Monday, December 6, 2021

Calusa Garden Members Get Creative During COVID-19 Crisis

When the going gets tough, the tough gets growing and trimming!

For many members of the Calusa Garden Club (CGC), the stay at home order has created a great opportunity to catch up on much-needed gardening projects. There’s so much to catch up on—shrubs that have finished their winter-blooming are waiting for pruning and many types of hedges also need trimming. 

Photos by Maria Lamb | Jen Ferrier, CGC member and mother, Kathy Ferrier and Gram Marge Heller (98 years young seated).

The Butterfly Garden on Calusa Park is maintained by the Calusa Garden Club. Susan LaGrotta, the CGC Vice President, led a small group of gardeners to give the butterfly garden much-needed maintenance. Wearing masks and practicing social distancing, they weeded, trimmed and replaced damaged pipevine trellises.

New CGC member, Jen Ferrier, wanted to honor her Gram, Marge Heller, by creating a “Century Garden,” using the Century Plant as the focal point in her garden. Gram is 98 years young and lives at Tuscany Villa in Naples and has not seen her garden. Jen is looking forward to seeing the smile on Gram’s face the first time she sets eyes on it. Jen shares that “during these tough times, honor those in your life that mean the most to you.”

Linda Colombo, a member since 2007, found creativity in adversity by using the aloe vera from her garden to make a batch of homemade hand sanitizer. She set out to solve the problem of the hand sanitizer shortage. 

An aloe vera is a succulent plant and it stores water in its leaves and stems. The stems are green thick and fleshy, and it is in these leaves that Linda planned to harvest the medicinal benefits of the aloe vera. The gel is the clear liquid at the innermost of the leaf.

Linda only needed 2 more key ingredients:

  • Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (99% alcohol volume).
  • Essential oil such as lavender oil, or you can also use lemon juice.

The key, according to CDC, in making an effective germ-busting hand sanitizer is to stick to a 2.1 ratio of alcohol to aloe vera. This keeps the alcohol content around 60%—the minimum amount to kill most germs.

The non-aged whiskey, though 80% proof, is only 40% alcohol. Vodka is also not strong enough at only 35-40% alcohol. Which means that most alcohol in our liquor cabinet won’t work. But rubbing alcohol from our medicine cabinet will do the trick.

Century Plant dedicated to Gram Marge Heller. Century plant grows for about 10 years, blooms, and then dies. They have long pointed leaves that can reach more than 4 feet. The focal point in Jen Ferrier’s garden.

Directions to Hand Sanitizer


  • Mix 2/3 cup of rubbing alcohol to 1/3 cup of aloe vera gel. 
  • Strip the aloe leaves and mash the gel the best you can.
  • Add essential oils like lavender or tea tree oil for fragrance.


The aloe gel is meant to ease the burn of the alcohol and the essential oil is meant to mask the smell of the alcohol and also protect against germs. Thyme, tee tree and clove oil have antimicrobial properties. Lavender or chamomile may help soothe your skin and add also fragrance to the mix.



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