Perhaps the most memorable part of an Ardastra visit is the amazing gardens. There is a tranquility here that cannot be bought or manufactured.
Ardastra Gardens is set in four acres of lush jungle, filled with indigenous and regional plants, and the gardens are undoubtedly one of the most memorable parts of a visit to the Zoo. It has an informal shape with narrow, twisting paths leading to shady seats and timber-framed animal habitats. Each section of the Garden has its own character and special delights. To the north, a narrow path winds across a bridge towards the Secret Garden. It weaves its way between mature trees such as royal palms, sea grape, logwood, tamarind and Indian tulip trees, as well as West Indies Mahogany, which is listed as “threatened” in the Preservation of Native Flora of Florida Act.
Sheltered beneath this canopy, enjoying the shade or dappled sunspots, are all manner of tropical flowering plants including yellow elder, the national flower of The Bahamas, cat’s tail (chenille plant), crown of thorns, ixora, firecracker, hibiscus, and delicately scented pink and white frangipani. There are many original plantings including several tamarind and royal Poinciana trees that are over fifty years old. An Indian Banyan, sacred in India, has a base of 60 feet/20 meters around and is valued for its welcome shade, and providing food for a wide variety of birds.
There is brilliant colour at any time of the year here. The striking foliage of the ‘match-me-if-you-can’ (copper plant), croton, ti, and Madagascar dragon plants can be seen throughout the year. In January and February we have desert roses, red gingers, crown of thorns, and firecracker plants that look as though they are raining red tubular flowers; and beautiful flowering trees like the scented purple orchid tree that attracts hummingbirds. In late April or early May, we have the calming blue flowers of the national tree of The Bahamas, the Lignum Vitae, and in July the magnificent orange red blossoms of the royal Poinciana trees glowing like flames in the jungle’s canopy.
This beautiful jungle landscape is the perfect spot to take a walk, or sit on a bench and breathe in the perfume of the Garden’s sensual beauty.
– adapted from Historic Gardens Review by Lesley Spencer