The Florida-friendly garden at the Orange County Administration Building in downtown Orlando will be revitalized with support from the Viva Florida grant program. Photo provided by Orange County UF/IFAS
The Florida Wildflower Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Viva Florida Landscape Demonstration Garden grants. Eleven grants were awarded for the following projects:
Depot Park, Sopchoppy
A centerpiece of the city of Sopchoppy, Depot Park was renovated in 2018 with native plant landscaping and an historic restoration of the town’s old railroad depot (now a museum). The grant will fund an expansion of the original planting and includes a formal native-planted entrance and a wildflower meadow. The city plans to add plant identification signs, self-guided tours and a free seed library, with seeds harvested from the park’s native plants. Of the new plantings, Sopchoppy Mayor Lara Edwards said the park “will even more effectively illustrate the beauty of Florida native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees in a small, cultivated landscape. The expanded and enhanced plantings will promote and model landscaping ideas and native plant options for homeowners.” The park and museum are destinations on the Big Bend Scenic Byway and Capital City-to-the-Sea Trails.
Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Ft. Myers
The site of Thomas Edison’s and Henry Ford’s historic homes include botanic gardens, a museum, laboratory — and soon, a native plant demonstration garden will buffer the honey bee apiaries located in the research gardens. Goldenaster (Chrysopsis sp.), Yellowtops (Flaveria linearis) and Tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) are among the wildflowers selected to provide food for the honey bees and attract other pollinators. Garden talks, children’s programming and interpretive signs will provide opportunities for visitors to learn about the benefits of utilizing native plants.
Enchanted Forest Sanctuary, Titusville
Enchanted Forest Sanctuary, part of Brevard County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, is a 470-acre forest of diverse natural habitats. Grant funds will be used to give the park’s native butterfly garden much-needed revitalization. The garden is adjacent to the park’s education building and will feature many host plants, including Senna (Senna ligustrina, S. mexicana var. chapmanii), Jamaican caper (Quadrella jamaicensis), Twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia), Passionvine (Passifllora incarnata, P. subserosa) and several milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), as well as plants that provide food and cover like Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), Bird pepper (Capsicum annuum) and Marlberry (Ardisia escallonioides). Educational programming on the proper planting and care of native plants, good gardening practices, plant propagation, and the harming effects of fertilizers will be offered.
Lake David Park, Groveland
A new native plant demonstration garden in this city-owned park is part of Groveland’s initiative to utilize more native plants in municipal landscapes. The garden at Lake David Park will convey the importance of native plants to residents and connect visitors to the environmental, historical and cultural significance of Florida’s native flora. As one of the most photographed sites in Groveland, Lake David is featured in the city’s marketing campaign and will offer additional opportunities to promote the native plant garden. Both wetland wildflowers and species adapted to dry conditions will be incorporated.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota
Known for its collections of air plants from around the world, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is also home to several collections of Florida native flora. The existing wildflower garden is currently a mix of natives and non-natives but will be replanted using all native plants, including rare and threatened species such as Mangroveberry (Mosiera longipes), Beachberry (Scaevola plumieri) and Wild sweet basil (Ocimum campechianum). The palette was selected to provide successional bloom times and attract pollinators. The rooftop garden is also getting a refresh with Viva Florida funds. The new design will pay tribute to the pine rocklands ecosystem with plants typical of this habitat including Pineland lantana (Lantana depressa var. depressa), Pineywoods dropseed (Sporobolus junceus) and Shortleaf blazing star (Liatris gracilis). Gardens manager Christopher Elenstar said the updated gardens “will provide stunning displays of wildflowers throughout the year to demonstrate what a beautiful native landscape can look like while also acting as a haven for pollinators and native insects.”
Miami Dade College, Miami
One of the outdoor gardens at Miami Dade College’s North Campus will get a native plant makeover with the help of faculty, student volunteers and funds from the Viva Florida grant program. The garden will demonstrate the vanishing legacy of Miami’s native ecosystems by featuring rare species such as Thickleaf wild petunia (Ruellia succulenta), a South Florida endemic; the state-endangered Havanna skullcap (Scutellaria havanensis); and Long Key locustberry (Byrsonima lucida), a state-threatened species. Larval host plants like Pineland croton (Croton linearis), Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Corkystem passionvine (Passiflora suberosa) will also be included in the planting. The garden will be used by students to conduct honors research projects and trials on seed germination and seedling care. The public will also be invited to visit and learn from the interpretive signage that will be installed.
Orange County Administration Building, Orlando
Established in 2007 with partial funding from the Foundation, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping demonstration garden at the Orange County Administrative Building (pictured above) was originally a mix of native and non-native plants. Over the years, many of the weedier non-natives have spread. The updated plan will replace the non-natives with mass plantings of natives and give the garden a showier, more organized appearance. The garden is located in a highly visible area in the heart of downtown Orlando and will help raise awareness of the beauty and benefits of Florida’s native wildflowers.
University of Florida Natural Areas Teaching Lab, Gainesville
The Natural Areas Teaching Lab (NATL) is the only conservation area on the University of Florida’s campus dedicated to teaching students and the public about Florida’s ecology and biotic diversity. The 60-acre site is comprised of three upland ecosystems — hammock, upland pine and old-field succession — and a variety of wetland ecosystems. Viva Florida funds will be used to restore one of the old-field plots using a combination of seeds and live plants. (The old-field sites are designed to mimic ecological succession of formerly cultivated or grazed lands after tilling or abandonment.) Located in a prime viewing area, the restoration will enhance the aesthetic appeal of NATL and increase biodiversity and ecological functionality of the site’s natural communities.
Village Institute for Sustainable Technologies and Agriculture, Tampa
Developed on the site of an abandoned water treatment facility, the Village Institute for Sustainable Technologies and Agriculture (VISTA) is a fully off-the-grid community garden in Tampa’s Carrollwood suburb. The 3-acre site is powered by solar energy and includes organic vegetable and herb gardens, a Monarch Waystation, nature trail, freshwater pond and an active managed bee hive. The Viva Florida demonstration garden will weave a diverse palette of native groundcovers, grasses and wildflowers into areas previously planted with Coontie (Zamia integrifolia), Dune sunflower (Helianthus debilis) and few other native species. With this expansion, VISTA aims to be a native plant ambassador to its members, neighbors and the public by showing how native wildflowers and plants can be used in a landscape to feed pollinators, create wildlife habitat and beautify our suburban neighborhoods.
Orange County Library, West Oaks Branch, Ocoee
A new native wildflower garden will soon adorn the West Oaks Branch of the Orange County Library. The garden design incorporates a variety of easy-to-grow native plants like Firebush (Hamelia patens), Spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata) and Tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) to show visitors how native plants can easily be used in their home landscape. Larval hosts such as Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia) and Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) will also be planted. Educational programming and signage will showcase the importance of native plants in supporting pollinators and providing ecosystem services.
Viva Florida Landscape Demonstration grants provide funds to parks, nature centers and other public spaces with which to showcase the beauty and landscape uses of Florida native wildflowers and plants. The program educates the public about the role of native wildflowers and plants in supporting native pollinators, decreasing air and water pollution and providing wildlife habitat.
Applications for the 2022 Viva Florida grant cycle will be accepted between Jan. 1 and Mar. 15, 2022. If you are interested in applying, please visit www.FlaWildflowers.org/grants to review project guidelines, view our instructional webinar and download an application planning document.