Like many gardeners, I love a trip to a beautiful botanical garden. It’s a chance to gather new ideas, admire plants and flowers I’ve never seen before, and just generally enjoy being in a garden where I don’t have to worry about pulling weeds! This past week, I visited the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, which sits on the Intracoastal Waterway in hardiness zone 10a, just a little south of my own gardens in zone 9b. There was plenty to see and admire, but here are a few of my favorite experiences and takeaways.
Experiments in Photography: Botanical gardens are fun places to try out different camera settings, play with perspective and focus, and just generally see what great shots you can come up with. I was drawn to this Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia) bush, as I just started one of my own at home, and experimented with focusing on it in the foreground with a koi pond in the background. It’s fun to see what you can come up with in a new setting.
Native Plants: This simple little display of a landscaped path with local native plants reminded me just how attractive this kind of landscaping can be. It’s nice to have a display like this in a garden filled with exotic flowers from faraway places – a reminder that native plants can be used beautifully and easily in the home landscape. This Florida zone 10a landscape makes use of Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa), Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), coreopsis, and more.
Texture in Xeriscaping: The succulent garden at Marie Selby is accented with containers propped up on rocks and stumps. This drew attention to smaller succulents like sedums and gave the landscaping a more interesting feel. Succulents are fantastic for containers, as they require very little watering and usually aren’t picky about soil conditions. This is a great idea that I’d like to bring to my home garden soon.
Keeping Mint in Check: Every gardener knows that mint in the garden can easily become a nightmare. By confining their herb collection to containers, the Marie Selby garden can have a wide collection of different kinds of mints without worrying about them taking over the garden and spreading out of control. Their collection included favorites like peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, and more.
Knowing Your Limits: I love orchids, and the stranger and more unusual they are, the more I love them. However, I am not particularly good at growing them. People constantly tell me they’re not hard, and I should just keep trying, but I know better now. Instead, I take advantage of places like botanical gardens to admire their amazing collections and snap lots of photographs. Sometimes the nicest thing about visiting somewhere is seeing something you just can’t have at home. Marie Selby has an amazing collection of orchids and bromeliads in their conservatory, along with a small bonsai display that will delight enthusiasts.
Other than enjoying the flowers and displays, what have you learned from visiting botanical gardens? Which botanical garden is your favorite? Tell us about it in the comments below!