In 1933, a forward-thinking group of local plant enthusiasts in Naples, Florida founded Naples Botanical Garden. However, it wasn’t until the late Harvey Kapnick, Jr. donated $5 million in 2000 for the purchase of 170 acres just three miles from downtown Naples, that planning for this visual splendor of nature and major conservation sanctuary got underway.
Created from a master plan, Naples Botanical Garden was completed in 2014 and today the Garden welcomes more than 220,000 visitors annually who enjoy uniquely themed gardens, including a children’s garden, which represent not only the flora and fauna but culture of the tropics.
More than just a beautiful and serene attraction, Naples Botanical Garden was created with a clear mission of “Connecting people with plants by conserving and researching the biological diversity of our collections and ecosystems; engaging our visitors in learning about plants, gardens and ecosystems; and inspiring our visitors to value plants, gardens and natural habitats.”
The Chabraja Visitor Center, which includes Kathryn’s Garden, Irma’s Garden, LaGrippe Orchid Garden, Kapnick Hall, the Jane and Chuck Berger Shop in the Garden and Fogg Café, welcomes visitors to Naples Botanical Garden. Having been awarded a LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification, the Visitor Center’s innovative green practices include rainwater collection tanks that can store 7,000 gallons of rainwater for irrigation; buildings that maximize shade and breezes, and use of Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood and other sustainables extensively throughout the Garden.
In Kathryn’s Garden, visitors are immersed in exotic beauty inspired by the lush, tropical landscapes painted by Post-Impressionistic French artist Henri Rousseau and the entire garden appeals to all of the senses via fragrance, color, texture and sound.
The charisma of Irma’s Garden lies in the fact that it features plants chosen for their unusual forms, flowers and colors. One of the garden darlings is the screw pine (Pandanus utilis), which actually isn’t a palm or a pine.
Above: the spiny fruit of the screw pine
A plethora of brilliant and fragrant orchids from around the world are found in the LaGrippe Orchid Garden, ranging from delicate, leafless plants and modest, green flowers to orchids with enormous, showy blossoms. Also included in this garden is a large collection of bromeliads, which thrive in the canopies of the trees. Florida coral limestone was used in the garden’s water features, which provide soothing sounds of cascading water and add to the overall tranquility found here.
The Marcia L. Bates Lea Asian Garden was designed to encompass the cultural, spiritual, and botanical diversity of Southeast Asia. The garden features a Japanese temple ruin and ancient plaza set amid banyan trees, bamboo and groves of Asian edibles plants such as lychees, jackfruit and starfruit. There’s also a Thai pavilion set in a lotus pool with a stepping stone path that leads to a Balinese shrine, a tribute to the goddess of rice and fertility.
The Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Brazilian Garden celebrates the country’s rich and unique plants via the exquisite landscape designs of Brazilian native Roberto Burle Marx.
The vibrant and diverse cultural history of the Caribbean islands can be visualized in the Kapnick Caribbean Garden, from the lush plants of mountainous tropical forests to dry rocky island scrub.
Featuring fun for all ages, the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden is a beckoning, interactive space of flowers, vegetables, vibrant butterflies, and more.
Naples Botanical Garden also is home to a 90-acre nature sanctuary with habitats ranging from brackish marshes to dry upland scrubs. Here, the tall pines, twisted mangroves, and pristine marshes provide a much-needed habitat for hundreds of species of animals and nearly 300 species, many rare, of native plants.
Perhaps one of the most unique gardens in Naples Botanical Garden is the Water Garden. It’s been described as reminiscent of Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s water lily pool and proudly showcases colorful and varying blooms, depending on the season, from around the world. A boardwalk bisects this garden, which also features a soundstage where visitors can enjoy music of all sorts from jazz to tribute bands during Night Lights in the Garden. This setting is renowned as one of the best outdoor concert spaces in Naples.
An educational venue, the Naples Botanical Garden offers programs for children and families, including summer camp and W.O.N.D.E.R on Saturdays and Sundays in the Children’s Garden. Adult programming includes art, gardening & horticulture and nature & birding.
Classroom and teacher-oriented field trip opportunities also are available, as well as sustainability and conservation programs.
Naples Botanical Garden is located at the corner of Bayshore Drive and Thomasson Drive, just 10 minutes from downtown Naples. For more information, visit www.naplesgarden.org/.
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