This past week in Minnesota was bone-chilling, but I missed most of it, thanks to a long-planned trip to visit my parents, who spend the winter in Naples, Florida. The weather in Naples was great, especially compared to the sub-zero temperatures at home. On our first day there, my mom and I visited the Naples Botanic Garden which showcases the flowers and trees of southwestern Florida.
Last winter, my mom bought two tiny Crown of Thorns plants in Florida, brought them home to Minnesota, where they grew to about 24 inches tall. (I’m trying to keep them alive through the winter for her with mixed results.) We were shocked to see a Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia splendens) up to my waist when we walked through the gates at the garden. It just shows what a tropical climate will do. Naples is zone 10, compared to zone 4 in Minnesota.
One of the prettiest displays in the garden is the Tropical Mosaic Garden. With a brilliant blue and green mosaic background that reflects the colors of the Gulf of Mexico, the garden is home to date palms, giant bromeliads, and a grotto covered in maidenhair ferns. Some paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceaus) were in bloom along with a fabulous orchid tree. The bloom period for these trees is coming to an end, but even as they faded, the hot pink, orchid-like flowers were impressive.
We happened to be there on the opening day of the garden’s new Wings of Brazil exhibit, which runs through May 2008. Inside the garden’s three-room butterfly house are an array of Brazilian birds. The birds included a Banana Quit named for its yellow back, a marvelous green bird called the honeycreeper, a fascinating red-capped cardinal and several friendly parrots. The garden also features a one-mile walking path through a 30-acre native pine and oak scrub habitat.
The garden is an exchange garden with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, so if you are an arboretum member, you can visit the Naples garden for free. It’s not large, but for a northerner looking for some heat, humidity, and flowers, the Naples Botanic is worth a stop.