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.
Making Summer Gardening Tolerable
By Harry Owens, Horticulture Technician II
Summer can be a busy time for your gardens and landscapes. Grass and weeds are growing with help from the almost daily afternoon showers. These chores might not seem too hard to do until you remember it is summer in the south, so add intolerable heat, 100% humidity, and ravenous bugs to the mix and it is time to get to work. If that does not sound fun to you, you are in luck - I am about to give some tips to beat the heat and leave those pesky bugs with empty bellies.
One of the easiest ways to avoid the hot temps is to get started as early as possible. Try to get the hardest, labor-intensive stuff done before the sun gets too ferocious or you could work at dusk as the sun is setting if you are not an early bird. Other benefits of starting early include more shade, it is a prime time to water, and wildlife is most active. Next, make sure you are wearing the proper attire to combat the sun. Loose, light-weight, light-colored, long-sleeved shirts shade your skin from the sun and can help regulate body temperature. Wide-brimmed sun hats cover your head and face, keeping you cooler and helping avoid UV rays. Speaking of the sun’s rays, sun screen is also a good idea if you are going to be working outside for extended periods of time anytime of the year but especially in the summer. Large umbrellas are a great form of portable shade if you need to work in a shade-less area of your yard. Neck coolers can also keep your core temperature down; most gardening stores sell a variety but they can also be something as simple as a bandana dipped in cold water.
Now that you are suited for battle, make sure you are and stay well-hydrated. Obviously, the best way to hydrate is by drinking water but there are foods you can eat that can help hydrate you as well; watermelon (imagine that), celery, cucumbers, and strawberries. These can also be added to water for flavoring and eaten once the water is gone. Make sure you are checking yourself and others for signs of heat exhaustion, which include flushed skin, lack of sweating, high body temperature, rapid breathing, headaches, muscle cramps, high heart rate, confusion, weakness, and even unconsciousness. You should take action at the first sign of any of these indicators, ranging from taking a rest to calling 911 depending on severity of the symptom.
The heat is a major deterrent for summer time landscaping but we cannot forget about Florida’s state bird, the mosquito. First line of defense against these vampiric pests is something that also helped with the sun and that is long sleeves. The next line of defense is chemical, insect repellent. There are many kinds of natural bug sprays that use lemon grass, citronella, and mints, if you are anti-DEET. You can also make preventative efforts and get rid of any standing water in and surrounding your yard. This can include pet bowls, clogged gutters, bird baths, and even low spots in your yard. These small pools are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes. If you have a swimming pool, make sure you are keeping up with maintenance and chlorination or it could become mosquito incubator. Also, keep your grass and shrubs trimmed because they are perfect hiding spots for mosquitoes during the day. You can light citronella candles/torches or use a thermacell, which do repel but only in small areas.
I know it is hard to even step outside somedays, let alone go out there and work in your yard for a few hours and I know energy-sapping heat and blood-sucking vermin are not very enticing reasons to go outside. But I hope these tips keep you cool and comfortable and your yard maintained and happy through these couple of unbearable summer months.