October 2, 2015
By: Gary Knox
Dr. Gary Knox leads a tour through Gardens of the Big Bend during the 2014 Art and Garden Fall Festival. Photo by Charlene Cupp Kinch.
Are you wary of website pics and nursery plants that are gussied-up, juiced-up or pruned to perfection? Are you looking for honest information, cool plants and hot, new ideas? Then come to Gardens of the Big Bend, a new local resource for gardeners of all stripes. Whether you want something new, something old (like Southern heritage plants), cool rare plants or just plain good plants, Gardens of the Big Bend has just what you’re looking for.
Gardens of the Big Bend is a new botanical and teaching garden in Quincy on the grounds of the University of Florida/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center. Developed in cooperation with the nonprofit Gardening Friends of the Big Bend, these gardens are evaluating new plants, promoting plants adapted to our region, and providing a beautiful setting to learn about plants and gardening.
Gardens of the Big Bend is a series of gardens, each with a theme or plant focus. The Discovery Garden contains over 170 species or cultivars of new, improved or underutilized trees, shrubs and perennials. This garden’s purpose is to help gardeners and landscapers “discover” new plants for Big Bend landscapes.
The Magnolia Garden is part of the National Collection of Magnolia in recognition of its’ more than 200 species and cultivars, including some of the rarest magnolias in the world. Conifers are featured in the new “Jurassic” garden. More than just pines and junipers, the Gardens’ 50+ types of conifers earned the American Conifer Society designation of “Conifer Reference Garden”, the only one in Florida, and the southernmost in the U.S.
The Dry Garden is the newest addition and contains about 140 different types of agave, cactus, dyckia, yucca, bulbs and other dry-adapted plants. It consists of a south-facing berm of boulders, gravel and sand about 160 feet long, 35 feet wide and 6 feet tall.Other gardens feature native, shade, Southern heritage, and weeping plants as well as collections of Japanese hydrangea, crapemyrtle and shrub roses.
The Art & Garden Fall Festival on Saturday, October 3, is a great time to visit Gardens of the Big Bend. Join us that day and discover creative ways to explore visual art and the art of gardening through demonstrations and fun activities for the whole family. Speak with experts about all your gardening questions or purchase unusual, hard-to-find, top-performing plants for our area. Take a tour of the Gardens or a trolley ride highlighting fruits and nuts that can be grown in our area. Locally grown produce and garden plants as well as arts and crafts will be for sale along with food and refreshments. Children’s arts and crafts activities will take place in a huge “Kid Zone” located in a shaded, garden area.
The Art & Garden Fall Festival is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 3. The festival takes place in Gardens of the Big Bend, located in Quincy at I-10 Exit 181, just 1/8 mile north on Pat Thomas Highway (SR 267; the “second” Quincy exit).
Dr. Gary Knox is an Extension Specialist and Professor of Environmental Horticulture with the University of Florida at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov