At Naples Botanical Garden, located three miles south of downtown Naples, the attitude matches the latitude. The site will unveil a new visitor center, featuring hands-on exhibits, and Fogg Café when it reopens in October 2014. (The grand reopening is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 23.) Three new gardens - LaGrippe Orchid Garden; Irma’s Garden, featuring plants with unusual characteristics; and lush, tropical and canopied Kathryn’s Garden – will also debut.
When the Naples Botanical Garden first opened, its mission was to showcase plants and cultures from latitudes similar to Naples’ subtropical climate. In 2010, it remastered and expanded with an Asian Garden, designed by Bali-based landscaper Made Wijaya.
In addition to a 250-variety plumeria collection, a rice paddy and typical Asian water elements and foliage, this newer garden incorporates a re-created 15th-century Hindu temple and other exotic shrines and structures.
Naples Botanical Garden's replicated temple, set amidst the Asian Garden — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
The attraction also added the Florida Garden at that time, which takes an educational path and includes an enabling garden designed for physically impaired visitors, a section devoted to smart eco-gardening, a boardwalk, birding tower and an Idea Garden.
“The garden is much more than the commonly perceived outdoor museum for growing and cataloging plants,” says Executive Director Brian Holley. “It is rich with experiences and peoples’ stories.”
Upon reopening, pet-friendly Naples Botanical Garden will encompass 10 different themed gardens in all. Gigantic lily pads atop a dramatic waterfall make up the centerpiece of the Brazilian Garden. Besides exotic fruiting trees and flowering plants, the Caribbean Garden features a replicated traditional chattel house like those found throughout the islands.
At the Children’s Garden, families can explore a two-story treehouse play area, interactive water fountain, butterfly house, cave, waterfalls, Cracker House and Garden and beach for building sand castles. Vegetation is planned and planted for interaction.
Every weekend year-round, the Children’s Garden hosts its W.O.N.D.E.R. (Walk, Observe, Navigate, Draw, Explore and Read) Program. Each month's changing theme begins with a story that relates to the theme, followed by a variety of fun and educational family activities.
Water lilies, lotuses and papyrus line the Water Garden, which also features a small island in the pool. Its boardwalk is often the site for live musical performances.
Finally, The Preserve protects 90 acres of the garden's acreage as a nature sanctuary, with habitats that range from brackish marsh wetland to upland scrub – vital habitat for hundreds of species of native animals, including bald eagles, river otters, bobcats and gopher tortoises. Nearly 300 species of native vegetation grow in The Preserve.