Why you’ll want to visit the beautiful Vero Beach Botanical Garden next month
The stretch of Florida coastline around Vero Beach is known as the “Treasure Coast”. The name is derived from a fleet of Spanish galleons that sank just offshore in a hurricane while carrying a treasure of gold to Spain.
For a small town, Vero Beach is decidedly upscale and a little posh. Part of the City Treasure on the East Treasure Coast McKee Botanical Garden18 acres of lush temperate and tropical vegetation.
An annual water lily celebration
Every year, starting in June, McKee’s summer showcase is the Waterlily Celebration. This year, it starts on June 19 and operates for several months during the summer season. Now in its 17th year, the celebration features more than 80 varieties of water lilies, some in pots, others in ponds around the garden. They have been part of McKee’s flora since the 1930s.
There are day and night flowering varieties of water lilies. Horticultural experts will be present during the celebratory ceremonies to explain the different species.
Throughout the celebration there will be artists creating beautiful works of art. Vendors will be on hand to sell water lilies to take home. There is also a popular water lily photo contest.
Visitors will enter the garden through a canopy shrouded in ferns and greenery. And while there are plenty of botanical gardens in cities across Florida, in McKee they will end up in one of the most beautiful in the state.
One hundred years of history
McKee is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This year, 2022, marks the centenary of the land being set aside for the garden in 1922. It was originally called the McKee Jungle Garden and began as an 80-acre piece of land which was purchased by developers Arthur McKee and Waldo. Sacristan.
They originally wanted the land to be used for citrus groves. They quickly decided the terrain was unsuitable for citrus and planned to open a public garden to attract snowbirds visiting Vero Beach from the north. McKee and Sexton hired landscape architects from The Olmsted Brothers company to design the garden. Frederick Law Olmsted is known for designing New York’s Central Park and other parks in cities across the country.
When the Central Florida theme parks opened in the 1970s, attendance at the Jungle Garden began to decline. It closed in 1976 and much of the land was sold to condominium developers. Only 18 acres remained and it lay dormant for 20 years.
In 1994 local visionaries, with the help of The Trust for Public Land, launched a fundraising campaign to purchase and restore what was left of the land. The campaign has found widespread support in the community. It was reported that the children even donated their allowances to help buy the property. Fundraising was successful and the Jungle Garden reopened as the McKee Botanical Garden in 2001. Today it attracts over 100,000 visitors a year.
In addition to the main garden, there is a children’s garden, award-winning art exhibitions, educational programs for adults and schoolchildren, and special events throughout the year, including the Water Lilies Celebration.
From flowers to culinary delight
Once you’ve worked up a thirst and appetite in the garden, take a beachfront stroll to Ocean Drive.
At the water’s edge, where the road meets the sea, you will find fine cuisine at ocean grill, renowned for its fresh seafood. Just across the parking lot is by Mulligan, which is more casual with a menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Other restaurants can be found along Ocean Drive as you head south.
The 2022 Water Lilies Celebration begins June 19 and runs throughout the summer. The garden is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Check the garden website for times and admission prices.