United States of America, Florida, Nassau County, Fernandina Beach
Gerbing Gardens (Fernandina Beach, Florida)
1945-1947 circa 1980 2009
In 1937 Gustav George Gerbing transformed about 7 acres of family property along the Amelia River into a public garden, Gerbing's Azalea Gardens, with plans for massive plantings of azaleas and camellias for viewing and for sale. The entire 15 acre holding became Gerbing Gardens, with groves of native trees including cedars, magnolias, bay, pines, live oaks and water oaks draped with Spanish moss, and wisteria trees. The advertisements for the garden claimed plantings of 100,00 azaleas, an 800-foot long camellia japonica "Sarah Frost" windbreak, a natural terraced amphitheater of camellias and trees, rose gardens, a 4-acre sunken garden planted in roses, azaleas, camellias and bulbs , picnic grounds and children's playgrounds, all behind a 1,200-foot concrete sea wall. Concrete curbing was used to define garden beds, chain link fence was covered with Spanish moss and other vines, and broad walkways of sawdust were known as sawdust trails.
The garden remained public for about 20 years and was used for events such as the Festival of Flowers, but was not commercially successful. Gerbing and his business partner Ralph May continued to breed and sell the popular cultivars Mrs. G.G. Gerbing azalea indica and Jean May camellia sasanqua.
The current owners removed vines and undergrowth from the original 7-acre Azalea Gardens uncovering mature azaleas and camellias. Skeletal traces of concrete curbing, garden beds, parking areas and the extensive irrigation system also have been uncovered. The Gerbing greenhouse was remodeled and is a private building and the sunken garden and rose garden have been developed for home sites.
Persons associated with the property include Gustav Gerbing (8/11/1854-9/7/1930) (former owner, circa 1898-1930); Gustav George Gerbing (3/1/1900-1/25/1984) (former owner, 1930-1944); Ralph May (former owner 1944-1971); Amelia Island Company, Sea Pines Plantation (former owner 1971-???);Thomas J. and Sara M. Edwards (trustees 12/1/1993-6/8/2006).
The folder includes worksheets, photocopies of images, a chronology and other information.
This property is featured in "Legends in the Garden: Who in the World is Nellie Stevens?" by Linda L. Copeland and Allan M. Armitage, 2001; "Fernandina Beach News Leader" articles March 11, 1948, October 19, 1977, September 23, 1981; "Florida Times Union" article January 27, 1946; "Camellias," by G.G. Gerbing published in 1943, 1945, 1950; "George Gustav Gerbing [sic] 1900-1984, Founder of Gerbing's Gardens, Amelia island, Florida" by Lauri A. Holton written report April 20, 1992; Nassau County, Florida Public Records, Books 122 and 166, 1944; "In Appreciation of G.G. Gerbing" by John N. Sewell and Asa Barnes published in "The American Camellia Society Yearbook," 1981-2009