Nancy Forrester celebrated her 70th birthday on July 29 and the City of Key West proclaimed the day "Nancy Forrester Day," in honor of her many years of work planting and caring for the extraordinary tropical garden and rainforest on her one-acre property in Old Town.
Forrester opened her Secret Garden to the public since 1993. Sitting in the middle of a high-density neighborhood and surrounded by 14 swimming pools, the garden is now the last wooded acre in Old Town Key West. It is home to some of the oldest trees in the city, and also has tropical fruit and spice trees, a collection of more than 100 species of rare palms, as well as rare ferns, unusual aroids and cycads. It will likely close this fall, however, unless funds are raised to save it. Not long ago, Forrester announced that with the advent of her 70th birthday, she would no longer able to meet the physically demanding schedule that the garden requires, and would no longer able to continue as the garden's sole benefactor.
A "Save this Garden" Fundraiser, supported by the Trust for Public Land and Key West's Mayor McPherson, was launched by the nonprofit Mana Project on July 1. The initial goal of the first phase of the campaign is to raise $160,000 for the current annual budget by September 1. The campaign is intended to sustain the garden's present annual budget, with the second phase geared toward retiring unexpected obligations and expenditures made to stabilize the garden.
Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Mana Project, Inc., 518 Elizabeth St., Key West, FL 33040. Supporters can also go directly to www.manaproject.org to make an online donation.
Nancy Forrester has been a resident and visitor to the Florida Keys for 59 years. She attended 7th and 8th grades in a one-room schoolhouse in Marathon in 1958. When Forrester bought the Key West property in 1969, it was an abandoned lot, a dumping ground for refuse and garbage. Now, the garden holds an exotic plant and rare palm collection found nowhere on the mainland of the United States. It has been singled out and lauded as a must-see for visitors by travel writers with the New York Times and Washington Post.