Botanical Garden Concept Plan: Setting a New Standard
For decades, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has given Jacksonville and Northeast Florida residents a place to love animals. Now our mission is to offer our community a public place to love plants, while setting a new standard for zoos in the process. We are in the process of building a first-of-its-kind botanical garden inside our Zoo that, unlike other zoos, is integrated among the animal exhibits. Unlike most other growing and culturally-rich cities, Jacksonville cannot list a botanical garden as one of its cultural treasures.
Beyond filling an educational need, botanical gardens benefit their communities in many ways. They become tourist attractions, benefit the green industry, serve as an employer and pump millions of construction dollars into the regional economy. Over the past 400 years, botanical gardens evolved from a menagerie of medicinal plants to entering the 21st century with a strong focus on the concept of environmental sustainability. While some zoos have enhanced the natural habitat of their animal collection, none to our knowledge have committed to the idea of combining a zoo and botanical garden. This combination will only serve to strengthen each institution’s ability to foster a clear vision of sustainable conservation of our natural resources. With the help of a nationally-renowned botanical garden design firm, the Zoo developed three major garden zones in its Botanical Garden Concept Plan:
The Main Path, known as the River of Color: Visitors will begin their garden journey in the Main Camp Garden greeted with a celebratory display of striking foliage and flowering plants. They will be drawn toward the River of Color by drifts of colorful bloom swirling through ribbons of contrasting foliage and textures in the distance. Throughout the Zoo, the River of Color will be a linear garden that links garden destinations and animal exhibits.
Themed Pocket Gardens: Distinct and unique garden jewels of horticultural display that immerse the visitor in through plant themed forecourts to the animal exhibits that follow. Each garden is about 2 acres in size. Currently our Pocket Gardens include the African-Savanna Blooms Garden, South American-Range of the Jaguar Garden, the native gardens of Wild Florida and Play Park, the formal Gardens of Trout River, and the Asian Garden.
The Primary Gardens: In Jacksonville, visitors to the Zoo have recognized the unique relationship the Zoo shares with the Trout River. The beautiful native water-edge plants and spectacular panoramic views over the River set this area aside as something quite special. Recognizing this potential, we selected this area as the home for the Primary
Gardens which will cover approximately twelve acres and include Collection Gardens and the Conservatory.
Containers for the Cold
By Jen Best, Horticulture Supervisor
If you have a small patio or just want a simple way to decorate the deck, container gardens are the way to go. Now with the cooler weather of fall around the corner you want to start looking for some cold hardy plants so that you can keep those containers bursting with blooms for the other half of the year. Snapdragons, Nemesia, Snow Princess Lobularia, Diascia, Gazania, and Vista Supertunias are some of the cold weather bloomers that have been quite successful for me these past few winters.
Remember to offset your flowering plants with bold foliage and spiky textures. Plants like Lambs Ear, Dusty Miller and Powis Castle Artemesia with their soft fuzzy white foliage make a statement all their own, while also showing off the colorful flowers of the other plants. And you don’t want to forget to include African Iris or Variegated Dianella in the mix to add a vertical element to your planting combination.
For those of you who like to cook with fresh herbs, now is the time to start planting those as well. Most of the popular cooking herbs; Rosemary, Sage, Chives, Thyme, Oregano, Mints, Parsley, Dill and Fennel all like this cooler time of year and do fabulously all winter in a container in a sunny location. These can be mixed with some of the edible flowers like Violas, Pansies, Nasturtiums and Dianthus if you want to add some color to your plate.
Whatever combination you decide to create in your container gardens remember the basics for happy plants~
• Check for drainage holes
• Use a light weight potting mix
• Add slow release fertilizer to the soil when planting
• Water thoroughly after planting, and then only when dry
• Be careful using a saucer: holding water can rot roots, especially in winter