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Brian Holley, Executive Director of Naples Botanical Garden, today announced that the Garden will open to the public in November, 2009. At that time, three major gardens – the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden, Brazilian Garden, and Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Caribbean Garden – as well as the Mary and Stephen B. Smith River of Grass will welcome their first visitors.

Naples Botanical Garden also includes the Collier Enterprises South Wetlands Preserve, a unique 90-acre nature sanctuary with seven different ecosystems. In the Preserve will be the James and Linda White Birding Tower.

“We wanted residents of and visitors to Southwest Florida to experience the Garden as soon as possible,” Holley comments. “So, we decided to open these major Garden components as they are completed. We simply can’t wait to share our excitement about creating this major cultural asset.” Board member Judy Sproul adds, “We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked for many years on this incredible project. The remarkable visionaries who conceived it, the generous donors who fund it, the enthusiastic members and volunteers who support it, the governmental officials who assisted it, the capable staff who nurture it…all can take great pride in an accomplishment of this magnitude.”

Kraft Construction is the general contractor for the Garden’s construction; the project is on budget and ahead of schedule.

A weeklong celebration beginning November 9th is now being planned in connection with the opening.

It is anticipated that the remaining components, the Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden and Marcia and L. Bates Lea Asian Garden, will open in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The interactive Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden, designed by renowned landscape architect, Herb Schaal, will delight children, parents and grandparents alike with waterfalls, tree houses, seven child-size recreations of native habitat, weird and wonderful plants, and a hidden garden filled with fanciful plantings in found objects. Since this is a children’s garden, children’s input was critical. Eight workshops with kids, aged from 3 to 13 were conducted mostly at schools around the region. They were asked to draw a picture of what their dream garden would look like. Drawings were analyzed for the frequency of features such as butterflies or mazes to prioritize which elements should be included in the garden. The resulting design embodies the children’s inventiveness and joy of life.

The Brazilian Garden, homage to the incredible diversity of Brazilian flora, also pays tribute to one if its favorite sons, renowned landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. The Brazilian Garden will be bold and true to its roots, a tribute to this internationally famous garden designer. Its centerpiece will be an original Burle Marx ceramic mural; a massive 7 by 18 foot piece that is the only one of its kind in the United States. A gift to Naples Botanical Garden by the designer of the Brazilian Garden, Raymond Jungles of Miami, the mural is actually making its début at Brazilian Modern, a Jungles-designed presentation for the New York Botanical Garden’s Orchid Show opening in February.

With the Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Caribbean Garden, designer Robert Truskowski is creating a one-acre reflection of his several trips to the Caribbean. His vision is to create a garden that essentially communicates the history of this region from its pre-Columbian verdant forest to its role as botanical reserve during the age of explorers to the current importance of its agriculture industry. The Mary and Stephen B. Smith River of Grass reflects the most dominant feature of the South Florida landscape – the Everglades. The power of this landscape, dubbed the River of Grass by Marjory Stoneham Douglas, resonated with the design team. They came up with the idea of creating a grassy swale as the axis or backbone of the Garden to pay homage to the Everglades and give the Garden a strong sense of place. The view from the top of the River of Grass leads the eye out to a pine and palm hammock and the sawgrass wetland beyond.

The Collier Enterprises South Wetlands Preserve’s giant pines and ancient cypress, unspoiled marshes and twisted mangroves help provide a vital corridor of habitat for otters, bobcats, hawks, eagles and other wildlife. Hundreds of species of native plants also thrive here. The Garden is committed to returning this incredible microcosm of Southwest Florida nature to pristine wilderness that will forever be protected and preserved. Within the Preserve, the James and Linda White Birding Tower, which is set on a migratory path, is ideally situated to allow participants the opportunity to see northern harrier hawks, migrating ducks, white pelicans and wading birds in this beautiful natural habitat.

The Naples Botanical Garden was conceived by hundreds of visionary individuals who overcame countless obstacles to secure the site and dream of the possibilities for our community. In 1994 a small group gathered at the Naples Library and envisioned a botanical garden. Six years later, with the support of Harvey Kapnick, the Kapnick Family Foundation and the cooperation of Collier Enterprises, the current 170-acre property at Bayshore and Thomasson Drives was purchased, and dreams were becoming reality.

Members of the public can track construction progress of the expansion by visiting the Garden’s website at www.naplesgarden.org where the Garden is virtually open.

Naples Botanical Garden is in the process of creating a world-class tropical garden paradise that will feature cultivated gardens of Asia, Brazil, the Caribbean, Florida, and a hands-on interactive Children’s Garden along with 90 acres of beautifully restored natural habitats. Currently, the Garden offers pre-registered visitations on specific dates. For more information call 239-643-7275 or visit www.naplesgarden.org, where the Garden is virtually open.