This Memorial Day I took to the road to make my way to St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida where I visited the Florida Botanical Gardens and the Sunken Gardens. While it’s been hot here in Atlanta, down in Tampa I felt the tropical heat more pointedly. Despite the heat my excitement couldn’t be hampered with all the palm trees and blooming tropical life all around me.
Florida Botanic Garden
The Florida Botanic Garden is a free garden located in Pinellas county that spans 30 acres. There are 14 cultivated gardens along with aquatic habitats and an interpretive natural area that highlights Florida’s natural landscapes. My favorite parts of the garden included the Tropical Walk, the Tropical Courtyard, the Tropical Fruit Garden, the Palm Garden, and the Vinery Display.
The Tropical Walk and Tropical Courtyard were shaded gardens that had bright tropical plants peeking through the shadows that included crotons, various evergreen vines, and bromeliads. Of the many plants growing in this section, I was most struck by the Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus africanus). The name of this plant is pretty deceiving considering that it is technically not a lily (it’s a member of the Amaryllidaceae family) and it’s native to countries in southern Africa, which is nowhere near the Nile. These flowers are cultivated for their bright blue flowers and are great flowers to use in water-wise gardens as they are considered fire resistant. To read more about keeping Lily of the Nile as a houseplant or in an outdoor container, click here. The bromeliads throughout the garden were also spectacular with one bromeliad in the Tropical Courtyard measuring at about 6 feet tall and the ornamental pineapple were fabulous pops of pink along the walkways.
The most expansive of the curated gardens was the Tropical Fruit Garden, which had a small forest of banana trees from around the world and a few malabar chestnuts that were in bloom. It was fascinating to see other common grocery store fruits growing out in the open like mango, papaya, and pineapple. The Palm Garden also featured coconut bearing palms as well as date palms, which was fun to discover because I didn’t realize that dates come from palms. Another surprising discovery was the the Florida Botanic Garden has a thriving population of desert roses and crown of thorns. The only possible explanation I have for this is well draining soil, however, I’m not sure how they keep these plants so happy with the humidity.
The Vinery Display was so much fun to see as there were many vines that were flowering and many butterflies and moths fluttering around. I even had the pleasure to see a monarch butterfly hovering around some confederate jasmine. Here are my favorite pops of color!
Sunken Gardens is a beautiful garden in St. Petersburg, Florida that is over 100 years old. According to the St. Pete website the garden is the town’s “oldest living museum” with some of the “oldest tropical plants in the region.” My favorite fact about this garden was that it was started as a plumber’s private garden in 1903 that blossomed into a tourist attraction that the city of St. Petersburg bought in 1999. Most of the trees and plants are original to George Turner’s garden, and the site boasts over 50,000 tropical plants.
Stepping into the garden is like being transported into another time. There are few sounds other than the rustling of leaves, whispering fountains, and bird calls. Nearly all the paths are shaded with plants coming at you from every side: bromeliads, ferns, vines, palms, crotons, tropical flowers. I was smitten with the different koi ponds found throughout the garden as well as with the wedding lawn and staghorn ferns. The garden has one of the largest staghorn ferns I have ever seen on an old oak tree and one of the biggest Swiss cheese plants I’d ever seen as well. Two of the most unexpected plants in this garden are the flowers in the Butterfly Garden, which included sunflowers and crown of thorns. These were both plentiful and vibrant and were in stark contrast to the tropical plants around them. This garden was beautiful, but if you don’t want to be eaten alive in a cloud of mosquitoes, be sure to spray yourself thoroughly with bug spray before you come. There were very literally clouds of mosquitoes.
Do you have questions about my visit to the Florida Botanical Garden or to the Sunken Gardens? Are you looking to plan a trip? Or do you just have questions about your indoor and outdoor plant babies? If you’d like to know more about my travel or if you have questions about your plant colony, leave a comment below or feel free to contact The Garden Generalist. I would love to hear from you!
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