During Peak Bloom, an annual rite of spring, visitors can observe more than 150 varieties of camellias and hundreds of azaleas along with nun’s orchids, irises, coral bean, Mexican flame vine, and other flowering plants as they create an explosion of color throughout the Gardens. Guests are encouraged to return throughout the bloom season to experience Mother Nature’s ever-changing palette of colors— and to take plenty of pictures.
“Our azaleas always steal the show, “says Greg Kramer, Gardens’ director of horticulture. “And the best time to visit is right now into the first few weeks of March while the bloom cycles for camellias and azaleas are overlapping.”
Violas, snapdragons, dianthus, delphiniums, holly hocks and other annuals also escort the arrival of spring with glorious displays of color. Trees in bloom include native plums and deciduous magnolias.
In Florida, seasons are gauged as being either rainy or dry, and flowering plants bloom in response to this water cycle. Additionally, chilly days with temperatures in the low ‘30s (without freezing) yield the most colorful, vibrant blooms. Winters with a hard freeze will cause azaleas to bloom all at once, while warmer winters yield blooms over a longer period of time.
Visitors can learn about the flora, fauna and history of the Gardens during hour-long guided garden walking tours through April 15, included with general admission. Tour hours are Monday through Saturday at noon and 2 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tours meet at the Visitor Center.
What began as nearly 50 acres of woodland gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. has grown to more than 600 acres of woodland gardens, nature trails, conservation lands and groves. The visual centerpiece of the Gardens is the 205-foot art deco and neo-Gothic Singing Tower, a pink marble and coquina stone architectural treasure that houses one of the world’s finest carillons. The 60 carillon bells ring every half hour and during daily concerts at 1 and 3 p.m.