Botanical Gardens

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.

Garden Tours

Gardener's Corner

Is Your Yard Hurricane Ready?
By Harry Owens, Horticulture Technician II

Living in the great state of Florida has many pros and cons. It is summertime, which means time to go the beach but also means time to get your yard hurricane ready. Some may say it is too early to prepare for hurricanes but by the time you read this we will be a month into hurricane season. I am not telling you to go ahead and board your windows up but there are somethings you can do, so that you will not have as much to do when a hurricane starts to swirl in the Atlantic. There are some steps you can take when hurricane season begins, when an actual hurricane watch begins, and once the storm has passed. Hurricane season started June 1, and there are some pre-emptive actions you can take to help your landscape, home, and surrounding trees make it through the storm.  

Before the storm arrives, make sure storm drains and ditches are clear of debris and free-flowing to lessen the likelihood of flooding. Clogged storm drains can lead to flooding of your home and your landscape. For this same reason, it is a good idea to keep your gutters clean. Cut back any trees and weak limbs hanging over or making contact with your home. These things can be done now, do not wait for the storm to be named, it will be too late. You do not want yard debris in front of your house before the hurricane even shows. Once the storm is named and it is likely that you will be affected, make sure all your equipment you are going to use for clean-up is serviced and full of gas and oil. Gas supplies may be low after the storm or the route to the gas station may be inaccessible. Next, tie down or bring in anything in your yard that may become a projectile during the storm; lawn furniture, potted plants, grill, etc. If you cannot bring potted plants inside, lay them down, winds are weaker by the ground and they are less likely to be stripped of leaves and branches broken. Also, water your plants prior to the storm, electricity and water may be down for an extended period of time afterwards.

A point of contention amongst Floridians is, should I hurricane cut my palms? Hurricane pruning is when you cut most of the fronds off a palm to reduce wind resistance in hopes of decreasing wind damage. The answer is no, over pruning of fronds compromises the strength of the head’s multi-layered structure, which is already perfectly designed to absorb high winds. Hurricane pruning is more likely to cause damage to your palm by snapping the crown and can also narrow the trunk leading to trunk failure. This may be because the fronds that are left are too young and have not hardened enough and lack the support of the older fronds.  
After the hurricane has passed, the first thing you want to do is assess the damage, being sure to look out for downed powerlines and any broken pipes. Contact your local power supplier if you have any downed powerlines around. Stand up any plants that you laid down or may have been uprooted/unpotted. If you live close to the coast or waterways, you may want to irrigate your plants to flush out any salt residue. Hurricanes can carry salt spray for miles. Then the “real” work begins. Pick up any downed limbs, cut down any unsalvageable trees, cutting them into manageable lengths and neatly stacking the debris curbside for pickup which as we learned last year from Matthew may take a while.

Hurricane season is upon us and this has only been things to get your yard prepared. There is still a lot to do: getting your house ready, family prepared, and putting a hurricane kit together. With so much to do, make sure you give yourself enough time to get it all done. You do not want to be racing the storm, do what you can now before there is a threat. A tropical depression can become a hurricane very quickly, make sure you stay up to date with any threats from the tropics.

Savanna Blooms

Gardens at Trout River Plaza

Asian Bamboo Garden

Future Gardens

Garden Tours


Rivers of Color Garden