John and I recently noticed that when it comes to front yards, we are nowhere near keeping up with the Joneses. In fact, if our neighborhood were to hand out awards for the plainest & most unremarkable yard, we would win hands down. It is not that we don’t try to have nice plants and flowers; it’s just that we seem to fail miserably when it comes to keeping them alive! So, bound and determined to no longer have the ugliest yard in the neighborhood, I decided that we should do some research and figure out what we were doing wrong. But where to start? Now that was the question.
Where better to learn about something than a university, right? And as it turns out, it just so happens that right here in Tampa, the University of South Florida’s College of Arts and Sciences Department has a botanical garden open to the public.
The USF Botanical Gardens is about 16 acres and can be found on the grounds of the Tampa campus. Within the Gardens is a living collection of more than 3,000 plants, attracting butterflies, birds, and other animals.
I got many ideas on my visit, and I saw so many beautiful flowers that I would love to see growing in my front yard. With a little work, we could go from our yard being the laughing stock of the neighborhood to being the envy of the neighborhood.
But the keyword there is GROWING! Florida gets pretty hot, and I have a huge oak tree in my yard that shades many areas; just because I stick it in the ground doesn’t mean it will live. So how would I find out if these pretty plants will work in my yard, and what do I need to do to get my yard ready to be the showplace I want it to be?
The great thing about my visit to the USF Botanical Gardens was finding out that my learning process could continue at home via the Botanical Gardens Arts and Sciences Website.
Here is one such example of the valuable educational material provided: Home Landscape Guide for Central Florida.
John and I took our time exploring the gardens. It really was a relaxing stroll, with the sound of birdsong coming from everywhere and something beautiful or interesting to look at with every step. Many habitats are represented along the pathways, as are a variety of gardens, such as; A Fruit Orchard, a Butterfly Garden, a Bromeliad Garden, a Wetland Forest, a Pollinator Garden, and a Cactus/Succulent Garden, to name just a few.
The USF Botanical Gardens is located at 12210 USF Pine Drive, Tampa, FL 33612. They are open to the public Tuesday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Closed Sunday & Monday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children 6 – 13.
Most trails are packed mulch or crushed concrete, so you must watch your step in all areas. However, there are areas to sit back and relax, to take in the view, or to just rest a bit. John and I spent a little over 2 & 1/2 hours at the USF Botanical Gardens; the length of time you should allow for your visit will be dependent on your own level of interest.
Some of the plants that you see in the gardens are available for purchase in the plant shop. Check the USF Botanical Gardens official website for special events throughout the year.
Well, as far as enviable front yards go, John and I have a lot of work to do, but thanks to our visit to the Botanical Gardens at USF, we now have learning resources and a plan on how to turn our yard into something that we can be proud of.
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