Visiting the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens
Have you heard of the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens in Spring Hill? As the Gardens’ nursery manager, Kathy Wolfe says, “it’s the best-kept secret in Hernando County,” and I would even venture to extend that to the Nature Coast.
Kathy is one of over 60 members of the Spring Hill Garden Club, which has been promoting nature since 1973, and one of 25 volunteers who maintain the Gardens.
What’s in a Name?
The Nature Coast Botanical Gardens (NCBG) in Spring Hill is full of hints as to its heritage.
The Nature Coast Botanical Gardens was founded in 1993 by the Spring Hill Garden Club as an “extension of the Club’s ongoing dedication to beautifying the county.”
Though it began with just a plant nursery on one acre of former scrubland, the Gardens now occupy 4.5 acres leased to the Club by Hernando County.
In addition to grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Wildflower Foundation, the Gardens are financed by donations and various other grants, as well as the sale of plants. The themed gardens have been developed by volunteers and donors, known as “owners,” who also maintain them.
Visiting the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens
The Nature Coast Botanical Gardens is hidden away in plain sight, and for first-time visitors, it can be like walking into a fairy tale.
The peace and solitude of nature meet you at the entrance, where the Welcome Center Garden provides a map and other helpful information. From there you can begin your journey.
Each of the 20 themed gardens has a tale of its own with wide, paved paths guiding visitors from garden to garden. Poetic names like Secret Garden, Rain Forest, and DesertScape are three of the imaginative gardens. Each is maintained by a Spring Hill Garden Club volunteer. Some have been “adopted” by other organizations or clubs.
The Memorial Garden, right across from the Welcome Center, pays tribute to our military who have served and are serving this country. The metal statue of a soldier stands guard over memorial bricks purchased to honor loved ones. On a breezy day, you will see the American flag wave gently.
The adjacent Fantasy Garden is in memory of a lost daughter. Children of all ages will feel at home among the granite statues, ceramic koi pond and Cinderella’s Castle, guarded by a gargoyle!
Breathe in the calming scents as you walk through the Herb Garden. The abundance of herbs is popular for cooking, making tea, and really pleasant as landscaping.
Next door you may hear the gentle ripple of water. It’s the Water and Railroad Garden. A model train runs on a track that winds its way around Water and passes a small built-to-scale village with a bucolic Alpine look.
Florida’s climate is well suited for the Rain Forest Garden, where you are greeted by a giant Bird of Paradise. The tropical surroundings might include a rain shower!
What could be more opposite to a rain forest than the DesertScape Garden? It is reminiscent of the arid, southwestern part of our country, with a generous array of desert plants, from prickly pears to dancing bones. As the volunteers like to say, “desert plants are survivors and their thorns are there for a reason.”
The Butterfly Garden attracts many different species of the winged beauties because of the variety of its plants. The assortment can vary due to the blooming schedule, and hummingbirds are known to enjoy the same flowers.
Florida is not just for citrus. The Orchard Garden is living proof that other fruit trees (peach, apple, pear, fig) and many berries can grow in a state known for oranges, grapefruit, and strawberries.
Another Florida icon is the palm tree. The Palm Garden grows an assortment of palms, both native and exotic. Some visitors may be surprised to see the variety of sizes as well.
Not every garden is groomed and nurtured. The Wildflower and Native Plants Gardens are allowed to grow wild and free, with plants and trees that grow throughout the state. One really “old Florida” touch in the Native Plants Garden is the small man-made Cypress Swamp with a quaint bridge.
The Rose and Poinsettia Gardens: a variety of fragrant roses, and bright red poinsettias that are at their peak during the Christmas season. The Bromeliad Garden is said to be Florida’s largest collection of the showy bloom.
Ornaments and statues throughout the Asian Garden are surrounded by bamboo and a variety of grasses, with a gazebo for gazing and finding peace.
Peace is a significant part of the Ornamental Garden, with a variety of grasses, including liriope planted in the shape of a peace symbol. An observation deck gives a heightened view of the popular anti-war symbol from the 60s and 70s.
The couple who developed and maintain the Obelisk Garden is “fascinated by all things Egyptian”. The obelisk, in the center of native plants, has Arabic inscriptions on all sides.
After you have visited the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens, you will want to return. As the brochure states: the Garden’s beauty evolves as time goes by.
Things to Know about the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens
The Nature Coast Botanical Gardens are located at 1489 Parker Avenue in Spring Hill and open every day from sunrise until sunset.
If you’re at the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens on a Saturday or Monday between 9 a.m. and Noon, check out the Nursery to purchase plants and flowers.
You can see the dedicated, hardworking volunteers on-site Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings. They are eager to answer questions and it’s fun to hear them express their passion for the Gardens.
Visit the website at naturecoastgardens.com for special sales and information on events and tours, or scheduling your own special occasion.