Native Plant Demonstration Gardens

“A demonstration garden? What is that?”

Frequently this is question I am asked after suggesting a visit to one. People who are considering “going native” want to know how the plants they are considering will look once they are actually in a garden. Pictures in a book are helpful, but nothing compares with seeing a real, live plant, especially one that has been put into a contextual setting.

So what IS a native plant demonstration garden?

 I recently talked with Jane Thompson, the owner of Indian Trails Native Nursery in Lake Worth, who has been working on hers for many years.

Jane, in your mind, what is the purpose of a demonstration garden?

The purpose of the demo garden is to display Florida Native Plants in a mature form. My garden is split between three plant communities showing typical species that you would find in a Coastal Maritime Hammock and a Pine Flatwood. A large section is also designed as a butterfly garden.

What have your major successes or problems been?

Upon initial planting, the garden was very open and sparse. A few months ago, five years after the initial installation, it was so dense that I had to remove much of the understory to allow airflow to move through the garden.

I know you had some questions about which mulch to use this time. Casaurina  was available and less expensive than some other types, but something of an unknown. How has that worked out?

After the first week of laying the mulch, the garden seemed dead. No bugs. No ants, no butterflies, no bees. Now a month later, it is once again teaming with wildlife: rabbits, possum, raccoon, red shouldered hawk, squirrel, many species of butterflies, humming birds, jays, cedar waxwings, cardinals  - and the list goes on - visit the garden to feed.

Jane, that is what I call a successful garden!
How do you chose the plants or the design for your demonstration garden?

I typically showcase species that homeowners need up on their house pads (#2 Fill). Those are the plants that you would expect to survive with minimal care in a Coastal Maritime Hammock. Retail customers here in Palm Beach County who live mostly east of the turnpike or who have a mound of #2 fill around their house would benefit from species of this type. Then There are the Pine Flatwood species needed west of the turnpike for folks in places like the Acreage, Loxahatchee, and Jupiter Farms, where it may become seasonally wet.  Most of the species in the demonstration area are those that I grow and sell. If i don't have a plant a customer wants, I will order it for them. I have designed my main demonstration garden as a wide pathway walk-through so that people can stroll along and enjoy changing views. It is an interesting place to walk in even for the people who just come along with their gardening friends as passengers.

Several additional plantings around the nursery are not gardens but do show natives in use, such as an aqautic area installed to aid in filtering the water run-off from the nursery, a pond with perimeter plantings of mature trees, and several areas that demonstrate how you can use some of the larger shrubs as screens for privacy and security.

Here are some addresses of demonstration gardens for visiting.
Be sure to tell us of others you like, or better yet, write about them for our blog, and we'll post their addressees too. 

Indian Trails Native Nursery
6315 Park Lane W
Lake Worth, FL  33449


                   Mounts Botanical Garden
                   Native Plant Section
                   531 N. Military Trail
                   West Palm Beach

                    Native Nurseries
                   1661 Centerville Road
                   Tallahassee, Fl  32308

                    Twigs and Leaves
                    1013 Dr. Martin Luther King St. South
                    9th Street (Between 10th and 11th) Ave. S
                     St. Petersburg, FL

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sue dingwell 


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