2009-06-04 / Arts & Entertainment News

Seeds are sown for grand opening at the Naples Botanical Garden

BY AMY KESSLER Special to Florida Weekly

More than 200,000 yards of soil (10,000 truckloads) have been moved. Miles of irrigation and electrical lines have been run. About 15,000 yards of mulch (made from the melaleuca trees that were growing on the site) have been spread. And miles of pathways have been poured.

The expanded and completely renovated Naples Botanical Garden is well on the way to its grand opening in November 2009. That's when three major gardens —the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children's Garden, the Brazilian Garden and the Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Caribbean Garden — as well as the Mary and Stephen B. Smith River of Grass, will welcome their first visitors.

In spaces that will enchant, inspire and delight, the Garden will celebrate cultural diversity.

The Brazilian Garden will showcase that country's incredible botanic heritage as well as the vision and skill of national icon and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. The Caribbean Garden will represent the enormous impact that region played as a gateway for the arrival of European explorers to the New World.

And the Children's Garden, designed by renowned landscape architect Herb Schaal, will delight young visitors and their parents and grandparents alike with waterfalls, tree houses, seven child-size recreations of native habitat, weird and wonderful plants and a secret spot filled with fanciful plantings in recycled objects.

Eventually, the Marcia and L. Bates Lea Asian Garden will follow these same principles of commemoration and admiration of the people and plants of Southeast Asia. So too will the local landscape be reflected in the Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden, with native trees and wildflowers that honor our home region.

The Garden will also be home to a 90-acre Preserve, a nature sanctuary with seven different ecosystems. Housing unspoiled marshes, twisted mangroves, giant pines and ancient cypress, this vital corridor is home to otters, bobcats, hawks, eagles and other wildlife. Bird lovers will enjoy the

opportunity to witness dozens of species in their native habitat as well as scores of migrating birds in the spring and fall. The state-of-the-art

Harvey Kapnick Education and Research Center will also have a home in the Garden. This 15,000-square-foot facility is a joint venture of the Garden and Florida Gulf Coast University. Here, FGCU students and the Naples community will take classes in all aspects of gardening, landscape design and environmental sciences, and researchers will access the facility for a variety of topics in biology and related science. Collier County teachers will have a venue for hands-on experiences with their students in the natural sciences. These will augment the Garden's existing programs such as the acclaimed Global Garden, an after-school science and math program that brings volunteers together with third- and fourthgraders at Avalon Elementary School once a week from January through April to learn about plants, careers in gardening, cooking and cultures from around the world while working on social skills and desired character traits set forth by the school district.

For community members looking for a unique opportunity to use their botanical knowledge and talents, the Garden offers a host of volunteer positions in the Children's Garden, the Brazilian Garden, the Caribbean Garden and the Preserve. Additional volunteer opportunities exist in light office duty, special projects and, of course, gardening.

The Garden's economic value to the community will be substantial. This world-class cultural attraction will entice visitors not only from Florida, but will be a destination for travelers from all corners of the globe. The Garden will make a profound difference in our community now and for generations to come.

Imagine the eight original volunteers who sat together back in 1993 and imagined what the union between art and science might look like in Naples. Did they know that they would inspire the hundreds of people who have come together to make Naples Botanical Garden happen? Did they realize their efforts would result in opportunities for research and education? Could they imagine that their efforts would result in the preservation of seven natural habitats? Might they have dreamed of the incredible beauty the Garden will add to Naples for generations to come?

We hope you will mark your calendar and plan to be part of our grand opening celebration week in November. Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is the Presenting Sponsor for the grand opening celebration. See you there!

Amy Kessler is the communications manager

at the Naples Botanical Garden.

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