Botanical Gardens In and Around Tampa Bay

Bromeliads at the Florida Botanical Gardens

February begins Spring in Florida. Many tourists head this way, tired of the cold weather that is likely to last up north until May.  One great way to enjoy Florida is through visits to one or more of the botanical gardens throughout Florida.These are great places to run, walk, sit or best of all take photographs of birds and lovely flowers. I took many of these on my morning run this week, through the Florida Botanical Gardens, using my 25-50mm lens set to a macro setting, compensating for the incredibly lovely sun, or using my 75-300 mm telephoto lens.Watching Birds is a Favorite Pastime

Snowy EgretBe sure to check out the website of your local botanical garden before you leave. Determine if they are members of the   American Horticultural Society.  As a member you get reciprocal admission privileges throughout the country. This can really add up to some great savings as some gardens charge as much as $25 for a single visit.

February in Florida fills with color as we have the tail-end of the camellia season and the beginning of the azalea season in Central and Southern Florida. Succulents also bloom in the Spring.

 

Easy day trips for those in Tampa Bay are the Florida Botanical Gardens, Marie Selby Gardens, Sunken Gardens, Bok Tower and the University of South Florida Botanical Gardens. Check out some of my photos from this and previous years. Afternoons bring out the butterflies and napping among the Flamingos (at Sunken Gardens).

Flamingos at Sunken GardensFlorida Botanical Gardens Butterfly Gardens

 

Sunken Gardens

Sunken Gardens
Sunken Gardens is located in a great St.Petersburg neighborhoodFlorida

Florida has forty-two different botanical gardens to choose from. At 4 square acres, Sunken Gardens is perhaps one of the smallest Botanical Gardens in Florida.  But, what it lacks in acreage it makes up for by its location near downtown St. Petersburg, with its great music, art scene, and huge selection of eateries.  The Gardens are also co located with a children’s museum housed in an historic building.

Sunflowers
Colors lurk in interesting places
dutchmans-pipe
Look up for unique plants

Most of Florida’s old roadside attractions have been well catalogued, though Sunken Gardens seems to have missed out..perhaps because only bits and pieces still exist.

Old Forida
A Doorway to Old Florida

But, it exemplifies the kind of hybrid garden/zoo that was common in the state.  Thus the unique collection of birds here and the occasional interloper.

Chilean Flamingos
Chilean Flamingos
parrot cages
One of the many parrot cages
Racoon
A raccoon visits

Because of its age, this garden has some of the oldest trees and bushes that we see in the metropolitan area. Remnants of old Florida remain with the fauna here relatively unique. From the photographer’s perspective this  clearly provides opportunities.  It’s possible to come here mid-day and still have shade.  The flamingos, common in the past, in front of hotels and the like are now limited to places such as Sunken Gardens.  There are many flowers and birds that provide macro opportunities, but a wide-angle lens is useful for capturing the amazing landscape provided by the old live oaks, ferns and colorful Bougainvillea. On the other hand, the day I took these photos had started out bright, but my sun disappeared….making for a pretty dark day as reflected in these photos.

The small size of the garden and the seemingly steep entrance fee here are issues. The much larger Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo is free (described in a future post).   However, members of the American Horticultural Society, available with nearly any Botanical Gardens, membership will get a free pass here and Groupon has discount offers. These Gardens are worth a visit in conjunction with a visit to the ever-improving downtown St. Pete, or perhaps the Children’s Museum.