Without question, gardens rank among my favorite retreats on warm summer days. Contrary to what one would think, gardens are still radiant in the hot summertime. With an endless supply of sunshine and rainfall, Florida is home to a wild array of big, bold, colorful blooms. That’s why dogs and dog lovers can appreciate the beauty of vibrant botanical gardens scattered throughout the state.
I fetched a few favorites to put on your botanical garden bucket list; leashed dogs are welcome!
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens (Gainesville)
It’s the bamboo that caught my eye—and bumped my snout at Kanapaha. Rising high above the ground, it seems almost impossible that so many types could grow in one spot, and yet here they are. I must confess that when we got to the gardens, I branched off from the usual path and went straight to the herb garden. It’s the largest in the Southeast and a living potpourri of herbaceous plants bursting with sweet and spicy smells, inviting me to walk up and take a whiff. Everywhere in the garden, herbal scents filled the air, triggering memories of homemade treats. I think the culprit was parsley, but I’m not totally sure. There are many different gardens to explore, with long hiking trails. I went down path after path, investigating plants and stopping to see my reflection in streams, until I reach the grassy maze. No visit is complete without running through the grassy maze. Maybe a treat is waiting on the other side!
Heathcote Botanical Garden (Fort Pierce)
Heathcote, aka the Green Heart of the Southeast Coast, is home to native flora and exotic international species. The news about friendly feline visitors only intensified my already excitable nature, but after I got the all-clear, I followed my nose, and it led me—ker-slam!—into an herb garden. The fresh smell of rosemary tickled my senses as I meandered the path to the famed Bonsai Collection. I felt big next to the small trees. Gracing the areas in between these specialty gardens are borders of cacti, flowers and native plants, and whimsical mosaic benches where you can recharge before hitting an open field to chase pretty butterflies.
Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens (Jacksonville)
With marked trails, fresh ponds and lush landscapes, this local gem is a must for a breath of fresh air. I can spend hours walking around without a plan. Years ago, the Arboretum was a landfill; it’s amazing how nature reclaimed the land. What makes this spot even more special is the variety of trees and scenic views from the upper ravine. At first, the rolling terrain posed a challenge, but these paws hiked the loop like a champ. I even made friends with a few VIPs—very important plants.
I’ve always been fascinated by plants, especially herbaceous ones. Plants don’t seem so very different from animals: They live, they grow, they’re territorial and they have unique ways to communicate with each other. By visiting these gardens and seeing how incredible plants are, everyone should soon realize how important it is to preserve, not destroy, the future of the plant species upon which every life depends.
Davi the dachshund really digs a good garden.