Over a year has passed since my last letter. During that time there have been massive changes in the St. Johns Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve! Necessary preparations have been made, such as adding new roads and trails, parking areas have been cleared, our Oasis Outpost area and the one-of-a-kind event’s pergola, which we affectionately call the Palmvilion, have been completed, and hundreds of new plants have been added, including some very rare species! A beautiful new sign has been built up front, finally letting those passing by know what is coming! Irrigation and electrical lines have been run, a workshop has been created, an official entrance area has been built, nursery areas have been established and stocked with many rare and beautiful plants, and the list goes on! We have been visited by biologists from the St. Johns Water Management District, and they helped us to identify many of the beautiful plants down in the nature preserve. However, we were also visited by Mother Nature… Two hurricanes, a very hard freeze, and a hailstorm gave us a lot more work to do than usual! But through it all, we have remained committed to making this botanical garden a reality! With its massive oaks, and huge collection of lush tropical plants, the St. Johns Botanical Garden is a unique and beautiful place.
But the SJBGNP is still in its infancy. It is like a seedling when compared to a massive 100-year-old oak tree, like the Sunken Gardens in Central Florida, or the Fairchild Botanical Garden in Miami! As such, it does not yet have all of the long-established infrastructure of those places. It does not have all of the benches we need, enough picnic tables, or all of the educational signage and materials and paved trails (except for limestone in many areas). But what it does have is natural beauty, and the potential to become something really wonderful. In order for that to happen, however, it needs individuals and corporations to help. Several individuals and a few corporations have made major donations and sponsorships to help us along, but we need much more to turn this into a truly first-class botanical garden, the kind that North Florida needs, and the kind that North Florida deserves. In addition to donations, we need members, and we need volunteers! Please join us. Call Vice President Tony Molinaro today about volunteering at: (904) 293-7370, or contact us about making a donation. Or you may simply make a tax-deductible donation through this website.
The SJBGNP is a gift of natural beauty… It is also an opportunity for the county and surrounding communities to make something really special by helping to preserve this gift and build upon it so that it becomes a hub of activity, of learning, of research, of preservation, and of family fun for many years to come. Let’s make that happen, together!
Dr. John Rossi
It’s an exciting time at the St. Johns Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve! Almost daily, new plants arrive and are added to the collection! Trails and paths are being designed, and our new entrance way is taking shape. Beautiful plant identification signs have arrived and are being assembled and placed. Our informational signs should be arriving any day now.
The different collections within the Garden are beginning to develop a character all their own. The South American area features cultivated palms found in no other botanical garden! And it has some other rare species that hold promise to become popular in our area since they come from colder areas of Argentina. The Island Palm area is beginning to look like a tropical jungle with all of the gorgeous species from Madagascar, New Caledonia and other far away islands. The Southeastern Asian area is becoming one of my favorites, however, as the collections of beautiful split leaved fan palms from the genera Licuala and Lanonia grow, and other Asian plant species are added. Sometimes, in the morning sun, or after a heavy rain, it is breathtaking. The combination of unusual banana species, hibiscus, crotons, graptophyllums, copper plants, pagoda plants, coleus, lavender, Pseuderanthemums and of course, palms and cycads, overwhelms the average person with a variety of colors, textures, shapes and sizes.
Meanwhile the Mexican Desert Palm display goes in the opposite direction. It demonstrates a harsher, sparser environment that is dominated by agave, yuccas, desert spoons, cactus, and of course, desert fan palms of the genera Brahea, Sabal and Washingtonia. Just like the real desert, this hot, open, rocky area is a good place to sit and meditate.
If you like quiet though, walking down to the Barrett Picnic Area along the side of Deep Creek will definitely provide it. The silence is only broken by the sound of crickets chirping, birds singing, or after a heavy rain, a chorus of tree frogs. And at certain times of the year, the sound of Deep Creek’s trickling water is very relaxing.
All this is happening at the garden right now, in anticipation of a projected opening date in mid-October, 2022! But… we need your help now! Those picnic tables and benches aren’t cheap. Click to make a much-needed donation today! We are looking forward to seeing you in October!
Dr. John Rossi
Founder and SJBGNP President