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Fernandina Beach -- Gerbing Gardens

Object Details

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).
Former owner
Gerbing, Gustav, d. 1930
Gerbing, George Gustave, 1900-1982
May, Ralph
Gerbing Gardens
Late Bloomers Garden Club
Collection Creator
Garden Club of America
Gerbing Gardens (Fernandina Beach, Florida)
United States of America -- Florida -- Nassau County -- Fernandina Beach
Gardens -- Florida -- Fernandina Beach
Former owner
Gerbing, Gustav, d. 1930
Gerbing, George Gustave, 1900-1982
May, Ralph
Gerbing Gardens
Late Bloomers Garden Club
See more items in
The Garden Club of America collection
The Garden Club of America collection / Series 1: United States Garden Images / Florida
A project to describe images in this finding aid received Federal support from the Smithsonian Collections Care Initiative, administered by the National Collections Program.
Custodial History
The Late Bloomers Garden Club of Jacksonville, Florida facilitated the submission of this garden's documentation.
Archival Repository
Archives of American Gardens
AAG.GCA, File FL170
Archival materials
Collection Citation
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, The Garden Club of America collection.
Collection Rights
Archives of American Gardens encourages the use of its archival materials for non-commercial, educational and personal use under the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. Use or copyright restrictions may exist. It is incumbent upon the researcher to ascertain copyright status and assume responsibility for usage. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by Archives of American Gardens. Please direct reference inquiries to the Archives of American Gardens:
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.
Scope and Contents
The folder includes worksheets, photocopies of images, a chronology and other information.
Collection Restrictions
Access to original archival materials by appointment only. Researcher must submit request for appointment in writing. Certain items may be restricted and not available to researchers. Please direct reference inquiries to the Archives of American Gardens:
Related Materials
Gerbing Gardens related holdings consist of 1 folder (20 35 mm. slides (photographs))
Large EAD
Record ID
Fernandina Beach -- Gerbing Gardens
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