The Naples Botanical Garden is a wonderful blend of both wild and trained. Walking through the 170 acres of both small gardens and sweeping views, it’s hard to believe that just ten years ago, this garden did not exist. After more than a decade of planning, construction began in 2008 as the lakes were dug and the land was sculpted into shapes that would give the gardens the structure which allows you to feel completely transported as you wander from one section to the next.
I started in the area of the Children’s Garden, where the butterfly house was filled with a delightful combination of fluttering colors.
From there, I moved on to the Brazilian Garden with it’s dramatic fountains and bold colors. I was wandering towards the edge of this garden when I found this long, thin and lovely local resident, which I was told was a non-venomous eastern indigo.
The Caribbean Garden was next, with banana trees bearing fruit and a lovely jade plant that hangs like a chandelier along a dramatic stone columned walkway. Views from this garden look out over The Preserve, a 90 acre nature sanctuary providing habitats for a wide variety of wildlife. I was treated to this view of an alligator sunning itself while sharing the afternoon with a variety of birds and turtles.
I moved to the Florida garden where I was happily photographing the beautiful plants and fountains when I made a rookie traveler mistake. I was visiting mid afternoon on a warm day, and hadn’t brought water. There are plenty of places to stop and rest in the shade, but I was focused on all of the wonderful colors and textures around me and didn’t pay attention when I started feeling a little too warm. I went from warm to light headed in about 30 seconds and luckily, one of the many volunteers at the garden offered to walk with me back to the cafe where I got a bite to eat, some water to drink, and it took about 40 minutes for me to feel normal again.
That mistake ended up limiting the rest of my visit to the shady spots only, but I was able to see the Orchid Garden and check out the collection of really interesting stuff in the gift shop before I called it a day.
Overall Impression: If I lived in the area, I think I would be either visiting this garden weekly or just volunteering here. The gardens are so filled with color and texture and light that you can’t help but get a creative spark from visiting. The Preserve is also lovely, and worth bringing a pair of binoculars to view the wildlife. Bring water, wear sunscreen and a hat, and if you aren’t accustomed to the Florida heat, visit earlier in the day.
Costs for the Day: Adult admission is $14.95 for the day. Individual memberships start at $80 and include free annual admission and other benefits.