Park Review: Naples Botanical Gardens

By on May 18, 2011.

After introducing Landscape Invocation readers to the countries newest botanical garden last November. This Southwest Florida native decided to revisit the landmark garden in south Naples to see the progression being made and critique south Florida’s tropical design capabilities.

From the entry road to the parking lot, sustainable considerations were made throughout the gardens. Shell mulch and pathways decrease impervious areas and parking medians are sunk in to act as rain gardens and filtration. With money very rarely being an issue in Naples, design details flourish, with brightly colored Porteas and Aechmeas (Bromeliads) and specialty curb cuts.

After paying a lofty entry fee  ($13 for a jobless graduate), I begin the experience on the other side. Immediately, colors and textures indicative of the tropics line the meandering stroll from the entry house and gift shop.

Jasmine and Aloysia fill the humid air and stay with me throughout my journey. From Naples, to Brazil, the Caribbean, and over to Polynesia.

The first node options the user to chose the Children’s Garden, designed by Herb Schaal with archaic saw palmettos tunneling toward the garden room. This quickly attracts children into a playful and whimsical environment, clad with splash pad, banyan tree houses, butterfly gardens, artful cracker style houses and native plant walks. Here, the youngsters can really run wild with varying levels of topography, materials  and child savvy designs.

The children’s garden loops back to the main path toward the great lawn and The Brazilian Garden . Here you have a stunning view of Raymond Jungles’ garden inspired by his time in the country and the pre-eminent Roberto Burle Marx. Who’s trademark mosaic tiled art graces the parks raised plaza and lily-laden reflection pond.

Jungles’ design is colorful and modern. The walk up to the plaza gives you a grand view of the garden and the preserve beyond.

The garden walk continues toward the Caribbean Garden, flanked by native limestone gates. This garden room may be the simplest of all the designs, but boasts the openness and simplicity of the Caribbean. A bright teal pavilion offers solace from the sun and displays native history and the cross-European trade route that made the islands what they are today. The center piece to the garden is the Queen’s Wreath (Petrea) pergola that borders the lawn with fantastic views to the wetlands beyond.

 

Leading from the Caribbean, passing through a river of grass, you enter the domain of Made Wijaya. Here, garden styles from Polynesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Tropical Asia take the user back into time to a land distant from Florida. What may at first seem like an uncompleted garden, is really an experience of what relic gardens from the region are like today. Asian sculptures, water gardens, and agriculture fields weave into rubble paths that make you feel lost in Angkor Wat. This is by far the most inventive and thought provoking space at the Naples Botanical Gardens and my personal favorite.

The final garden is designed by Naples’ own Ellin Goetz, from Goetz & Stropes. This design boasts all Florida natives and is highlighted by summer blooms of firewheel, yellow top flaveria, verbena and salvia.  The circular labyrinth gives slight elevation in the center to showcase the wildflower blooms encircled by bougainvillea shade structures.

From here the user can circle back to the entry/exit or venture off toward the birding tower and miles of preservation and wetland trails. In conclusion, the sum of these talented designers outweighs the $13 fee and the 30 mile drive from Fort Myers. Each garden has more than enough to offer in color alone, not to mention the didactic qualities and free vacation to the worlds tropical paradises.

For further info and directions, Naples Botanical Webiste.

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