Hometown to two thirds Bloom is Naples, FL, where lies the enchanted Naples Botanical Garden. It is navigationally located between 26 latitude north and 26 latitude south allowing it to showcase some of most diverse subtropical flora from around the globe.
When first walking up to the garden you cannot help but swoon at all the eye popping color schemes and variations of texture in the plants. We were mesmerized by fiery bromeliads, lush tropical and subtropical trees, stunning orchids, bougainvilleas, succulents and various ornamental foliage. The garden consists of seven small “gardens,” each represented by a common theme (the Asian garden, the Florida garden, the Caribbean garden, the Brazilian garden, the Butterfly garden, etc.) containing key plant species and architecture from the related geographic regions and cultures. The 90 acre garden lies within 170 acre nature sanctuary that includes several ecosystems including lakes, unspoiled marshes, upland scrub, pine forests, twisted mangrove swamps, and hundreds of animal species.
My favorite exhibit was the Water Garden, where I spent the most time observing beauty blended with environmental sensitivity. It was filled with stunning water lilies, lotuses, papyrus, an array of native grasses and other aquatic plants. Lush growth at the water’s edge provides a rich ecosystem for birds, insects, fish, turtles, and other wildlife. I was incredibly impressed by the layout, diversity and all the sustainable initiatives the gardens exectuted as a whole, everything from design, water use, architecture and practice. They are constantly striving to minimize their impact on native ecosystems. 100 eco-practice plus points from bloom.
For us, this was a perfect diversion away from the sandy white beaches and endless Thanksgiving indulging. If you are into plants and gardening, feeling wanderlust, or just want to walk through a beautiful, well tended garden, put this on your botanical garden bucket list. Oh and don't forget to check their site for an updated pdf on what's in bloom!
How did you get started in horticulture? I had my own business in landscape design before working for the botanical gardens.
How do you hope to see the garden grow in the upcoming year? We are building a new visitor center, cafe, expanding our exhibition hall and have two future garden in progress: the Australia garden and the Africa garden. The exhibition hall will be for tribute bands in the garden, weddings and family events.
What's your first gardening memory here? My first day I was working with our water gardener pulling out papyrus.. I HATED IT.
What about plants turns you on creatively? I'm really into Bonsais lately! I like to look at trees and see how I can turn them into bonsais. How does that process work? You have to wire the tree to train growth in different directions.
What about plants turns you off? Not very much. Plants are pretty kewl.
What is your favorite curse word to use when a plant dies? *blushing* [email protected]%&!
What's your favorite horticulture world within the botanical gardens? The Carribean Garden -- It has a diverse landscape representing everything from mountain tropical forests with lush, exotic plants to low islands largely characterized by dry forests, savannahs and species of cactus and scrub.
What does the garden offer as far as community outreach? The gardens offer educational, interactive and entertaining programs and activities for the whole family. There are children’s programs, summer camp, adult classes and workshops ranging from painting, planting and interactions with wildlife. We also have an enabling garden that feature structures and tools that makes gardening easier and more fun for everyone, regardless of physical ability. Oh, and whenever we have a lot of left over fruit from the fruit trees we will donate it to St. Matthew's homeless shelter!
What keeps you interested in all this? Learning something new almost every day and my sense of pride. Twenty years ago this was just a tiny mosaic garden surrounded by a strip mall, a parking lot, and acres of invasive plants. Since its reopening in 2009 it has become tremendously developed and a great resource where the public can have fun and learn simultaneously.