Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cummer Gardens Remain Closed; the Museum Opens Today

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cummer Gardens Remain Closed; the Museum Opens Today

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

The Cummer Museum of Art reopens to the public Thursday but the Cummer Gardens, which sustained significant damage during Hurricane Irma, will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future.

The three gardens, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, remained under water for more than 24 hours during and after the storm. Because of the salinity of the water, there is concern that many of the plants as well as the grass may die, said Holly Keris, the Cummer's chief operating officer.

Plants were uprooted, railings broken and the bulkhead compromised. Much of the infrastructure including drainage, electric equipment, perimeter fencing, the fountain and a well were damaged.

A large wooden plank formerly located at the southwestern end of property is now part of a large pile of debris at the northeastern edge of the property in the Olmsted Garden.

In recent years the Cummer has invested about $850,000 in the 2013 restoration of the Olmsted Garden and the 2017 restoration of the English Garden; the reconstruction of the Italian Garden Folly (an ornamental building); work on the brick pathways and the drainage system; conservation of sculptures and fountains; fortification of the bulkhead; and construction of new bulkhead railing.

Among the glories of the Cummer Gardens have been many species of azaleas that Ninah Cummer propagated on the property, which are not easily replaced.

"Mrs. Cummer worked with several gardeners to create varieties of azalea species that would thrive in Florida's climate," Keris said. "In order to replace these, museum staff will need to propagate new plants from healthy specimens on the property. We will be working as quickly as possible to create a plan for the future of these beloved gardens."

While the gardens were badly damaged and an oak located in the Cummer parking lot was lost, the building and its collection survived the storm without any significant damage or loss of power. …

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