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

Winterizing Your Landscape
By Harry Owens, Horticulture Technician II

It is winter time in Florida (if there is such a thing) and it is time to prepare your yard for those pesky possible cold snaps. As I write this article the rest of the country is weeks into winter, however we have yet to have a freeze. But it is still early, don’t hold your breath. Here are some tips to help maintain your landscape through the chilly nights. Plants and irrigation pipes are two parts of your landscape that can be negatively affected by freezing temperatures.

Plants can be put into two categories: potted and planted. It is a good idea to water your plants, especially potted plants, before the freeze allowing them time to dry off. If the leaves are still wet when the freeze hits, it can do more harm than good. Remember, to not water your succulents before a freeze or they will turn to mush. It’s a good idea to keep cold-sensitive plants in pots so that they can be moved to a warmer location during a freeze. Inside the house, an interior wall in a garage, or shed are all good options for storage during a freeze. Even laying them down in your bushes will help keep them warmer and protected.  Tropical plants that are in the ground should be covered with cloth or canvas.  Plastic and tarps should not be used because they can “bake” the plants if they are not removed once the temperatures rise. Make sure to stake down the edges of the material to help trap the natural heat coming from the earth.  You can also use lights under the cover, just make sure it is not contacting the fabric or plant. A single light bulb or a string of old Christmas lights can emit enough heat to keep your plants warm.

Do not forget about your pipes when winterizing your yard. We do not get the extreme hard freezes here so underground water pipes will be fine, but it is a good idea to cover any exposed pipes if an extended or extreme freeze is forecasted. Your irrigation should be cut back by now with the seasonal change, but remember to turn it off when expecting a freeze on your watering day. The plants will obviously still need water but with shorter days and lower temps, plants are not transpiring as much and moisture is not being sapped from the soil as fast. If you have any raised water hose bibs, not up against your house, it’s a good idea to let them drip to keep the pipes from freezing and busting, just remember to turn them off after it warms up.

Once the cold temperatures have passed, you can bring your potted plants back outside and uncover your other plants. Any plants stored in a dark place should be brought back out as soon as temps are warm enough. This is also a good time to water all of your plants. Do not forget to unwrap any pipes and turn off the drip on any hose bibs. It only takes one hard freeze to lose a favorite plant or have a mid-winter irrigation emergency. So remain vigilant, this is Florida, the cold can come when you least expect it…or maybe not.


Savanna Blooms

Gardens at Trout River Plaza

Asian Bamboo Garden

Future Gardens

Garden Tours


Rivers of Color Garden