Post Featured Image

Joys of Deercreek Living, By Patty Tomka

How many of you have decorative Banana Trees in your yard?  They have big showy leaves that give a tropical feel to our First Coast yards. Then our one week of cold weather kills off the greenery and the stumps have to start all over again next year.  Well, Dr. Helen Pranzatelli must have done something right because she has a whole cluster of bananas on her tree! She called to ask if I’d like to tell the Garden Club about this since it is such an unusual occurrence this far north.  She brought the little banana tree offshoot when she moved into Deercreek in 2000 and this is the first time it has produced fruit!  

I went to Helen’s house on Margate Hills Rd to see this unusual tree but ended up meeting an unusual lady too.  Behind her 92 yr. old twinkling eyes and big grin there is a very interesting woman!  Helen has a PhD in Higher Education and two Masters Degrees in Higher Education and Nursing. But she REALLY wanted to be an airplane pilot!  Before the war, the government was offering programs to women to help fill the jobs when the men left to serve in the war.  The flight training was expensive and, being raised by a single mother, she couldn’t afford it.  But there were free nursing degree programs so she enrolled and was eager to go overseas.  “Where else would you meet the cute boys?” she grins.  But when the war ended before her training did, she went on to further her education instead.  

She met her husband, Fred, on a blind date and they were married for 62 years before he died. They lived in St. Augustine and both became Master Gardeners, doing programs and giving advice while working in their yard.  In 1989 they planted the original banana tree and it produced fruit for them only once there. They moved to Deercreek to be near their daughter, Marsha Blasco, and brought the little offshoot to plant in their new yard.  And 16 years later – bananas!   She is a wealth of information and a really nice lady, who is happy to share plants, cuttings and conversation. I came away with photos, a plant, some Christmas Cactus cuttings and a new friend.