While my native New England is getting blasted by another terrible nor’easter and my old summer spot in Brant Rock (Massachusetts) has been flooded so many times this winter the Esplanade is starting to look like Venice (Italy), Florida is having nice spring weather. That does, unfortunately, mean more pollen than usual, but I can live with that versus a blizzard.
Walt Disney World is having their 20th Epcot Flower and Garden Festival and the horticulture is better than ever. WDW has more gardeners than any other place on this planet and this is their way to show the public they deserve all their acclaim. Florida’s tropical atmosphere including fauna and flora have been a major attractions to visitors since the 1870’s.
Epcot Is The Big Adult Theme Park
Here are some of my most favorite Florida botanical gardens and natural settings:
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens Tallahassee
As a student at Florida State University I joined the bikers and hikers and even swimmers on a short pilgrimage here to eye the amazing collection of azaleas and camellias, perhaps the best in Florida. The gardens have a true Old South feel to them. January to April is the blooming season and there is a six dollar cover charge.
Maclay Gardens Is Old South Florida At Its Best
This 40 acre Pinellas County Park is not just free; it is a double treat for it is connected to Heritage Village, a wonderful collection of twenty West Coast structure dating back as far as the 1840’s. The park hosts numerous events during the year appropriate to both the historic and tropical enviuronment.
Harry P. Leu Gardens Orlando
Long before the arrival of the huge amusement parts this fifty acre Orlando attraction was a Central Florida favorite. Its location allows for an interesting mixture of temperate and tropical plants.
Harry Leu Gardens in Orlando
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota
Orchid lovers in particular are wowed by this compact but breathtaking waterfront facility just south of downtown Sarasota. It is a serious research center but you can purchase a grounds only visitation ticket.
Selby Gardens Is A Hidden Gem
Monkami Museum and Japanese Gardens Delray Beach
A wonderful tribute to the Japanese community that once came to this area to produce winter crops, Monkami contains the most serene and peaceful lakeside gardens in Florida. There is a cultural center, a cafe, and a large store with unusual arty items.
A Trip To Japan In Delray Beach
Matheson Hammock Park Miami (HELP! RESTORE THIS PLACE!)
I had to include this Miami-Dade County park that hugs Biscayne Bay on Old Cutler Road. As a University of Miami student, I came here to find a restful and beautiful spot to study for tests. The shallow waters of the beach were always popular with parents with small children, but on my last visit the 130 acre park had been drastically altered.
Many trees and vegetation had been removed for parking and access to a marina and restaurant. I don’t mind the kayak rental shop and the new fishing pier, but the setting has lost its original tropical identity with its lush atoll pools. I have heard that city leaders are planning a large boat warehouse at the site. This would be another ugly move.
It is true that just down Old Cutler Road is the magnificent Fairfield Tropical Gardens. It is really a commercial venture with tram rides and an admission cost of $25 for adults.
Bok Tower Gardens Lake Wales
Into The Woods and Up The Hill
And when you speak of gardens in Florida, you must visit this place. There are fifty acres of flowered trails going up the tallest hill in South Florida to reach a magnificent carillon surrounded by water gardens with swans. Newsman Edward Bok’s gift to Florida remains a wonderful place to get some exercise and then sit at one of the covered shelters where you have a secret lookout of one of the hill’s small lakes that attract animals and butterflies.
Bok is adding more acreage and public services down by its museum and restaurant. I didn’t hear any talk of removing any foliage or trees.