Monday, November 29, 2021

Experience the Naples Botanical Garden Now, Without the Crowds!

Photos by Jory Westberry | This huge bromeliad hails from South East Brazil and that’s the beauty of a Botanical Garden, you can see specimens from all over the world in your own “backyard.”

When I read that the Naples Botanical Garden had reopened, I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to visit this special, visually sensual, peaceful venue again and see all the new flowers that had bloomed since I was last there during the holidays. Those were the days of creative lighting, strolling at night through twinkling, raining lights, music and spectacular colors.

Now, six months later, and life has changed in many ways. Visitors can no longer walk up to the window, show their membership card and gain entrance instantly. Instead, and this isn’t a bad thing, one needs to access the Naples Botanical Garden website to make a reservation at a time certain, pay if not a member already, and on the day/time you chose, show up and enjoy.

I arrived a little late for my reservation—after stopping at every red light on the way—but they were very understanding and verified my virtual ticket and, with a gratifying sigh, I was back in one of my happy places. The best part about the Botanical Garden is that there’s always something blooming, some that you’ve never seen before and some that are old favorites. I can understand the social distancing spacing based on time ticketing. There were also roped off areas and signs to direct you where you could go, some of which were “one-way” paths to keep the visitors moving along with safe distancing. Still, there was time and room to stop and “smell the roses” err… appreciate the landscaped vistas and ponder the beauty of new blooms.

Unfortunately, the Orchid Garden is closed right now. The space has been deemed too small to allow social distancing. Even if you thought you could get past the barrier and sign, it wouldn’t do you much good. Most of the orchids have been removed to other places, still viewable along the paths, but not concentrated in one place. Social distancing for orchids.

Most of the other areas are open for viewing. My reservation was for first thing in the morning, thanks to a check of the weather before reserving. By mid-day, perspiration was profuse, and I craved some air-conditioning. I even thought about carrying an umbrella to be out of the sun, but there are enough places in the shade to be comfortable.

The Naples Botanical Garden feels like a jungle in certain areas and you don’t have to travel far to experience the vibrancy.

This isn’t just an orchid, it’s an orchid tree! Small, delicate and fluttery in the breeze.

The great thing about the Naples Botanical Garden is the changing variety of the landscape, the types of flowers that are in bloom and trying to learn the names of the most unusual ones. There’s a section with Plumeria, aka Frangipani, the same beautiful tropical flowers that the Hawaiians usually use in creating leis, along with other tropical flowers and greenery. I have two varieties in my yard, a pure yellow and a deep pink. You’ve probably noticed them around South Florida, Marco/Naples because they are stunningly beautiful when in bloom during late Spring and Summer. In the Fall, the leaves and flowers start to drop off and flutter to the ground where you will have to rake them up, otherwise they accumulate into a dense, moist mat under the tree that will deter lawn mowing and look like, wait for it… a pile of dead, soggy brownish yellow leaves.

After all the leaves and flowers have fallen off, the tree looks like a boney skeleton with sleek, similarly sized and shaped branches, kind of like elongated hot dogs. The limbs stay barren through the late fall and winter, which is a cryin’ shame, but makes you watch the bare limbs eagerly for the first tiny leaves to appear and the eventual flowers with a cheering heart.

Frangipani/Plumeria come in many different color combinations like deep pink, solid yellow, white, pale pink, a pale pink with a yellow center, lavender with a bright pink center, a bright pink with yellow highlights and more. They have a very gentle fragrance, not cloying or obnoxious. You can see why “some of us” want to have more varieties of colors in our yards. I’ve cut off small branches from my trees and tried to root them—sometimes they do, sometimes they rot. However, I had a tip from my green-thumbed friend Beth. She said after you cut off a small branch, let it “scab” over at the cut for a few days, then plant it in dirt in a recycled black plastic pot and place it on a black garbage bag in full sun; they thrive with that extra heat! Sure enough, the new varieties she gave me are flourishing.

I’ve tried making leis with the flowers by using a needle and thread, lining them up and stringing them facing the same direction, which doesn’t take that long to do. However, they sure look amateurish compared with the colorful and immensely heavy creations from Hawaii. I guess I’ll have to go back for lessons, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the Naples Botanical Garden. Aloha!








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