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A Writer’s Garden: Bugs in the Garden

By Linda Shenton Matchett

I come from a line of gardeners. My great grandparents owned a small farm in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. I’ve been told my great-grandmother had beautiful flower gardens. Her son, my grandfather, had the quintessential green thumb. He raised award-winning vegetables, fruits, and flowers and fed his family all winter on what he canned or tucked into the freezer. As long as I can remember, my mom has had exquisite gardens filled with flowering trees, shrubs, and plants. My older brother is gifted in the art of gardening.

Me? Not so much.

But I enjoy manicured and well-tended gardens, which is why I visit botanical or public gardens when I’m in a new area. One gorgeous, sunny day in March, I had an opportunity to see the Harry P. Leu Gardens (www.leugardens.org) on Lake Rowena in Orlando, Florida. In addition to the spectacular flowers and plants, the Garden was hosting sculptor David Roger’s “Big Bug Invasion” exhibit (www.big-bugs.com). Mammoth in scale, these insects are created with all natural materials such as wood, bark, twigs, and branches. The exhibit, which has been traveling to gardens around the U.S. since the mid-1990s, teaches the role of insects on our world and the importance of conservation.

IMG_1714Covering over fifty acres, Leu Gardens is home to a diverse population of plants. Displays include a tropical stream garden, an arid garden, an herb garden, butterfly garden, vegetable garden, rose garden, a palm, cycad and bamboo garden, camellias, a white garden (only plants with white blooms or green and white variegated foliage), and a color garden. I especially liked the idea garden which was a collection of ten displays that illustrated garden design and horticulture techniques. I almost considered recreating one of these gardens at home. Then I came to my senses!

 

 

IMG_1719The mission of the facility is to help visitors appreciate and understand plants. Information about the gardens and their inhabitants is presented on picture boards and brass plaques. Artwork and sculptures by artists such as William Ludwig, Frank Farmer, and Peter Otfinosky located among the plants educate visitors, and garden staff are available to answer questions and offer insight about the displays. In the library of over 2,000 volumes, visitors can find answers to even the most obscure garden issues. Geocachers will be happy to know there are treasures to be discovered on the grounds.

IMG_1767Because of the long growing season in Florida, the height of the plants was impressive. Palm trees and bamboo rose high into the sky above my head. Many plants that are annuals in my New Hampshire town are massive, perennials shrubs in Florida. The Northeast is too cold for Live Oaks, but they thrive in Florida. Leu is home to one of the largest Live Oaks in the state with an estimated girth of forty feet.

A tour of Leu Gardens is available on their website, but you’ll want to visit in person. I’m glad I did!

 

 

About the Author:

linda-eAn avid outdoors woman, Linda Shenton Matchett has visited gardens in Canada, England, the Caribbean, and thirty-one of the fifty United States. She writes historical fiction from central New Hampshire.

Book link for Love’s Harvest, historical romance-sweet:

Contact link: www.LindaShentonMatchett.com

 

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