Drawing on her experience as a seasonal volunteer at the Naples Botanical Garden, Sylvia McNeill, a member of the Chester Garden Club and holder of a certificate as a Master Gardener, gave what amounted to a virtual tour of the Garden at a recent meeting of the CGC.
“Gardens with Latitude” – the slogan used to publicize the Garden – refers to its location between latitude 26 º north and latitude 26° south. Covering 170 acres, the site contains six cultivated gardens organized by distinct themes, including one designed especially for children. In addition to the theme gardens, there are about 2.5 miles of walking trails winding around the property, some of which circle a lake that is part of a marshy “river of grass”. The water from this grassy filter is re-cycled through the gardens to help maintain hydration for the many plants.
Sylvia’s tour, via a vast number of photos of the various gardens, began in the Children’s Garden with its water features (both to play in and to practise watering plants); its educational features including child-sized garden plots around a tiny cottage; and continued on a path through a mini-ecosystem that includes a hardwood “hammock”, a sandy beach, mangroves, and a waterfall, before a climb back up to the well-loved butterfly house.
From there she led us on to the Brazilian
garden with its colourful plants that surround a magnificent pool backed by a wall of bold mosaic design; the Caribbean sector which features native plants and interactive objects to amuse the visitor; and the river of grass that appears stationary but is actually part of a slow-moving filtration system present in a large part of southern Florida.
Sylvia noted that Florida is built on limestone, which is soluble in water so that there are rivers flowing underground and, occasionally, they cause sink holes develop, which give rise to round lakes. The lakes in the Garden are surrounded by birdlife and home to the occasional alligator.
The Asian garden contains a lotus-filled pool, several
small pagoda-like structures, a representive “ruin” of a Hindu temple, and a Thai pavilion, as well as actual rice paddies and many other interesting plants.
The water garden is bordered by a wide sloping lawn on which concert-goers can spread out their lawn chairs and enjoy a snack, while listening to music performed by visiting musicians who set up their instruments on a bridge stretched across the pond.
During Sylvia’s photo presentation, she also talked about the life-cycle of such semi-tropical plants as Bromeliads, Crotons and Ti plants, horticultural projects that Chester gardeners can only dream about. Those interested in visiting the Garden can check out its website – naplesgarden.org – for more information.