Jude’s “Life in Colour” for the month of September is “gold.” In another month we will be heading south for a few week and I am looking forward to taking my new camera to the botanical garden for a walk around. In the mean time I thought I would share some flowers from earlier this year with “hearts of gold.”
I first visited the Naples Botanical Garden in 2013 and thought it looked like a new garden, not knowing that it had opened in 2009, only 4 years earlier. Not long when you consider how long it takes for individual plants to mature and create an integrated whole to the viewer. But this is semitropical Florida where the growing season is from January through December, there is no dormant season just growth and quicker growth.
I was hooked on the garden on my first visit especially with the bonus of a hosted exhibit of African art. I think maybe I saw a promotion for the exhibit that prompted me to visit that first time. I can’t create captions for many of the artistic works with name of the sculpture and artist because I didn’t photograph the information signs, something I regret.
2012-13 Winter Season
I continued to visit the garden but either they didn’t have yearly art exhibits, or I didn’t take photographs, or deleted the photographs somewhere along the way. I do know that I was enthralled with the orchids and lilies to took lots of photos of those. They also have a lot of hard sculptures that are are permanently built into their gardens and I took photos of those. I found this one photo of this gentle creature taken in 2015.
I watched the garden mature and expand, and it received the 2017 Award for Garden Excellence from the American Public Gardens Association. It was the youngest garden to ever receive this award. It was this 2016-17 season that the garden hosted my second favorite exhibit. They are origami created through the collaboration of Dr. Robert J. Lang, one of the world’s most renowned origami artists, and Kevin Box who used the paper origami objects to make cast aluminum replicas that were then painted.
In late 2017 this garden that had matured into an award winner was hit by Hurricane Erma – a dead-center attack. We had returned to Naples two weeks after the storm and the garden opened three weeks after Erma hit. In those first three weeks of clean-up many botanists from as far as Chicago and an army of volunteers from as far as neighboring states came to help save as many plants and trees as they could and remove material that couldn’t be saved. The garden lost more than 230 large trees, many of them were native to the grounds. The pile of debris covered 2 acres, 6 feet deep. Much was saved because as soon as the hurricane was forecasted the garden staff and volunteers carried as much as they could into protective places.
That season the garden was hosting a collection of animals and mirror art. The devastation was so great that I was disoriented during my visits after the storm. These sculptures provided beauty and a focus during this painful time. I found the animals and the mirrored pieces very challenging to photograph, maybe because the “natural habitat” no longer provided a context for them. But I was still able to enjoy their beauty.
Within a year, the garden began to fill in thanks to the staff and volunteers who moved plants from newly sunny locations to shade and filled empty places with sun loving plants and annuals. The year-round growing season also helped but it will take many years for the garden to recover. Staff are currently growing new plants from seeds and cuttings that they had routinely collected, bought and bartered from other tropical gardens around the world, and that staff have gathered from natural growing environments. The garden has not wavered from its commitment to growing rare and endangered plants.
It seems providential that my favorite exhibit was during the 2018-19 winter season by artist Hans Godo Frabel who is an accomplished glass blower. I love this exhibit so much that, after weekly visits for five months, during my first visits the next season I repeatedly would look for them to say hello and get some more photos. You can read about my enthusiasm for this collection by visiting Balancing Act, Surprise at the Garden, and Reflection of Lace.
The garden was closed for an extended period of time because of the pandemic so there was a period when I couldn’t visit in early 2020 and I didn’t return to Florida until February 2021. The garden had opened with timed admissions and they announced their exhibit for the year included works by Steve Tobin with the theme of roots (along with other works of his). I enjoyed how these works were placed in the environment and this small garden is designed so that works could be seen from multiple, very different, perspectives (and because much of the larger growth was gone because of Erma). Several of my visits were focused on capturing how well the art became integrated with the textures and landscapes of the garden.
The garden has purchased pieces from several of the exhibits to become permanent parts of the landscape. Now when I see them on my visits to the garden I feel like they are old friends, and I remember their family members from when they visited several years ago.
I think I am squeezing in under the wire for last week Lens-Artist Challenge – Gardens. You can follow that link to see more gardens, or you can join this weeks challenge by visiting Leya for her inspiration for “Dots & Spots.“
Jim and I were strolling along the service path by the Deep Lake on a Tuesday early morning visit to the Naples Botanical Garden. I was watching for the sun and clouds to do their dance so an interesting illumination would fall on the palms across the lake or the grasses along the edge on our side.
Then I remembered to look up, toward the other side of the path where the more formal gardens are. Looking up means looking up into trees, but also looking up the side of a hill. Southern Florida is flat, so flat that the only hills are the Interstate overpasses – and a couple of hills in the Botanical Garden. They aren’t natural hills, however. A master plan for the Naples Botanical Garden was drawn up by a very talented team and construction on the first phase of the 170 acres future garden began in 2008 with the digging of Deep Lake and Lake Tupke. This resulted in 250,000 yards of fill for the sculpting of the site creating hills for water falls and raising the “formal” part out of the swampy Everglades landscape. That seems like a whole lot of fill, and I know that a couple of places are higher but not high enough to get my heart pumping as I walk to the highest elevations.
But that was a little (up-hill) digression. When I looked away from the lake I saw these orchids perfectly spotlighted by the morning sun. They are in a fairly large tree.
The tree is a Bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) and obviously older than the garden, growing quite tall and sprawling along the incline of the hill that forms the Florida Garden. Trees in Florida are usually home to lots of plants – If you look closely you will see Resurrection Fern (looking quite dead) by the orchid and there is Spanish Moss hanging. I recently learned that Spanish Moss isn’t actually a moss, but is a bromeliad with tiny, yellow-green flowers in summer.
We were headed for the Florida Garden and when we reached the walk up onto the hill, I saw more of the orchids and realized that this was the end of Bottlebrush tree – you can see the red bloom. Probably the orchids were propagated in the orchid nursery and attached to the tree because I read that pollination of orchids in the wild is tricky if they aren’t native. We went about half way up the hill (not a high hill by hilly standards, maybe only considered a hill in really flat environments) and when I looked over at the tree I saw orchids planted all along a long horizontal trunk.
Even more surprising is that the trunk is supported by a very large rock. This is a landscape that doesn’t have an abundance of large rocks for landscapes so I would guess that this one was trucked in for this purpose. One of the missions of the Garden is conservation and preservation. I feel fortunate that this tree is growing and being preserved. Many of the old trees were lost in 2017 when Hurricane Erma hit Naples with wind gusts of up to 140 mph.
We are starting to think about going back to Michigan for the summer. This year I’m especially excited about going back because I will get to see and hug kids and grandkids for the first time in over a year. And I am really looking forward to having vaccinated friends over for supper and maybe cards and game playing. As I am thinking about these things, I am also thinking about all the things we will want to do a few more times before leaving Florida. I probably have three more visits to the Botanical Garden so I better make the most of my visit tomorrow morning.
Thanks for joining me.