Shimberg Gardens soon will be a little greener, with 50 mature trees transplanted to the four acres adjoining Town 'N Country Commons.
The trees, provided and installed by the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, boost the total value of donations to the gardens and adjacent building to more than $103,000.
Fundraising launched in 2005 has helped provide trees, shrubs, low-volume irrigation and more for the gardens and bordering county complex at 7606 Paula Drive, which houses a library, senior center and Head Start center.
"We want this as a place where people bring their kids," said Rob Gamester, chairman of community projects for Town 'N Country Garden Circle, the 70-member club raising money to supplement needs at the park, where amenities include a shaded ADA-accessible play structure on a padded safety surface.
A retention pond near the property's center is being developed as a water feature, with aquatic plantings installed to improve water quality and attract wildlife. A footbridge and ducks are in the pond's future.
The property also includes a gazebo, benches, trash receptacles and walkways, including one circling the pond.
The county will plant the trees on the park's southern edge to better buffer it from parking lots behind an automotive garage, dive shop, grocery, other retail stores and a funeral home fronting West Hillsborough Avenue.
"The community always wanted to create a screen against the commercial site here," said arborist Chris Postiglione of the Hillsborough County Architecture Services Department, who earlier this month toured the property to examine trees and other plantings recently installed at Shimberg Gardens and around the $11 million county two-story building which opened in December 2008.
"This is all part of the community plan we worked on from 2000 to 2003," Gamester said. "We had more than 400 people participate. And one of the things they wanted to do was screen that ugliness back there." A drainage ditch behind the rear parking lots recently was sullied with roadside litter, along with an automobile tire and a grocery cart.
A chain-link fence masked with a green shroud has been installed on the property line, paid for by the owners of the commercial property.
Native or Florida-friendly trees earmarked for the buffer will come from county parks where parking lot expansion or other construction requires they be removed. Species scheduled for replanting in about 90 days include longleaf pines, red cedars, elms and red maples.
"Our overall plan is to have several gardens here," including an aquatic garden, and gardens to attract birds, butterflies and wildlife, Gamester said. The pond is attracting turtles, reptiles, birds and dragonflies, indicators the body of water is healthy, Gamester said.
Also in the works is an obelisk the Garden Circle plans to install near the pond. The gray granite pillar with four polished sides will be 3 feet high, capped with a small pyramid.
Engraved on the monument's east side will be an explanation of the gardens being dedicated to the Shimberg family. James H. Shimberg Sr. and his brother, Mandell "Hinks" Shimberg, were the developers of Town 'N Country, beginning in 1959.
The monument will be dedicated this fall as part of the Garden Circle's golden anniversary observance. "We want to dedicate on the 50th anniversary, because the Garden Circle has been doing this kind of stuff for the community for 50 years," Gamester said.
The monument also will be engraved with names of donors of financial gifts of $1,000 or more to the ongoing Shimberg Gardens project.
In addition to county funds and grants, contributions have included $14,000 from the Garden Circle; $10,000 each from the civic associations for Town 'N Country Park and Twelve Oaks; $9,000 from Friends of the Town 'N Country Library; and $5,000 each from the civic associations for Pat Acres Estates, Timberlane/Woodlake and Bay Crest Park.
"We just hope it will be something for the entire community to enjoy," Gamester said. There are plans to print a brochure with illustrations so visitors can identify the trees and plants, and learn about the species' growth characteristics and the types of wildlife they attract.