Letter From the Founder

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
SJBGNP President

November 2021


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

From Opportunity to Reality, With Your Help

Not long ago in Naples, Florida, three gentlemen thought that a botanical garden in their area would be a good idea, and they attempted to raise fifty thousand dollars. To their surprise, their early donations were closer to five million dollars! Now, the Naples Botanical Garden is one of the finest public gardens in the world, and certainly in the state of Florida! There are no comparable botanical gardens in Northern Florida, but for the first time, such an opportunity exists: The St. Johns Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve, a non-profit, 501(c)(3), is now under construction! Amongst beautiful massive oaks and native saw palmetto trees, a collection of rare and exotic plants, including the largest collection of palm tree species in Northern Florida, has arisen.
The St. Johns Botanical Garden will be different from the Naples Botanical Garden in that it will serve Northeastern Florida, and as such will feature many plants and palms that will survive in our area, Zone 9a/9b, rather than just Zone 10. And it will include a nature preserve that features a beautiful North Florida riverine hardwood forest, a unique and dwindling environment in the face of rapid expansion in St. Johns County. Thus, it will become a resource for conservation and education about a different group of plants and ecosystem, even though there may be some overlap. And it will become a necessary addition to the economy of Northern Florida, providing another destination for visitors to our area. In a sense, it has the opportunity to become the “green jewel of St. Johns County”.
But we are just getting started! We have a long way to go, and we need your help! To create a first-rate botanical garden, we need to acquire more land, part of which will be preserved in its natural state for vital conservation. Then, we need paved roads to become handicapped accessible, and restrooms, greenhouses, and waterfalls, more hiking trails, more parking area, and a bridge, and, and, and!!! In short, we need YOUR HELP! Please contact us, or make a secure donation through our website. But remember, we are not open to the public… yet!

Projected opening date is October 15th, 2022.

Please Pardon Our Mess

SJBGNP is in its infancy. There are many areas that are not finished, under construction, weedy, or not accessible yet by wheelchair. Roads and paths are not yet paved. Plant ID signs and informational signage is not yet complete. We are working on all of these tasks. But we need your help to make these things happen! Become a sustaining member, adopt a tree, purchase something in the gift shop, volunteer here, or just make a tax-deductible donation. This is YOUR Botanical Garden! Take pride in it and become a part of it! You are seeing the largest collection of palms, cycads and tropical plants in North Florida. You are amongst huge oaks, and the nature preserve part of the Botanical Garden features a riverine floodplain with a beautiful hardwood forest that harbors a wonderful variety of wildlife not often seen in much of northern Florida. Our goal is to expand the nature preserve and preserve it for future generations…