Visiting the Naples Botanical Garden With a Dog – Florida, USA
It had always seemed odd to us that an outdoor space, with grass, paths and plants would have a no dog policy. But that is sadly often the case in parks and gardens these days. Even Florence (Tuscany), one of the most dog friendly places we have ever been, had one such anomaly. The Boboli Gardens there are closed off to dogs. As a result, I have never had the pleasure of visiting a Botanical Garden. Until recently.
Imagine my delight at discovering that the Naples Botanical Garden in Florida is open, not only once but twice a week, to canines! On Tuesdays and Thursdays dogs are welcome from 9:00 a.m. to noon (please check to make sure the days and times are still the same before you visit). This was my chance to see exotic plants and smell sweet and rare scents! The bipeds love nature. So, it wasn’t a tough sell, and off we went one Tuesday morning in May (2012).
It was easy to find, especially with the Google Map from the Website. We parked and made our way to the front entrance where right away we knew we had not been misinformed as a large sign welcomed dogs with humour. We walked in and paid our admission fee: $12.95 for each biped, and my fee was the same as for a child: $7.95. We were handed a piece of paper with the instructions on proper dog etiquette and, after signing in and thus stating that we agreed to the rules, I was allowed through the big glass doors!
The first things you will see are the orchids. There seemed to be hundreds of different kinds. Mom was in heaven since she has a “thing” for this type of plant. I, on the other hand, was far more interested in the bright indigo-blue bowls of water I saw placed at every path intersection ahead. I just had to investigate. Pulling Mom away at last from her orchid hypnosis, I dipped my tongue into clear, clean and fresh water. This was a very good sign. The folks at the garden obviously took dog-friendliness seriously.
I also noted, that for guests who require mobility assistance, there are scooters at the entrance on a first come first serve basis. We were very tempted to “take one” just for fun, but knowing that a number of people may need them, we curbed our naughty sides and shushed the devil on our shoulders and walked on.
“What makes this Botanical Garden so special is that its geographical location makes it particularly suited to diversity. Between the 26th latitude north where Naples is situated and the 26th latitude south are some of the world’s most diverse plant communities and interesting cultures. The subtropical location gives the Naples botanical Garden the unique opportunity to showcase gardens that represent countries and regions from between these latitudes as they encircle the globe. These include Asia, Brazil , the Caribbean and of course Florida .” – Naples Botanical Garden
The garden boasts 12 themes in total and is growing. We loved seeing all the volunteer gardeners and other staff at work. It is easy to get a sense of just how much hard labour goes into the maintenance of such a marvel. Staff were always happy to answer questions and even take photos of us as a family – a rare treat since one of the bipeds is usually behind the camera.
There was one section where I could not enter and that was the Children’s Garden and the Butterfly House. Mom went for a quick scout (while Dad stayed with me) and assured me that I wasn’t missing out. I do not know if she was lying or not. I get the feeling she really enjoyed the butterflies and was just trying to make me feel better. After all, I am a fur-kid, right? I felt strongly that that was MY garden from which I was being kept away.
Moving right along…. *harumfff*
After a quick stop at the restrooms we started our visit with the spectacular Brazilian Garden. Here you will find the bold tribute to Roberto Burle Marx, the renowned “father of modern landscape architecture” and the incredible plant diversity of Brazil. We thought a lot about our dear friend Kiki, for this is her native land. We had just had the pleasure of her visit for Mom’s birthday a few days prior and had attended her event the previous week. We missed her. We promised ourselves we would tell her about this special place, knowing she would love to take Miu Miu, her Chihuahua, and would be inspired by the beauty there. It was stunning: Large water lilies, a bright and happy mosaic wall, waterfall and contemplation pool. What was not to like?
We crossed a little bridge to the Water Garden that was inspired by the beauty and mystery of water plants. Here we found ourselves transported to the cultures of Southeast Asia, from Bali to Vietnam. Huge Lotus flowers around a miniature Thai temple caught my attention right away – I just had to find a way to get “up there”. I never did. We also went to the Balinese Shrine for a small break in the shade and had a spook at the Javanese Ruin where a large black snake begged its pardon for startling us. We then had a nice long rest under the Thai pavilion with comfortable Thai furniture and left the Asian Garden through the Asia Pergola route. It was like being transported to another set of countries… A little trip within a trip!
We followed a path through the grove and came to a Labyrinth made of different coloured pavement stones. Dad and I took a few moments to walk in meditative silence… Mom then made us jump 5 feet in the air as she hit a mini gong with the mallet! This woke up a playful side in the bipeds that lead to a short game of chase that had us all at the next garden in minutes.
The Enabling Garden demonstrates many strategies that allow people with physical challenges to enjoy the soothing hobby of gardening. Examples that I can recall were building flower beds up off the ground and surrounded by wide bench seatings, wider paths and special tools. It was all very interesting. We sat in the shade and chatted with a staff member and drank water, for it was hot, and then moved on to the Florida Garden where we saw much of what the streets of Old Naples have to offer, but in a larger, more lush scale.
Finding it easy to just follow where the path would lead, we walked around the Wild Flower Garden and found numerous interesting plants in the Cactus Garden. The Idea Garden had a vegetable garden vibe going on, and then, with a river of grass on our right, we made our way to the Caribbean Garden where I enjoyed a lovely breeze off the West Lake and the Uplands Preserve and had a little swing in a hammock.
We stopped at the water cooler for a cold refreshing drink, took in one last glimpse of the Brazilian Garden and in the increasing heat left and made our way to the Visitor Center, Shop and Exit.
In Review: If ever you are in the Naples (FL) area, we highly recommend this dog-friendly activity. You will not regret it. We saw about 4 other dogs while we were there. All very well behaved and following the rules. While waiting for the car (Dad went to get it and to turn on the AC to make sure I wouldn’t suffer from the noon sun), I noticed children arriving in their swimsuits to take advantage of the water features in the Children’s Garden and understood why the dog- friendly aspect ended at noon. This is how the Naples Botanical Garden found a way to cater to a diverse clientele, allocating time slots for folks of different strokes. Well done and bravo!
Do you know of a Botanical Garden that is dog-friendly? If so, please share!