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Kay Webber, a 49-year garden club member—31 years in Ohio and the last 18 of them at the Sarasota Garden Club, where she’s now third vice president in charge of the club’s 14 outdoor gardens—supervised 40 “faithful workers” who showed up last week to put the gardens at the corner of North Tamiami Trail and Boulevard of the Arts back in order.

“We had five men with chainsaws and a 3-year-old boy who carried limbs,” she says. “It was quite an interesting day.”

Webber’s mantra guided those volunteers: “Don’t throw out things too soon. Clear away the debris from the plant and see what’s alive under it. You’re going to be amazed at what made it,” she told them. “Things I thought I lost, I said, ‘Oh, my, you’re still there.’ I just need to cut it back.”

Plant materials are all salvageable unless they actually come out of the ground, Webber advises, “as long as the roots are still attached. Be patient. It will take a while; in three to six months it will show enough growth that you’re going to say, ‘I don’t know where I trimmed it.’”

How much trimming is too much? “I’ve personally cut things back to the ground and they’ve come back,” she says, “but most people aren’t that brave.”

Webber is available at the Sarasota Garden Club on Friday mornings from 8 to 11 a.m. for plant consultations. “People will bring in plants they’re having trouble with and ask for advice,” she says. “The biggest problem is that they buy plants that don’t grow in Florida. They say, ‘We bought it here,’ and I say that doesn’t mean you can grow it here. I encourage Florida-friendly, drought-resistant plants.”

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