Naples Botanical Garden continues its growth with further expansion

asian plan 3

Photo by lytle

asian plan 3

asian plan 2

Photo by lytle

asian plan 2

asian plan 3

Photo by lytle

asian plan 3

The bulldozers are back!

It is déjà vu all over again as Naples Botanical Garden begins construction on three new parts — the Marcia and L. Bates Lea Asian Garden, Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden and the Water Garden.

All of them will be ready by November.

Some highlights:

* The Asian Garden was designed by Made Wijaya in three zones, each replicating a different Southeast Asian landscape. A recreated Javanese temple ruin and an ancient plaza set the scene for a landscape filled with banyan trees, vines and palms. The central part of the garden is dominated by water. Pools reflecting beautiful mosaic panels, a Thai pavilion set in a lotus pool and a Balinese Shrine on a little island are all connected. The third section of this one-acre garden is about the cultivation of plants for human use. This area is dominated by great clumps of timber bamboo towering 50 feet or more in height next to a grove of Asian fruits such as lychee, rambutan and star fruit. At the center of the area is a rice paddy ringed by other important crops like bananas and tapioca.

* The Florida Garden, designed by Ellin Goetz of Naples, also has several rooms that reflect different themes. The central feature is the great palm circle that pays homage to the thousands of circular lakes that dominate the landscape during the rainy season. The center of the palm circle is planted in drifts of native wildflowers and grasses.

n The Water Garden is about half an acre and is being designed by a team of staff and consultants lead by Goetz. The pool has an infinity edge so that the eye looks all the way across the River of Grass to the wetlands beyond. The garden is bisected by a boardwalk with a performance area in the middle where we can stage live music. The Water Garden will feature aquatic plants from around the world such as the giant water lilies of Australia.

It’s hard to believe it has only been nine months since we opened the first phase of the expansion. Those months have gone by in a blur, with over 80,000 visitors, including 2,000 schoolchildren who came for field trips in April and May.

The Kapnick Center for Research and Education, built in partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University, opened in January and has been a hive of activity ever since with lifelong learning courses, seminars and other educational events. This summer, thanks to the generosity of our community, we were also able to provide scholarships for children from low-income families to attend four weeks of day camps held here. In September, FGCU will begin its fall semester with four classes a week being held in the Kapnick Center’s classrooms.

This spring the garden began a new partnership with the Collier County Extension Service. Every Thursday the extension’s Master Gardeners hold a plant clinic where these knowledgeable volunteers answer plant and gardening questions completely free of charge.

Meanwhile, brides and grooms have discovered the garden is a spectacular setting for weddings and receptions. The large Windstar Garden Room, adjacent to the Tropical Mosaic Garden, transforms into a beautiful setting for all sorts of events. Several couples have also tied the knot on the LaGrippe Family Plaza at the top of the Brazilian Garden in front of the Burle Marx mural, which is particularly stunning at sunset.

With such a great season behind us, we are now working to grow even further with the construction of the future gardens over the summer.

* * *

The Balinese are coming — to build the Lea Asian Garden. In fact, a crew of four Balinese master craftsmen will be arriving in Naples in early August to begin assembling the garden’s structures and the installation of the plants and artifacts. Their arrival will coincide with the first shipment of materials fabricated in Bali, including a Thai pavilion, Javanese temple ruin and a Balinese shrine.

The Asian Garden’s designer, Made Wijaya, is one of the world’s leading authorities on both tropical garden design and the cultures of Southeast Asia. He has written many books on these topics, including “Tropical Garden Design” and “Modern Tropical Garden Design.” Wijaya will be coming from his home in Bali to lay out the garden and select the signature trees.

Planting has already begun in the Scott Florida Garden. Acclaimed landscape architects Goetz and Jack Lieber of Naples, along with the garden’s director of conservation and education, Chad Washburn, have laid out massive drifts of native plants in the wildflower meadow. Large trees are being moved into place, footings are being poured and irrigation lines are being laid. It is hard to believe that this muddy bedlam will be a jaw-dropping, beautiful garden in a few short months.

Behind the scenes the garden’s director of horticulture, Brian Galligan, and his staff are busy sourcing the tens of thousands of plants needed to bring the designers’ plans to verdant reality. Plant labels are being ordered, events planned, signs designed, volunteers recruited and a myriad of other activities are going on as we get ready for the November opening of the new gardens.

In the meantime, we are still open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the end of Bayshore Drive off U.S. 41 East.

Check us out at www.naplesgarden.org or call 643-7275.

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