During one of our trips down to Palm Beach County to take care of some preparatory tasks, we took some time to swing by the Mounts Botanical Garden west of Palm Beach International Airport. In a prior life I was a board member of the Friends of the Mounts, and also spent many hours as a Master Gardener volunteer helping maintain the garden. We are members of the garden, in part to take advantage of reciprocal membership benefits when we visit other gardens around the country.
The garden is currently hosting a special temporary exhibit called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea, which features enormous sculptures made entirely from debris collected from beaches. We wanted to check out the exhibit, and I was also anxious to see how the garden was affected by Hurricane Irma’s scary visit to South Florida last fall.
The art exhibit was a fun addition to the garden. The monumental pieces are beautiful, use trash in a very playful way, and also communicate an important message about our over-reliance on extremely long-lived plastics. I appreciated that the displays provided kids with the interesting challenge of figuring out how the various types of trash (plastic flip flops, golf balls, or pieces of milk crates, for example) were incorporated into the art pieces, giving young people a prompt to think about where trash ends up, but also encouraging them to think about how to create art from unusual materials.
The damage from the storm was fairly evident in the loss of a significant amount of tree canopy — the tropical shade garden was anything but shady, unfortunately — but overall the garden’s resilience was evident. It seemed that while a few trees and shrubs were lost altogether, most of the specimen trees, as well as most of the understory plants, survived and will return to good health with a little time.
This meant that the lovely tropical vistas that make the Mounts special are largely intact, making me very happy as we wandered around the peaceful setting. (Well, it’s peaceful if you focus on the garden and find a way to ignore the massive aircraft landing next door at PBI every few minutes.)
Some botanical gardens take a strictly scientific approach to displaying their collections, with many variations on a single species planted together and lined up for inspection and comparison. A grouping might include a “normal” specimen of a species, then a dwarf cultivar, then a variegated cultivar, then a version with a different-shaped leaf or similar variation.
In contrast, the Mounts approaches garden settings using a unifying theme, showcasing a variety of plants suitable for the Florida landscape within that theme. The Garden of Extremes, the Fragrance Garden, the Garden of Well-Being, and the Butterfly Garden are some of my personal favorites, and I now have to add another to the list: the Tropical Wetland Garden. This garden is new since we moved to Miami; I had only seen renderings of the planned addition. With walkways positioned just inches above the water, the new garden brings visitors eye-to-eye with a variety of aquatic plants. A gentle waterfall — artificial of course, but still very calming — splashes down a rock embankment filled with colorful bromeliads. I give the new garden an A+.
Here are just a few more photos from our pleasant morning at the garden.