Surrounding the Leon County Extension Office are demonstration gardens that have been maintained by Leon County Master Gardener Volunteers since 1999. I believe these gardens are a Leon County treasure.
If you’ve never seen them or didn’t know they were here, you should head to the Extension Office.
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The gardens are an educational tool, an experimental garden and a wonderful resource for local residents. They are open to the public and you can come by anytime and enjoy a stroll through the gardens. The Leon County Extension Office is located at 615 Paul Russell Road. It is directly east of the Fairgrounds and the entrance is directly across from Jack L. McLean Park.
The demonstration gardens are a fantastic resource for (1) what grows well in Tallahassee, (2) ideas for how to deal with problem areas in your garden, and (3) inspiration for your next fun gardening project. The gardens are divided into seven labeled beds plus an orchard.
Do you have an area in your yard that collects water when it rains? The demonstration gardens have a rain garden in bed 3 that you can look at and see if that’s something that would work for you. You will see a spiraling design of blue flag irises, highland blueberries, muhly grass and golden ragwort. It’s both beautiful and functional.
Would you like to create a wild pond? See bed 5 for ideas for planting around and in the pond. These may include irises, ferns, yarrow, and pitcher plants.
Would you like to create a desert (dry) garden? Between beds 3 and 4 is a desert area with cacti, century plants, bromeliads, aloes and succulents.
fruit trees and art?
Would you like to add some fruit trees to your garden? The open space west of the entrance to the Extension Office is an orchard. There are over 20 species of fruit trees there, labeled so you can see what the trees look like and how well they do in the full sun in Tallahassee.
Do you like a whimsical garden and want to add art or unique features? Bed 5 features a canoe converted into a planter and stunning artwork that will grab your attention.
There are seven garden beds and an orchard that comprise the demonstration garden. Within these areas you will find the diverse conditions and habitats that exist in Leon County and the surrounding areas. Every garden bed has a slightly different approach to incorporating plantings, and different beds can appeal to different tastes.
Beds 1, 2 and 3: trees and undergrowth
Bed 1 is located in front of the extension office entrance. The bed itself features three large trees and contains a variety of undergrowth plants. These include those that like partial shade, such as caladia, variegated cup ginger, hydrangeas, and cast iron plants. The sunny areas on the outside of the large trees include showy specimens such as the Chinese fringed tree, Grand Crinum lilies, and many flowers such as sage, Stokes’ aster, liatris, and angel’s wing begonia.
Bed 2 is to the right of the entrance and includes areas with grass and picnic tables. In the shady areas you will find Canna Lilies, Siamese Tulips (ginger), Pinecone Ginger, Palmettes, Cigar Plants and Turk’s Cap. This border uses tiger stripe calathea (sometimes referred to as prayer plant) as a unique ground cover and has a very creative butterfly puddle made from clay pots and rocks.
Bed 3 is on the south side of the extension office building and incorporates many native plants in a partially to fully shaded area. It has a woodland feel and includes native trees like an Ashe magnolia, a rusty blackhaw, a red maple, and a river birch. You’ll also find native azaleas, oakleaf hydrangeas and ferns.
Beds 4, 5: pollinator garden, vegetables
Bed 4 is on the east side of the building and can only be viewed during office hours. The bed is full to part sun and is a pollinator garden with many nectar rich plants and larval host plants such as passionflower, marsh milkweed, red horse chestnut, bluebells and justicia.
Bed 5 is further south from the Extension Office and leads to a large vegetable garden. This area receives full sun and contains many tropical garden plants. This garden almost completely freezes back in winter, but in summer the cold hardy tropical shrubs are 6 to 8 feet tall again.
Here you will find a Japanese magnolia, a saucer magnolia, a golden trumpet tree, abelia and tricolor hibiscus. You will also find Purple Martin Houses, a bat house (over 300 bats live here) and it houses the wildlife pond and native aquatic plants. Keep looking at the vegetable garden and the edible forest. Yes, you read that right, an edible forest.
Beds 6 and 7: roses and cut flowers
Bed 6 is to the north of the building and is mostly in full sun. Featuring more traditional garden plants, this border includes many old favorites such as camellias, roses, plumbagos, palm trees, irises and crape myrtle. It uses trellis, benches and bird baths to add interest to the landscape.
Bed 7 is at the entrance and in full sun. We are expanding this bed into a cut flower garden and it includes coneflower, gaillardia (bract flower), yarrow, ruellia, spiraea, abelia, salvia, coreopsis and blue-eyed grass. This bed has a steep slope and erosion problems that many Tallahassee gardeners also struggle with.
The orchard is directly west of the building and is in full sun. Here you will find figs, pears, olives, papaya, red mulberry, pomegranate, persimmon, plum, crab apple and many citrus varieties.
Each of these gardens has a mix of native and non-native plants. With the addition of bird feeders and water resources such as bird baths and pollinator puddles, the beds encourage visiting birds and bees. The gardens are also a mix of well established landscapes with mature trees providing shade and gardens in full sun to approximate the types of gardens you can find in Leon County.
You don’t need an appointment, just drop by and tour the gardens when it suits you. From your Leon County Master Gardener Volunteers, we hope you will enjoy the demonstration gardens as much as we do.
Brenda Buchan is a Master Gardener Volunteer at UF/IFAS Extension Leon County, an equal opportunity organization. For garden questions, email the Extension Office at AskAMasterGardener@ifas.ufl.edu.
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