The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 18 - January 27, 2010


Plants chilled, not killed

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Native landscaping planted
between Anna Maria City Hall and the Island Playhouse
lost some leaves during the prolonged cold snap
earlier this month, but is expected to survive.

Dead fish washing up onto the beaches is the most obvious evidence of the prolonged cold snap earlier this month, but plants may fare better.

That is, if people leave them alone, plant experts say.

Don’t trim cold-damaged plants until at least Valentine’s Day, say the master gardeners at the Manatee County Extension Service. That’s because trimming makes the plants produce new growth, which could be killed by frost until around the middle of February, the last time frost is predicted in our area, according to the National Weather Service. A plant whose new growth is hit by freezing temperatures after being cold-stressed a month earlier might not survive.

Don’t dig up brown plants just because they’re brown. Many plants naturally turn brown in winter and revive in spring, and if you don’t know what you’re digging up, you could ruin perfectly good foliage.

Many species that don’t normally turn brown have done so after nearly two weeks of unusually cold temperatures, but give them a chance, says Mike Miller of, who landscaped Anna Maria City Hall with native plants.

“Don’t do anything but watch them turn brown and watch the leaves fall off,” he said, adding that most will revive. “The key thing to expect is no matter what you have, the likelihood that it’s dead is very, very low.”

The chances that a plant will drop its leaves after a cold snap depends on how much farther south the plant actually belongs, Miller said. For example, a few days after the cold snap, sea grapes on the Island defoliated almost overnight. The native plant thrives farther south, and Tampa Bay is practically its northernmost boundary, he said.

Still, it will survive, if left alone to recover.

The same goes for chopping off brown palm fronds – don’t – as they protect the green fronds growing underneath. Palms damaged by cold should not be pruned until the new fronds fully emerge. State landscaping guidelines recommend that palm trees should not be trimmed back to the popular look of a half-dozen fronds protruding nearly vertically from the top, because the severe cut, and the shaving of the brown boots below that often goes with it, makes the tree vulnerable to pests and disease. Generally, brown palm fronds should not be trimmed until new fronds appear, as the brown fronds protect the new growth.

Do not pull out brown sea oats from the beach – they will recover, and are federally protected, Miller said, adding that other beach plants including purple-flowered railroad vines, which normally lose their leaves in winter, and yellow beach sunflowers also will bounce back.

If another cold spell is predicted, water the ground around your plants – not the plants themselves – before it arrives, Miller recommended, as dehydration and cold are a deadly combination.

As for trimming guidelines in normal weather, an Island gardener’s rule of thumb should be “Don’t trim anything that’s not in your way,” Miller said.

West View: The Atlantis of Anna Maria

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

People gather at the bathouse at West View, the first
subdivision platted on the Island by Frank Palmer, of
Cortez. When it was recorded, there were six cottages
and a bathhouse and pavilion on the Gulf.

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Beneath the azure Gulf waters between Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key lies what is left of West View, a subdivision that its owner once hoped would rival Hollywood.

West View was the first subdivision platted on the Island by a man named Frank Palmer, of Cortez, who purchased the 60 acres in 1905 for $13.43. At the time, there was no bridge to the Island.

Palmer divided West View into five blocks with 61 lots and streets named Bay Street, Pinta Street and Anna Maria Avenue. When it was recorded, the subdivision had six cottages on the three streets in addition to a bathhouse on the Gulf at Pinta Street and a pavilion on the Gulf at Bay Street.

According to an account in an early Island newspaper, “Members of some Tampa families tell of packing their luggage in the family automobile and leaving early in the morning for Anna Maria Island. At the Alafia, a barge would ferry them across the river.

“They then would proceed to the fishing village of Cortez on the mainland shore of Palma Sola Sound, opposite West View. If they arrived at Cortez before sundown, they thought themselves lucky. At Cortez, they would hire some fishermen who had a naphtha launch to ferry them, their luggage and provisions to West View.”

In 1913, Palmer reconfigured the subdivision into nine blocks with 100 lots, and in 1920, actor, dreamer and developer Paul Gilmore bought it, increased the number of lots to 155 and renamed it Gil-Mor Isle.

He had plans to transform it into Paul Gilmore’s Oriental Film City, which would replace California as the country’s filmmaking Mecca.

“Mr. Gilmore said that Florida was destined to become the moving picture center of the nation. He further said that California has been ‘shot to pieces,’ and Florida presents virgin field that has heretofore been neglected but is fast becoming to the front,” Manatee River Journal, Dec. 1, 1921.

Gilmore’s dream was given a big boost when he was tapped to play the lead in a movie to be made by Character Picture Corporation, of New York. The movie, “The Isle of Destiny,” was a South Seas adventure, and the Island was to be the setting for the tropical exterior scenes.

Supplies, equipment, production people and actors were ferried to the Island. Generators provided electricity and rentals boomed. Producers hired locals to make and paint sets and be extras in the film.

Once the movie was completed, Gilmore traveled to theaters across the country showing it and giving lectures. It played at the Wallace Theater in Bradentown from June 22 to July 2, 1921.

However, it did not gain national distribution, and Gilmore returned to Anna Maria to try again, producing and starring in “The Mystery of Gasparilla Isle,” written by Mrs. Roy Johnson, of Tampa. A third film, “Tess of Cotton Key” was planned.

Gilmore said that in order for his dream of a film colony to be realized, the Island would have to have a bridge and better roads. Whether that caused the its demise is unknown, but he and his wife eventually quitclaimed Gil-Mor Isle to the Tampa Investment Company.

In 1932, West View itself passed into history when a very strong storm came in from the Gulf and covered the south end of the Island and the north end of Longboat Key with 8 to10 feet of roiling salt water. The subdivision was obliterated by the violent waves, as was the Longboat Key Bridge built in 1926.

However, it wasn’t West View’s last gasp. In the 1960s, the Southwest Florida Water Management District was developing the concept of a regional water supply. Part of the plan was to cap existing fresh water springs to stem underground water leaks, and it included several springs on what was once West View.

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