Location: Big Pine Key, Florida
The Grimal Grove may be one of our most precious and legendary gardens in continental North America. However, this bountiful grove of tropical fruit and scientific innovation is currently unrecognizable due to neglect. As it stands, nature is prepared to erase its memory from the coral foundation of Big Pine Key, Florida.
From its inception, this two-acre piece of paradise in the Florida Keys was destined to defy conventional gardening wisdom through scientific precision. The man behind the myth is Adolf Grimal. He was as unique as he was often times reclusive, but his abilities and vision elevated him to a living legend.
Many attempts to grow tropical fruits in the Florida Keys have ended in failure because of the highly alkaline and rocky soils. But where others failed, Grimal succeeded. To witness his singular achievement, the horticulturally inclined public was willing to travel to his Caribbean, pine-covered island, which is closer to Cuba than Miami. Without leaving the continental U.S., Mr. Grimal enabled visitors to observe the fruits of the deep tropics thriving just off of US Highway 1. He spent thousands of dollars to purchase and transport low pH soil from the mainland. At each planting site, with only a pick and shovel, he single handedly dug out the solid rock to create deep holes, some up to 8 feet deep and 75 feet around. He then refilled these holes with black soil trucked in from upstate Florida.
To supplement infrequent rains, Grimal constructed large catchment basins to store water. His irrigation system, a labyrinth of underground piping, connected multiple cisterns, ponds and pools. He captured the humidity off of the leaves and rocks funneled it into one of his many basins. He also experimented with creating microclimates for the various plants he acquired from his travels around the world. By separating the trees in their basins of rock, he could have trees growing side by side that required different watering schedules and pH soil levels.
Over time, Grimal became acclaimed for his achievements in working with tropical fruit, and thanks to the warmer, frost-free climate, he had an edge over other tropical fruit tree growers on the Florida mainland.
He passed away in 1997 and over the next decade, the property was unused and fell into disrepair. Although clearly untended, the land still boasts rare fruit trees which still produce fruit annually, and the cisterns still hold water. The superiority of the soil makes it an oasis for agricultural development.
The members of GHI have been working in a volunteer capacity to revive the grove, both rehabilitating the current agricultural landscape as well as networking with the county and other community stakeholders to “Save the Grimal Grove.”
SAVE THE GRIMAL GROVE!
The Growing Hope Initiative’s goal is to re-establish this land’s legacy and revitalize the property, thus restoring Grimal’s achievements. GHI plans to transform the grove into an education center and edible community park for sustainable projects in the Florida Keys. The Grimal Grove will be foundation and destination for voluntourism and ecotourism.