GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2010 show05
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5/1905. Key West Botanical Garden

Summary of Show

The Mayor
THE MAYOR OF KEY WEST is Mr. Craig Cates and he welcomes GardenSMART. Eric is interested in learning more about the Mayor. What is his story, what did he do before becoming Mayor? He had an auto repair shop and an auto parts store. He sold one of his businesses and wanted to become more involved in the community, to give back to the community. It's a great job.
For More Information Click here

Garden In Zone 11
Eric next meets Carolanne Sharkey, the Executive Director of the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Gardens. Carolanne welcomes Eric and lets him know he is about to enter the ONLY TROPICAL FOREST AND BOTANICAL GARDEN IN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES. The reason is they are in zone 11, an area truly in the tropics. There are over 480 species of plants here and over 7,000 individual plants.
For More Information Click here

The Collection
The COLLECTION OF PLANTS is really about South Florida, the Florida Keys and the northern Caribbean rim, including Cuba. Many of these plants are endangered and are very rare. There's a lot of connection with wildlife and migratory birds. So these plants are not only beautiful, rare and unusual but important to everyone both south of them and north of them.
For More Information Click here

The Courtyard
THEY START THE TOUR IN THE COURTYARD. And, it's a very pleasant area, framed nicely with beautiful plants. Eric asks for some of Carolanne's favorites. Wild Dilly is one. It is an endangered tree, this one happens to be 55 years old and was rescued from a development site. The coloration of the bark is almost as beautiful as the leaves. It's very unique. Below it are beautiful Bahama Coffee plants that actually make coffee beans.
For More Information Click here

Attracting Wildlife
Carolanne and her group have been very conscious about ATTRACTING WILDLIFE to this garden. They've had a lot of help from environmentalists, and there are so many different habitats. This is a word we hear a lot, especially in the Keys. Each one has so many species of plants and many different species of birds, wildlife and butterflies that are specific to this region. But anyone can be doing this same work within their region.
For More Information Click here

The Butterfly Garden
THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN is a case in point. Eric wonders how would one build a butterfly garden, what are the special considerations. Carolanne feels 1st find out what historically occurred in your area, what butterflies have typically been found in your area. In the Florida Keys at one time they had 55 species of butterflies. They have been able to bring back 38 different species of butterflies. Scientists have told her there are now more butterflies, in this little garden, than all of Great Britain.
For More Information Click here

Tropical Hardwood Forest
They next visit the TROPICAL HARDWOOD FOREST. Carolanne first tells us what constitutes a tropical hardwood forest. It's a combination of hardwood trees and palms. And remember they're growing in just 6 inches of dirt and coral rock with a lot of understory that provide important habitat for all types of species of wildlife. Over 80 percent of all life on this earth is found in tropical hardwood forests throughout the world. Eric feels fortunate to be standing in one of these rare tropical forests.
For More Information Click here

Native Palms
Nothing says Key West like palms so Carolanne tells us about a few of the NATIVE PALMS. The Florida Keys Thatch Palm is beautiful. One is 200 years old, maybe older. Another in the palm family, the Saw Palmetto is in the news. It's berries and fruit are now being used to cure prostate cancer.
For More Information Click here

Hardwoods
While standing under the shade of the AMAZING HARDWOODS Carolanne points out several favorites. The Pigeon Plum is one, the trunks are unique, almost like a fingerprint and have a camouflage look. No 2 are alike. The Gumbo-Limbo tree has been nicknamed "the tourist tree" because the bark is red and peeling, similar to sun burned tourists.
For More Information Click here

Understory Plants
Looking through the forest there are shorter UNDERSTORY PLANTS that are growing in and amongst all the palms and hardwoods. A lovely bamboo grows to only about 3 feet tall. It's very tight and compact, just like the island. Another interesting understory is the Sea Grape which not only produces a beautiful grape from which they make tropical jellies but settlers and seafarers in the past used their leaves as parchment paper because they're pliable.
For More Information Click here

Freshwater Pond #1
Carolanne and Eric next visit a POND that was recently renovated. Carolanne explains. This was a very interesting process because at one time many of these types of ponds existed on this part of Key West. Not so much so today. So first they had to assemble a good team of scientists and hydrologists to provide direction. When they did that they found they have a gigantic soup bowl of fresh water underneath this earth and interestingly in spots it can be 110 feet deep. That fresh water is sitting on top of salt water. And this leads to an interesting group of plants that grow in tropical islands in fresh water. Fresh water is a very, very complex and also very fragile ecosystem.
For More Information Click here

Freshwater Pond #2
But Carolanne has another fresh water area with ANOTHER POND. This is a hidden secret and is more mature than the first. And, it is a remarkable site. Eric can see this is a more mature version of the previous pond. And, it has a slightly different palette of plants. Carolanne points out several. The Green Buttonwood is one. They are the trees bent over which they do naturally by fresh water. This is how early settlers would have found fresh water.
For More Information Click here

Cuban Palms
Eric is always amazed at the tremendous range of diversity that exists inside every plant family. Carolanne has assembled a wonderful group of CUBAN PALMS and they next discuss those. Carolanne is excited by this collection and shows us several of her favorites. The Old Man Palm is really fun because of its beard.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Key West

Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden

Compass Realty

Plant Of The Week

Plant List

5/1905. Key West Botanical Garden

Transcript of Show

Visitors come to Key West for a variety of reasons. Many think it's all about tourism and the partying but there is so much to this beautiful town. And, surprisingly it has some amazing gardens. In this Episode GardenSMART visits a memorable garden, the Key West Botanical Garden.

THE MAYOR OF KEY WEST is Mr. Craig Cates and he welcomes GardenSMART. Eric is interested in learning more about the Mayor. What is his story, what did he do before becoming Mayor? He had an auto repair shop and an auto parts store. He sold one of his businesses and wanted to become more involved in the community, to give back to the community. It's a great job.

Mr. Cates feels the people are what make Key West special. The people are fantastic, they're very friendly, gracious and they welcome one and all to Key West. The people that are born here are Conchs, the people that move here are called Fresh Water Conchs. The Mayor is a conch, a 3rd generation conch. Since his family first came here it has gotten much busier, today this is a tourist town, when he was young this was just a small fishing village, a Navy town. It's definitely changed through the years. Although they have the same amount of people here now they have a big influx of tourists.

People talk about the weather in Key West. And it is wonderful. It has mild weather because of the Atlantic Ocean, it's warmer in the winters and cooler than the mainland in the summers.

Eric and the Mayor are standing beside the southernmost point of the U.S. sign, a very popular spot. And Eric notices that it says 90 miles to Cuba. On a fast boat Cuba is only several hours away.

Eric wonders what highlights a tourist should include in their Key West travels. The Mayor believes that if someone were coming to visit they should make a point of seeing the architecture, the old buildings. To accomplish this, they have tours that show one the island and that's worthwhile. Also, get involved with the water, get out on the water. Try fishing, diving, see the out islands. It really is a beautiful place, the water is one of the most intense blues that Eric has seen.

GardenSMART is a gardening show. What should we see as gardeners? Mayor Cates remembers going to the Key West Botanical Garden as a kid. He would pack his lunch and he and his brother would ride their bicycles out there and spend the day. They've done a beautiful job of restoring and preserving it. It's a beautiful place and a great place to visit.

Eric is anxious to visit and thanks the Mayor for his time.
Top

Eric next meets Carolanne Sharkey, the Executive Director of the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Gardens. Carolanne welcomes Eric and lets him know he is about to enter the ONLY TROPICAL FOREST AND BOTANICAL GARDEN IN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES. The reason is they are in zone 11, an area truly in the tropics. There are over 480 species of plants here and over 7,000 individual plants.

This garden started in 1936, under President Roosevelt's New Deal. After the depression they wanted to put people back to work and build an attraction. The original garden was 55 acres and included over 7,000 plants from all over the world. Through development and human encroachment the garden dwindled down to only about 7 acres. A group, Carolanne included, decided to bring it back because it was very special. They received a $4.5 million grant from the Florida Forever Program to buy back more land, so today they have 15 acres with 2 acres of waterfront property.
Top

The COLLECTION OF PLANTS is really about South Florida, the Florida Keys and the northern Caribbean rim, including Cuba. Many of these plants are endangered and are very rare. There's a lot of connection with wildlife and migratory birds. So these plants are not only beautiful, rare and unusual but important to everyone both south of them and north of them.

Eric jokingly tells Carolanne that it must be absolutely miserable living in Key West running a botanical garden. She confesses a lot of friends up north are a little jealous of this wonderful project. Carolanne was born in New York City, then her Dad moved them out to the Garden State, New Jersey. They always had a vegetable garden and all kinds of plants. It was a big Saturday thing, to plant outdoors, so she has a lot of green in her blood. She came to Key West when she lost her husband to a brain tumor. He was 36, she was 40 and she needed to make a lifestyle change. Carolanne found this wonderful island with all its greenery and found this magical, rare place. And she is very busy. Life for her starts at 5 AM, just like a farmer and the job involves learning about the plants, restoration work, fundraising, working with volunteers, scientists and environmentalists, it runs the gamut.
Top

THEY START THE TOUR IN THE COURTYARD. And, it's a very pleasant area, framed nicely with beautiful plants. Eric asks for some of Carolanne's favorites. Wild Dilly is one. It is an endangered tree, this one happens to be 55 years old and was rescued from a development site. The coloration of the bark is almost as beautiful as the leaves. It's very unique. Below it are beautiful Bahama Coffee plants that actually make coffee beans. When on an island a lot of ones resources, food for example, must come from plants or the ocean. Portlandia is another unusual plant that is based in Cuba. The plant has a beautiful bloom, it's white and smells like chocolate. Many tropical plants are very fragrant and very unique. That's what makes tropicals so special. When one walks through the streets of Key West there are many different smells in the air. Many of those smells come from the plants. A unique palm is the Buccaneer Palm. It's indigenous to the Florida Keys. It is a spectacular palm. Carolanne points out the unusual rings. They tell the age, this tree is well over 50 years old. Buccaneer Palms were used to make wine. A lot of these trees are slow growers and unfortunately we've cut them almost to extinction. Allspice is another unique plant. It smells somewhat like apple pie. People for years have used it to spice their food, to make perfumes and colognes. Cinnamon Bark is a spectacular tree. Everybody knows cinnamon, few know the tree. Many of these trees produce berries and the berries are very important for wildlife. But the star of the show in the courtyard is the beautiful waterfall. Instead of a traditional waterfall with water pouring over a rock, this looks like something you might chance upon in a tropical rainforest. It is made from authentic Florida Keys coral rock. What's interesting about coral rock is that they are on rock islands, all of these plants are growing in only 6 inches of dirt. So they wanted to accentuate this beautiful stone that's actually compressed by Mother Nature. On this wall they have a wonderful collection of tropical Bromeliads and Orchids. The entire courtyard waterfall is surrounded by the state tree, Sabal Palm. They all have been curved by Mother Nature and all are very spectacular. Many of these trees are rescued trees. Eric thinks its a wonderful feature, the sound of water is always welcoming in a garden. They've done a great job of putting this together.
Top

Carolanne and her group have been very conscious about ATTRACTING WILDLIFE to this garden. They've had a lot of help from environmentalists, and there are so many different habitats. This is a word we hear a lot, especially in the Keys. Each one has so many species of plants and many different species of birds, wildlife and butterflies that are specific to this region. But anyone can be doing this same work within their region. Look at endangered wildlife in your area. The principles apply no matter where you live.
Top

THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN is a case in point. Eric wonders how would one build a butterfly garden, what are the special considerations. Carolanne feels 1st find out what historically occurred in your area, what butterflies have typically been found in your area. In the Florida Keys at one time they had 55 species of butterflies. They have been able to bring back 38 different species of butterflies. Scientists have told her there are now more butterflies, in this little garden, than all of Great Britain.

If one wants butterflies in the garden, do a little homework. Look at the palette of different butterflies and what types of plants attract them. There are 2 types of plants required. The nectar plants or attractors which we all know, are one. They can be fun in a garden because one can have a big, colorful array. Carolanne has used several unique tropical nectar plants - Golden Dewdrop, Bahama Senna, Sky Blue Cluster Vine and Wild Sage. All have a little deeper tubular flower and cluster for butterflies. But, additionally it's very important to have a host plant. That's the plant the butterfly lays its eggs on. Again, they've utilized some unique plants - Coontie, which is in the Cycad family and the host plant for the Atala butterfly. One of their most unique trees is the Yellow Heart or Satinwood. It happens to be one of the most endangered trees they have here. It's in the citrus family and is an attractor and host plant for over 10 different types of swallowtails. For gardeners in other parts of the country some wonderful butterfly attractors would be Buddleia, Milkweed, Lantana, all are wonderful attractors to bring butterflies into the garden. Although interesting Eric wants to see more of the garden. So they're off...
Top

They next visit the TROPICAL HARDWOOD FOREST. Carolanne first tells us what constitutes a tropical hardwood forest. It's a combination of hardwood trees and palms. And remember they're growing in just 6 inches of dirt and coral rock with a lot of understory that provide important habitat for all types of species of wildlife. Over 80 percent of all life on this earth is found in tropical hardwood forests throughout the world. Eric feels fortunate to be standing in one of these rare tropical forests.
Top

Nothing says Key West like palms so Carolanne tells us about a few of the NATIVE PALMS. The Florida Keys Thatch Palm is beautiful. One is 200 years old, maybe older. Another in the palm family, the Saw Palmetto is in the news. It's berries and fruit are now being used to cure prostate cancer.
Top

While standing under the shade of the AMAZING HARDWOODS Carolanne points out several favorites. The Pigeon Plum is one, the trunks are unique, almost like a fingerprint and have a camouflage look. No 2 are alike. The Gumbo-Limbo tree has been nicknamed "the tourist tree" because the bark is red and peeling, similar to sun burned tourists. They also have a variety of all types of stoppers that produce not only berries for the birds, but all different types of lovely fragrances. They have White Stopper, Red Stopper, the Simpson Stopper and more.
Top

Looking through the forest there are shorter UNDERSTORY PLANTS that are growing in and amongst all the palms and hardwoods. A lovely bamboo grows to only about 3 feet tall. It's very tight and compact, just like the island. Another interesting understory is the Sea Grape which not only produces a beautiful grape from which they make tropical jellies but settlers and seafarers in the past used their leaves as parchment paper because they're pliable. It's a very beautiful plant and very important to the whole scope of food and moisture of the tropical forest. This area is teeming with life. There is an amazing range of diversity. It's a special part of the garden and probably one of Carolanne's favorite places in the garden.
Top

Carolanne and Eric next visit a POND that was recently renovated. Carolanne explains. This was a very interesting process because at one time many of these types of ponds existed on this part of Key West. Not so much so today. So first they had to assemble a good team of scientists and hydrologists to provide direction. When they did that they found they have a gigantic soup bowl of fresh water underneath this earth and interestingly in spots it can be 110 feet deep. That fresh water is sitting on top of salt water. And this leads to an interesting group of plants that grow in tropical islands in fresh water. Fresh water is a very, very complex and also very fragile ecosystem. The system is subject to somewhat of a tidal change thus there are different heights of water. So, plants must learn to be in dry conditions as well as wet conditions. It also has all types of fresh water fish and different types of birds. They have 12 species of dragonflies that are now in this new habitat and the plant palette is very, very unique. Eric does notice that when looking around the pond there is a completely different range of flora. Carolanne mentions several unique freshwater tropical plants. The first is Sea Lavender. It's native and endangered but a beautiful plant, bluish-gray with beautiful little white flowers. It's a very unique plant. She points out a cluster of East Coast Dune Sunflowers, so even in the tropics they have small dune flowers. Near them is a beautiful purple flower called Beach Verbena. It has a stunning cluster of purple colors, square stems and opposite leaves. It's fruit is a little hard capsule. Very unique and a favorite hangout for the local skipper butterfly. Another interesting group of trees is called Jamaican Dogwoods which are often also called Fish Poison Trees. Parts of this tree are used to stun fish. There are some interesting stories of the types of plants that originate in this area. But they're introducing some new species to the area as well. A unique plant in Big Pine Key, which is a couple of Keys up, is the Pineland Heliotrope. It is a beautiful ground cover that blooms yellow flowers all year round, it doesn't need any water, it's drought tolerant, you can walk all over it and it makes a beautiful bed of yellow flowers. This pond area is beautiful as is, Eric knows it has even more potential, it will be fascinating to see how this environment develops in time.
Top

But Carolanne has another fresh water area with ANOTHER POND. This is a hidden secret and is more mature than the first. And, it is a remarkable site. Eric can see this is a more mature version of the previous pond. And, it has a slightly different palette of plants. Carolanne points out several. The Green Buttonwood is one. They are the trees bent over which they do naturally by fresh water. This is how early settlers would have found fresh water. There are some spectacular varieties of Wild Lime or Wild Tamarind. They have a beautiful Canary Date Palm that was put in in 1936. Another tree is the Lignum Vitae. It has beautiful purple flowers and beautiful red seeds. It's wood is so dense it sinks. So there are some very unique trees around this habitat. Eric is very glad they've preserved this area and that we we able to experience the area.
Top

Eric is always amazed at the tremendous range of diversity that exists inside every plant family. Carolanne has assembled a wonderful group of CUBAN PALMS and they next discuss those. Carolanne is excited by this collection and shows us several of her favorites. The Old Man Palm is really fun because of its beard. The Petticoat Palm grows looking like a woman's petticoat. Coccothrinax Borhidiana grows in a spiral and is very unique. The Bailayanas and Miraguama Palms are also unique to Cuba. All of these are different, very interesting and a real treat for Eric to see.

Eric thanks Carolanne. It has been heartwarming to see the way this wonderful collection of native plants has been put together. In many ways they have preserved the botanical heritage of Key West. Carolanne is delighted that Eric has come to visit. But she reminds him that he has just seen one small part of this garden. She invites all GardenSMART viewers to come and visit because they want everyone, from beginner to advanced gardener, to enjoy these plants. Thanks Carolanne, this was a great tour, a special day.
Top

LINKS:

Key West

Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden

Compass Realty

Plant Of The Week

Plant List

Top


   
 
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