The Children's Garden

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Beyond the saw palmetto tunnel at the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children's Garden lies a carefree world full of flowers, vegetables, butterflies, tree houses and babbling streams.Your journey into this interactive learning environment begins in the Entry Court, where you can not only orient yourself with the in-ground compass rose, but also cool off, splash, and play in the jets of water spraying from the boulders around the court. If you pause for just a moment to take in your surroundings, you'll realize that the Children's Garden is so much more than the entry fountains.

Where to start? Perhaps the brightly colored wings of the variety of butterflies in the Pfeffer-Beach Butterfly House will catch your eye. Ask the docent on-hand to explain more about each butterfly as they flutter around, or help you identify others within the lush plant growth.

After leaving the Butterfly House you will discover the Hidden Garden which at first may appear to be just a junkyard, but is in reality teeming with flowers sprouting from shoes, purses, basketballs, lamps, sinks, and even a "clogged" toilet!

Experience delightful fragrances in Judy Herb's Herb Garden, try your hand in using the watering can at the Vicki Oppenheimer Healthy Eating Garden and the Nancy and Jonathan Hamill Florida Cracker House Garden. Get hands-on at Mrs. Vicki Oppenheimer's Healthy Eating Garden which features a variety of organically grown vegetables that will change with the seasons, providing new varieties of produce to be harvested year round.

On the lower level of the Children's Garden, you can take a journey from tree to sea through Florida's ecosystems. Begin just off the Entry Court and wander down the trail through the Repp Family Hardwood Hammock, full of native Florida plants, through the Gumbo Limbo grove and shell mounds, to the beach area surrounded by sea oats and full of beach toys for your castle-building needs. Past the beach is our version of the Everglades, where dragonflies hover over pickerelweed and a net crawl allows you to peer into the grasses below to catch a glimpse of an otherwise inaccessible community. A bouncing raft and stepping stones let you get a close-up view of this world as you make your way to the Waud waterfall and cave. In the middle is the Dry Prairie habitat and its maze of grasses leading to the climbable fire tower.

For an even better view of the garden, head to the two-story tree house in the center of the garden, complete with climbing platforms and rope bridges. This structure surrounds a massive strangler-fig full of all sorts of other bromeliads and air plants - you'll notice something different every time you visit. From here, you can check out the parts of the garden you just visited and maybe even discover new areas you want to explore.

The Children's Garden is always changing and growing! If the sunflowers grow an inch every day, can you imagine what our garden will look like in a week, a month or even a year? Stop by and plant a seed, water a plant, play in the fountain, or just let your imagination run wild.

Using This Place

The Smith Children's Garden is designed to bring out the child in anyone. Young children will enjoy playing in the fountains, exploring the Hidden Garden, watching the butterflies emerge from their chrysalis, and watering the seedlings. Parents, grandparents and families will enjoy the whimsy of this garden and find tthemselves exploring this beautiful setting through the eyes of a child.

Annual Events

Each weekend throughout the year, the Smith Children's Garden features the W.O.N.D.E.R (Walk, Observe, Navigate, Draw, Explore, and Read) Program. Each month's changing theme begins with a story related to the theme, followed by fun and educational activities the whole family can enjoy.

During the months of November through April, the Smith Children's Garden features Second Saturday Celebrations. The second Saturday of each month includes a day of fun for the entire family, complete with themed events, activities and crafts. From family gardening days to Gnomes, and even a Dr. Suess inspired day, you'll want to mark your calendar for these days.

Designer & History

Herb Schaal, FASLA, EDAW
Fort Collins, Colorado
Herb Schaal, named 2008 Designer of the Year by the American Horticultural Society, is a landscape architect with over thirty years of experience in a broad range of applications of the profession, including urban design studies; site planning and design for corporate facilities and campuses; and highway and corridor work. He specializes in public gardens, including educational gardens for children and contemplative gardens for health care facilities. He is also an authority on the creation of natural landscapes and revegetation of difficult sites and disturbed areas. Thirty eight (38) of his projects have been recognized for awards by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Herb holds a MLA from State University of New York at Syracuse and is a Fellow with the American Society of Landscape Architects. He is a registered landscape architect in California, Missouri, Utah, and Wyoming and is also certified with the National Council of Landscape Architects Review Board.

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