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.
Gardening for Pollinators~
Jen Best Horticulture Supervisor
Pollinators are a very important part of our world. Without pollinators many of our fruits and seeds would never be produced. Honeybees alone pollinate over $15 billion worth of crops each year. Without those industrious little girls we would not have apples, blueberries, avocados, almonds and many other food crops. However, honeybees are not our only pollinators; solitary bees, birds, bats, butterflies, beetles and moths are some of the other garden workers that pollinate over 80% of the world’s flowers.
Gardening for Pollinators is more than just flower gardening, it’s creating a little ecosystem in your yard…and the first thing you have to do is be willing to open your mind and allow the critters to move in. Also accept the fact that you might have a little damage on your plants every once in a while. A difficult habit to change is to Stop Spraying Pesticides. Many gardeners want to kill every bug they see in the garden, and many times that means you are killing off all the beneficial insects that are trying to help you control the bad bugs. It may take a season for the beneficial insects to populate your new pollinator garden, so be patient, because one squirt of that pesticide could set you back for another whole season. If you have to kill bugs do it manually that way you can identify what you are killing. Pruning off the infested areas or washing the plant with a bucket of soapy water can help control an aphid outbreak in a more garden friendly way than a sprayer of pesticide.
Pollinator gardening is about observing and allowing nature to help you create a balanced ecosystem. You do not have to have an overgrown weed-like garden but you do need to have a variety of flowering plants. A non-diverse yard of lawn, heavily pruned hedges and border grass is not as inviting to pollinators as a garden full of various flowering shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses. Mixing up your planting palette will help attract all types of pollinators.
Pollinator gardens are important because they are a safe, spray-free habitat for the bugs, birds and mammals to grow and thrive. Too much of the world these days is being turned over to development with over- manicured, chemical dependent landscapes. This is killing off our pollinator ecosystems faster than they can adapt. Help our pollinators out by thinking of them when you garden.