A hundred and forty years ago or so, I learned to drive a faded maroon 1950 Ford stick shift at Dawes Arboretum just outside Newark, Ohio. My brother, who must have been heavily medicated, took on this thankless task of teaching me how to drive; and I did manage soon after to get a driver’s license.
Here I am again at Dawes, June 2012, only this time, in addition to roadways, there are majestic tents nestled among majestic trees. There is an enormous climbing tree outfitted with swings, straps and pulleys and some wild and crazy people who you aspire to be (but lack the nerve to be), ascending to the highest branches.
There are five food stations to tempt the most determined ‘weight watcher’. There are delicate wildflowers, regular flowers, pots of flowers, lovely scrims hanging from high branches, fireflies, a setting sun through lacey branches and lots of friendly folk, including a most charming Ex.ecutive Director, Luke Messinger.
Dagny Johnson Park: Dr. Wilder Initiates Botanical Inventory
The northern half of Key Largo is mostly preserved natural land. That northern half is bisected lengthwise – from north to south – by Route 905. The Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park ("Dagny Johnson Park") comprises most of the land situated east of Rt. 905; the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge constitutes the majority of land situated west of Rt. 905.
Some months ago, Dr. Wilder initiated an inventory of the species of vascular plants growing within Dagny Johnson Park. The Park's extensive, comprising 2,421 acres and measuring, approximately, ten miles long. "It will be challenging to complete the plant inventory," notes Dr. Wilder. "I hope that I’ll be able to do so. Completion could require years of work!"
Key Largo Botanical Park History
Dagny Johnson Park contains large areas of tropical hardwood hammock and mangrove vegetation. Present, too, are salt marsh, a very small area of beach vegetation and disturbed land. Parts of the Park are remnants of a Nike missile base dating from the Cold War period, which was functional from 1965 to 1979, approximately.
The Park was established in 1982 and is named after Anna Dagny Johnson, a local environmentalist – now deceased – who led efforts to save the Park land from development.
Two developers tried successively to develop the area with numerous condominiums and hotels before the Park was established. Fortunately, both attempts failed and both developers declared bankruptcy.
We’re having a great time at the Naples Botanical Garden summer camp. Campers are flying kites, getting to know the ‘Stinky Plants’ Curator Brett Adams brings in, learning to weave, building rainbow tacos with Julie from Whole Foods and exploring the colorful residents of the wildflower meadow.
That is only a small taste of the Garden summer camp activities happening all week every week this summer in the Garden. Every day our campers are getting their hands on new art activities, exploring in the Garden and meeting speakers who come from many organizations, from Rookery Bay to the Naples Museum of Art and walks of life, from solar engineers to printmakers.
With access to the plants, butterflies, gardens and staff, the Naples Botanical Garden makes it easy for the counselors, all CCPS teachers, to keep everyone entertained. Our Camp Coordinator, Laura Foht agrees.
“The Garden is the perfect place for curious minds to wander and explore,” said Laura. At least one camper agrees. “This is the best camp ever! I wish I could go to the Garden all year!,” enthused Trevor.
Our stalwart horticulture assistant and trusted keeper of the plant records, Hetty Ford, and her band of loyal gardeners, removed a mature Lignum Vitae tree, commonly known as the “Tree of Life,” from a demolition lot in Old Naples on Monday, June 18, 2012. The magnificent specimen is now in the Kapnick Caribbean Garden.
For those novice gardeners (like me) Guaiacum sanctum (Lignum Vitae) is a native Florida tree. Large specimens are rare and, when Hetty learned that this tree was on a demo lot, “I knew we could not let the bulldozers get it,” she said.
One of the things I like most about the Garden is that people can engage in a variety of experiences depending on their interest area and age level. This last weekend was no exception.
From Catch and Release fishing to another memorable Summer Picnic Concert, we saw a steady stream of visitors; some with fishing poles and major outback gear to early birds toting the classic straw picnic baskets. As one concertgoer claimed on our Facebook page, “The concert today was amazing! (Thank you for that Dolette.)
For years, rumor had it that the Garden Lake was home to tarpon, which seemed like a fanciful tale to many who had heard this story. Lo and behold, a 3-foot tarpon was indeed caught by our very own Director of Horticulture, Brian Galligan.
One of our longtime volunteers hypothesized that the tarpon found its way into our lake after Hurricane Donna. He suggested that it was the Gulf surge that provided a new home to many of the fish now populating the lake. For those born after 1960, Naples News’ Lighthouse Project provides fascinating tidbits of hurricane history surrounding that devastating day.
Recently, amidst the hectic approach to our Annual Flower Show, Dr. George Wilder delivered an overview of a category of plants that people don't frequently include in arrangements or showings, but which are remarkable and beautiful in their own way - Weeds.
Dr. Wilder collects weeds from all over but has found some remarkable ones right here in the Garden!
Read on to learn more about his collections of weeds from the Garden and his thoughts ons some of his more interesting and rare finds...
In February 2012, we put the finishing touches on the Kristin Foster Succulent Garden. The newest addition to the Naples Botanical Garden features succulent plants from around the world.
So what do we mean by "succulent?"
A succulent, by definition, is any plant that has a specialized growth for storing or conserving water. In general, these are plants adapted for growing in arid climates or arid-like conditions, like the crevises of rocks with little to no soil or even a part of your garden that does't get watered.
Succulent plants often have some combination of spines, thick fleshy leaves or swollen trunks. These adaptations help them live through harsh climates and conditions with little to no rain fall.
One of the most frequent questions we are asked is "What's Blooming?"
We wanted to answer this question in a totally new way for our audience, so we tracked down our Horticulture Director, Brian Galligan, and asked him take us through a tour of what's currently in bloom.
As it turns out, we have LOADS of things in bloom all the time. Of course we knew this, but putting it in a video was a totally different story. We would have two hour videos each week if we tried to publish everything we shot.
Thus, the launch of our Plant Talk & Walk videos! Since we can't fit in everything that is blooming, we wanted provide a "highlight tour" through the Garden.
The first video we have includes some of the incredible blooming trees around our property, starting right in our parking lots.
Dr. George Wilder is a Botanist, Professor and our Herbarium Curator here at the Garden. We are extremely lucky to have him, especially since he shares his knowledge during our bimonthly staff meetings with his amazing and sometimes humorous presentations. We thought it was time to share these reports with our readers. Enjoy!