Discover the secrets to Florida landscaping, gardening at this hidden botanical treasure
Discovery Gardens of Tavares, Fla., is located at 1951 Woodlea Road. The gardens are open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday For more information, call (352) 343-4101 or log on to http://discoverygardens.ifas.ufl.edu.
Botanical gardens are a natural fit for the Sunshine State with its marvelous growing conditions; however, one such patch of blooming bliss in Tavares, Fla., is an atypical model of these expansive and intricate agricultural wonders.
Discovery Gardens is nestled on just 4 ½ acres behind the Lake County Agricultural Center. With 20 themed gardens, including a string of lush courtyards and six specially designed children’s gardens, this botanical garden is a virtual outdoor learning center for young students and aspiring gardeners.
“There are a lot of botanical gardens in Florida, but for the size of Discovery Gardens and number of plants it’s just a tremendous asset,” said Charles Fedunak, an Extension Agent for the Cooperative Extension office.
The Lake County Agricultural Center houses the Lake County Cooperative Extension Service, a consortium of trained professionals and volunteers that offer research-based education in agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H youth development. A popular feature to the extension office is the plant clinic, which is staffed by Master Gardeners that diagnose plant problems and give home horticulture assistance. Discovery Gardens is an extension of this service as local gardeners can view different landscaping themes from Oriental to Southwestern.
Fedunak was one of the original creators of the Gardens in 1994. He says the enchanting gardens are not what they are today without a few failures along the way. For example, gardeners experimented with several different do-it-yourself walkway pavers before finding a structurally superior version.
“I think people learn more from mistakes sometimes so we are not afraid to point out our mistakes,” he said. “What we are trying to do is emulate what people can do themselves.”
With trained Master Gardeners routinely tending to the grounds, visitors are encouraged to ask questions and learn how the themed gardens were created. While most visitors to Discovery Gardens are local gardeners searching for advice to a horticultural predicament or for landscaping enlightenment, an increasing number of tourists from around the state are discovering this one-of-a-kind garden.
“The interesting feature to Discovery Gardens is each themed garden is a unique setting hidden from other gardens at the same time,” Fedunak said. “It’s like stepping into a living picture.”