled spring, assured me I had survived another winter and that my hallmark season of summer was on its way.

I was thrilled when we moved back to the sunshine state, but when the first spring season hit I was looking and longing for my gardenias.  I realized that my other new favorite blooms would not survive in this tropical paradise, but I had heard there was hope for gardenias.  I quickly planted a bush right outside my front door and waited patiently.  The plant bloomed with more white gems than I had ever seen in Virginia and has not let me down since.

My son was a baby when we lived in Virginia and didn’t remember my obsession with the fragrant buds.  When I told him the story he asked why I didn’t bring all the gardenia bushes with me when we moved, since I loved them so much.

I explained that I left those behind for others to enjoy but I planted a new bush here in Southwest Florida.  I enjoy this single blooming masterpiece as much as all the many bushes I planted up north and the fragrance was just as sweet.

In Southwest Florida there are not many natural tell-tale signs of spring.  Of course there is Spring Break on our beautiful beaches and over the course of April and May we see a significant decrease in traffic, but as far as nature goes we don’t really have a spring parade.

I am not complaining.  I live here because nature stays pretty consistent and I like to live in a zone that stays between 70 and 90 degrees at all times.

So many of our neighbors come from other places.  It is one of the qualities that makes living here so rich and unique.  We all have things that we planted and enjoyed in other parts of the country, but have made the decision to move here and put down new roots.  Many times when I am speaking with part time or new full time residents they are struggling with how to divide their philanthropic efforts.  I assure them that there are ways to support what they planted in other communities’ right here in Southwest Florida.  I encourage them to consider a Donor Advised Fund at the Foundation that they can use just like charitable checkbook which allows them to contribute to both causes in their hometowns and organizations in their new towns.  From now on I am going to tell them, just like my gardenia bushes, they can have more than one home and bloom in both places.

If you would like help making a plan on impacting more than one of the places you call home, email me at [email protected]


The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been supporting the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, and Collier counties since 1976. With assets over $75 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $57 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. For more information, please call 274-5900, or visit our web site at


Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More