Sunken Gardens

In 1903, four acres of land were purchased by George Turner Sr, a plumber by trade but a gardener by heart.  He drained a shallow lake, which turned out to be an ancient sinkhole.  It dropped 15 feet below street level and provided a wonderful soil perfect for growing fruit and tropical exotic plants.  By 1924, he was charging admission ($.25 per person) to let people see his amazing garden.  In the 1950s, they started adding exotic wildlife as well.

Then, in 1967, he opened the World’s Largest Giftshop, which is now home to the main entrance to the gardens.  Fully restored to its natural beauty after being purchased by the City of St. Petersburg, this location provided a spot of quiet serenity in a bustling coastal town.

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Upon entering, you’re greeted with a natural looking green space.  I’ll admit, I forgot how close I actually was to a major roadway until right before I left.  The trees, multiple varieties of palms, pines, oaks and more, tower overhead, keeping the area cooler in the Florida summer.

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Tucked up among the trees and flowers are quiet little oasis where you can sit and just enjoy nature.

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There were several areas with animals, including one set aside for birds.  There was one parrot who had obviously heard many a crying toddler, because she sounded just like one.  I kept looking for a kid who had wandered away from their parents, but there was just a parrot.

Of course, my favorite bird there were the flamingos.IMG_7941

Sounding like a traffic jam, they honked loudly and would knock their beaks together if someone cut them off while moving around.

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Water plays a big part in the design of the gardens.  With water falls and burbling streams, they also have a koi pond to sit by and relax.

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A lovely respite from the busy beaches that stay well occupied at this time of year in Florida.  The price is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (62+) and $4 for children (2-11).  Right next door is the Great Explorations Children’s Museum.  They do have combined tickets if you decide to do both.

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Ethel M Botanical Gardens

With Thanksgiving weekend just around the corner, we decided to head back to Ethel M to stock up on a few sweet treats before staying out of the way of holiday shoppers this weekend.  And since we were there, we decided to take in the botanical garden as well.

For the most part, when you think about botanical gardens, you picture flowers and greenery and all the colors of the rainbow.  But remember, Las Vegas is in the desert, so its environment isn’t suited to the same flora as North Carolina or Louisiana.  They make due with the bounty of the desert.  For all its aridness, there’s beauty to behold.

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Since it is the holiday season, the cacti in the garden have been bedecked with Christmas lights, both big and small.  At night, the lights come on and on the weekends, you can visit with Santa Claus and go ice skating.  That’s right, ice skating in the desert.  Hey, Vegas is known for its magic!

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Above is an agave plant.  Not only does it provide agave nectar, which can be used as a replacement for sugar or honey, but it also is used in the manufacturing of tequila.

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These plants are not ones you want to get up close and personal with.  But with their curves and bends, they have an almost Seussian feel to them.

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Speaking of Dr. Seuss, we found Mom’s favorite trees again, the Joshua Tree.

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Still not a huggable tree, but it seemed right at home among the prickly pears and Christmas lights.  Even though the candy factory is very near the airport, you could still gain that sense of peacefulness that comes when you’re surrounded by nature.  A nice slice of the desert in the heart of the city.