Back in November, I decided to take a long, slow walk though the Florida Botanical Gardens, including both the Florida Friendly Garden and the Formal Gardens. I started at the front of the Extension building and worked my way around to the left and back.
I found a host of beautiful Florida-friendly plants in front of the Extension building and made some notes on the ones I wanted to research further. It’s wonderful to find striking plants such as firebush that will require little work once planted in the landscape.
The Florida-friendly plants have been selected to protect the Florida environment. These plants can save on your water bill because they are compatible with our Florida climate.
Around the corner of the building are raised beds showing the organic vegetable display gardens, tended by the Master Gardeners. Nearly every vegetable I have ever seen grown in Florida was represented, and I learned lots of information from the Master Gardener.
So many of us are interested in growing our own food these days and want to avoid harmful sprays. I spoke with the Master Gardener about ways to cope organically with insects that are prone to attack the vegetables.
I had always been afraid to use the organic BT solution for squash because I was concerned it might damage the larvae on butterfly plants in my yard. Not so, if I make sure to keep well away from the butterfly plants when I spray, according to the Master Gardener.
Continuing around the building to the herb gardens, I found a surprising range of herbs, including some I never realized could be grown here. I was very excited to see patchouli as I’ve always loved the essential oil, and I was surprised to see black pepper growing right here in Pinellas County.
Further on, the fruit garden was lush with ripening bananas at the time. It was interesting to see all the many varieties of bananas that will fruit here.
Finally, I arrived at the formal gardens where volunteers were busy putting up the lights for the popular December Holiday Lights in the Gardens show. I learned recently that most of the lights now are LED, which are the type recommended on the University of Florida Green Holiday site. (This site also contains tons of other ideas to save resources during the season.)
The lights will display from 5:30-9:30 pm nightly through January 1. Children under 12 are admitted free with a $2 suggested donation for adults.
The Florida Botanical Gardens is located at 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo.