Saturday, June 20, 2015

30 Days in June: Day 19, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Welcome to Kanapaha
I love plants and I fancy myself as a bit of a gardener, so I take the opportunity to visit Botanical Gardens, Arboretums, and beautiful gardens whenever I can. As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens over the years. We started visiting when we first moved to Gainesville. It was a good place to go on a family walk, and they welcomed dogs, too! We bought plants from their plant shops, birthday and Christmas gifts from the gift shop and attended the garden festivals and collected cool T-shirts, year after year.

It's Nice That Dogs are Welcome

When we first started coming to the gardens you would enter through a quaint little house. But the garden outgrew the house and, anyway, it was pretty rickety. A few years ago (10? 15? the years are a blur) they built a beautiful new building with space for meetings or weddings, the gift shop and bathrooms.  The big shady porch has rocking chairs facing out toward the Labyrinth and it is a perfect place to rest and take in the view of the huge live oaks.

The Little Cottage

The Summer House

The name Kanapaha comes from a combination of words from the Timucua, the native people who lived in the region when the Spanish explorers arrived. "Kana" means "palm" and "paha" means "house".

Giant Grape Vine and Palms

My plan was to just walk the paths all over the garden and visit every area, but I got there just as the garden opened and I seemed to be on the same schedule as the sprinklers, the guy with the leaf blower, and the lawn mowers. I ended up ditching the paths and walked across the grass and down to the water lily pond. Every year here you can see gigantic Victoria Water Lilies. The leaves are huge--many feet across and a sign at the pond says that the garden has grown some of the largest in the world. The plants have to be regrown each year because they freeze and die in the cold Gainesville winters. There are other varieties of lilies in the pond and I have taken some lovely photos of the flowers with frogs and dragonflies. It is a nice place to see Black Bellied Whistling Ducks and water birds like Little Blue Heron and Common Yellowthroat. I could hear ducks whistling in the distance but didn't see any this time. I did see a Golden Orb Weaver Spider that had just shed its exoskeleton. It was hanging from its old shell like a limp rag. They are very vulnerable at this stage before the new exoskeleton hardens. But quickly it was flexing its legs and was back in business.

Lake and Lilies

Giant Victoria Lily Nursery

Golden Orb Weaver Spider and Old Exoskeleton (Above)
Next, I visited the Hummingbird garden to see if I could get any good photos. I'm so envious of people who get these amazing hummingbird pictures from their home feeders. The ones in our yard see me coming and take off. I have had some good sightings here and always hope I can finally get it right. The garden is full of bright colored nectar plants and later in the summer it will be dancing with butterflies, hummingbirds and hummingbird moths. I saw a pair of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, but they flew away as soon as they saw me. Foiled again! But I was fortunate to see this lovely little Northern Parula on the Soap Aloe flowers.

Attractive Hummingbird Garden

Northern Parula on Aloe

The next stop was the bamboo grove. Kanapaha has a beautiful collection of bamboo of all sizes and colors. My favorites are the Black Bamboo and the Striped. There is a bamboo sale here every year and I was tempted when we first moved to town, but I learned that you have to be very careful with bamboo. A friend gave us some and in a couple of years it was spreading around the yard like wildfire. I didn't know that there are 2 types of bamboo--clumping and running. We had the running variety, and it was going nuts. I spent a few weeks digging it out and finally eradicated it, but it was tough. They say about bamboo that "the first year it sleeps, the second it creeps and the third it leaps". This is true. Clumping bamboo is a little more contained, but it can still get very tall and the clumps can be huge. We have old clumping bamboo in our current house and I never felt an urge to buy more, though the Black Bamboo is gorgeous. I was shocked to see that visitors to the garden have taken to carving their names and initials in the bamboo. I don't remember it being like this, but all of the stalks in the biggest bamboo clump had been written on.

Giant Bamboo Clump
After the bamboo I stopped in the herb garden. Signs tell visitors that this is the largest herb garden in the Southeast US. It is beautiful and it smells good, too.

Herb Garden


From the Herb Garden I headed to the Water Garden. I walked through the native Woodland Forest path, past the Torreya patch and through the Camelia Garden. The Water Garden is a project by Kanapaha and GRU, the local utility, to demonstrate using reclaimed wastewater in landscaping. There is a stream and a series of ponds that clean and filter the water. They have built pretty bridges and planted interesting water plants such as Papyrus and Horsetail along the waterway. It is an attractive and effective feature. The ponds provide habitat for birds, turtles and some huge koi. Kingfishers like to hunt from the trees that hang over the water. Alligators like to hang out in the lake, too, and this is part of Gainesville lore. The former director of the gardens had his arm bitten off when he was in the water cleaning vegetation around the lake and forgot to look for the gator that was usually found there. He lived to tell the tale (he wrote a book!) but the gator was not so lucky. I saw the director working in the Children's garden and it always amazes me to see someone who survived an alligator attack.

Endangered Torreya

Meditative Bridge

Walking past the Horsetail and Papyrus, I saw this sign that really irritated me. Yet another indication of bad visitor behavior. What are people thinking? It made me ashamed to be associated with photographers if they are destroying the gardens just to take photos. I'm assuming that it happens often enough to justify posting signs.

It was getting hot and late, but I had to make one more stop in the Butterfly Garden. The county Master Gardeners maintain the garden, under the supervision of one of my friends. They do a beautiful job. It's a great place sit and watch butterflies, as well as to photograph them. It is also a good place to learn what to plant in a butterfly garden.

Giant Swallowtail on Salvia coccinea
I walked through the Children's Garden on the way out. It is a sweet and whimsical place, created by a grieving father. There is a lot of love and joy in the tiny details.

I'm happy to know that the State Botanical Garden of Georgia is near our new home and I am looking forward to getting to know it. I have started to realize that there is a good chance that I will not be seeing some of these Gainesville parks and gardens again after I move. We will definitely be coming back to visit, but time is limited and you just never know what you'll be able to fit in. I'm just glad I am visiting them now and collecting these memories.

I Want One of These for Our Next Yard!

June Challenge Count: No new birds, 23 Natural Areas


  1. Fabulous profound photography.

  2. Ditto on the last picture! Love it! Enjoying your posts. Never realized how many wildlife areas there are around Gainesville.