GAINESVILLE — Looking to do something inexpensive and outdoorsy this holiday season? Why not take a turn through a demonstration garden, courtesy of the University of Florida.
UF/IFAS Extension offers demonstration gardens throughout the state, and most are free. Some of these learning landscapes are at your county Extension office, while others are elsewhere in the community. Each garden is a feast for your eyes and packed with important information about plants that could help improve your yard or landscape.
These gardens show the public what UF/IFAS does – whether it’s Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ or growing fruits and vegetables on the plants, said Wendy Wilber, statewide coordinator of the Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program. They can serve as a fun, educational activity with family or friends.
“The demonstration gardens are wide-open spaces, you can enjoy fresh air and see some unique flowers,” Wilber said.
With the gardens, UF/IFAS demonstrates best practices in gardening and landscapes. They showcase plants and sustainable gardening techniques appropriate to your area. The gardens can also give visitors a sense of calm during the hectic holiday season and offer some suggestions on how to create that same sense of serenity in their own landscapes, Wilber said.
Both home gardeners and landscape professionals can discover new ideas for design, planting and maintenance procedures.
The gardens are designed as part instruction, part demonstration and part inspiration.
“They’re also called idea gardens,” Wilber said. “People might say, ‘I want to use herbs; how can I make that happen?’”
Wilber hopes that visitors to any of the demonstration gardens will take home an appreciation for the diversity of plants that can grow in Florida and for the services that plants offer.
“People can learn which vegetables they can grow at home or which plants will attract butterflies or see just how big a tree will grow,” said Wilber. “Demonstration gardens also can help people figure out the right plants to bring into their homes and landscapes that can provide what they need.”
Check with your county Extension office for the location of the nearest demonstration garden to you.
“Many of these gardens have been around for decades.” Wilber says. “And visiting a garden could be a fun family tradition to come back every year to see how the plants have grown and changed as the kids and the family grows and changes too.”