Visiting public gardens – both local and in other regions – is one of my favorite past-times. It’s not unusual to pick up a design idea, gain insight into plants growing in different regions, or discover something unexpected. Wandering among garden beds and greenhouses with camera in hand helps capture these visits, one of which I share here … a bonsai discovery.
Heathcote Botanical Gardens, Fort Pierce, Florida
During a recent brief escape to Florida I visited Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce. The weather was chilly for Florida, very windy, and not conducive to sitting on the beach to soak in February sunshine … but just fine for wandering through gardens.
Heathcote Botanical Gardens main entrance
The entrance to this five-acre garden welcomes with colorful tropical plants under mature palms and leads to a gift shop where you pay the $6 adult entry fee, pick up a map to guide your visit, and learn a bit about the garden displays and structures.
One of the main gardens is the Bonsai Gallery. This form of garden art never necessarily intrigued me, not because I don’t appreciate it as an art form, but because my focus and interest has always been with full-size gardening. But, wandering through the meandering paths of this Bonsai Gallery where most trees can be viewed from all sides and angles, gave me new-found respect for the knowledge, patience, and care that goes into creating bonsai.
Bonsai Ficus retusa, in training since 1989
The Bonsai Gallery features over 100 trees on permanent display such as this ficus. Each specimen is labeled with its botanical name and how long it has been “in training” as a bonsai … in the case of this ficus, since 1989.
Though I’ve cared for many plants, some houseplants that have been with me for decades, the wonder of training a plant into a beautiful, balanced miniature tree is fascinating.
The collection in the Bonsai Gallery was created by James J. Smith who, according to information in Heathcotes’ brochures and website, is a bonsai master.
I don’t begin to suggest knowing anything about the process of training bonsai, but do want to share some of the specimen in this garden.
Though not able to see all 100 – during the visit garden caretakers were in the process of securing frost protection over most of the trees and moving more tender bonsai to shelter – studying just a few shows the nature of this art form.
Green Island Ficus (Ficus macrocarpa) in training since 1979
Bo Tree (Ficus religiosa) in training since 2003
Neea buxifolia in training since 1990
Dwarf Jade (Portulacaria afra) in training since 1978
Jaboticaba (Eugenia cauliflora) in training since 1973
This view of one of the paths with bonsai tented in frost protection gives an idea of how much work the Bonsai Gallery staff faced on the day of this visit. All 100 trees needed protection.
Bonsai Gallery being protected from frost
The rest of Heathcote Botanical Gardens is filled with peaceful paths,
A path in the Palm & Cycad Walk at Heathcote Botanical Gardens
Plant bed at Heathcote Botanical Gardens
and wonderful palms.
A trio of Areca palms at Heathcote Botanical Gardens
The visit was a soothing, refreshing, and educational way for a northern gardener to spend a couple of hours and become intrigued by the bonsai art form. It just may be something to learn if my aging body ever prevents me from continuing full-size gardening.
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