Monday, 24 January 2011

World's first Botanical Garden Hotel in the Florida Keys

Hardly a garden view, but one you might enjoy at any time! This is what you'll see when you stay at the world's first Botanical Garden that offers accommodation among the plants - Kona Kai in Key Largo on the Florida Keys - and close enough from Miami to visit in a day if you're in the area. 
Today, I wanted to tell you about someone I met last month on my way to Key West, who not only made a lasting impression in me, but prompted me to research the whole concept of Ethnobotany and think about the way we're going in the world of gardens and plants. Joe Harris, former journalist, is the man behind the  gardens at Kona Kai Resort and he's passionate about his plot. It would be hard not to get enthused just listening to him and if you get the chance to meet him, you'll soon find yourself wrapped up in the story of this little piece of paradise.
Just a few of the textures and colours you'll find in the garden
Ethnobotany is the scientific study of the relationship between plants and people. It explores the way in which plants have influenced humanity and recognises that man could not survive without plants for their primary needs - food, shelter and medicines. And with burning issues like climate change constantly in camera, it's especially topical today, since mankind is more dependent on plants than ever for survival.
Look up ... look down ... you'll find unusual plants everywhere in this magical garden
Joe and his wife have created the world's first "Live-In" Botanical Garden in Key Largo, and when I stayed there last month, I was lucky enough to meet him and hear about his passion for gardens. Work began here in 1997 when they arrived in Florida and since then it's been a story of sourcing and securing suitable plants for Kona Kai. Today there are over 300 different species here in the garden, which   officially opens in March this year. Joe is the first to admit that it's a real asset being so close to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Miami, because he consults regularly with them. He also told me that there are particularly good nurseries south of Miami for sourcing plants.
Kona Kai already has more than 40 palms, 200 bromeliads and 300 orchids in its collection but I have to say that of all the plants here, the Spindle Palm (Hyophorbe verschaffeltii) was my favourite - so called, because it's swollen in the middle (see above) - with its unusual texture, shape and colouring. And I was so taken by this particular palm, that I'm looking to see if we can grow them at our plot in India (for more information visit Jardins sans Frontiers).


  1. This quick developing awareness is reassuring as human species won’t have existed without the first flowers...
    Like your close-up photos as they really show the texture of the plants… Very nice. DeeBee

  2. I have always wanted to visit the Keys and now I have more reasons...going on my list of places to visit!!

  3. This is beautiful and so exciting! I may even be able to visit here! I just love the concept of beautiful plantings for everyone at a resort ... on every plot at every place of business, along highways, in parking lots, in every corner of the earth. I will be sure to visit this site and learn more. Thank you! Always a pleasure to visit here, too.

  4. These are truly excellent pictures, I'm impressed an i love this blog, my compliments!

  5. A wonderful compliment Paul - thank you - especially seeing the quality of photographs on your blog!

  6. Sounds like my kind of place...I'd love to visit, maybe someday, who knows!

  7. Wow, amazing photos again, Charlotte! I'm looking forward to following your gardening project in India!

  8. Charlotte: In reading your comments on The Botanic Garden at Kona Kai, tears came to my eyes. Is it possible we will really bring something special to the Florida Keys and our hotel visitors - something that tickles their hearts and engenders love for our plant friends - I hope so. That is what our entire staff, along with our ethnobotanist Rick Hederstrom, will be working toward this decade! Our March "opening" is in celebration of our 20th anniversary - find us on Facebook and the web. Thanks, jch

  9. Now I am homesick, all this snow and Fairchild Gardens and Key Largo. My old stomping grounds. Those Orchid trees are beautiful but you have to clean up under them all the time. Do you know the real name for those trees? I forgot.
    Beautiful post and loved the photo's.
    Thank you. yvonne


  10. The wonderful, colorful pictures you, give me joy!

  11. Always wandered and fascinated by the Keys. Lovely photos!

  12. What a wonderful place. It is certainly worthy of a visit. I have been wanting to go to the Keys for a while now and this is even more reason to go! Gorgeous photographs as always!

  13. @La Petite Gallery

    The Latin name of our orchid tree is Bauhinia purpurea. Fortunately there was still a flower left on the tree to use to confirm its identity. You can read more about the process I went through to identify the plant in my most recent posting on our blog:

    Glad to see so much interest in our Gardens! We hope you all will consider staying at Kona Kai and touring the gardens on your next trip to the Keys!

    Rick Hederstrom
    Associate Director