The Art of Gardening: North America’s Largest Tropical Bonsai Garden

A small town in Florida is home to the largest tropical bonsai garden in all of North America. Located in Fort Pierce, Heathcote Botanical Gardens is a permanent public display that offers visitors a whole lot to look at and appreciate.

The gardens are set on 10,000 square feet and feature 30 different species of bonsai and more than 100 trees. 

Defining Bonsai

IMAGE CREDIT: Courtesy of Heathcote Botanical Gardens/Facebook

The word bonsai is a Japanese term that translates to “planted in a container.” The art form has been around for over a thousand years and symbolizes peace, harmony, and balance. 

Various cultivation techniques are used to grow small trees in pots that mimic the full-size version of the tree. Pinching buds, pruning and wiring branches, and restricting fertilizers are all methods employed to achieve what is supposed to be a replication of nature. 

People love this art form because it displays the tree’s fight against elements to become a smaller version of what we can find in nature. 

Growing Art

IMAGE CREDIT: Courtesy of Heathcote Botanical Gardens/Facebook

Some of the main attractions at Heathcote Botanical Gardens include the Silver Buttonwood bonsai, which is about 200 years old! 

The Jaboticaba Bonsai is unique and a real showstopper with its twin trunks. 

And the Tiger Bark Ficus Bonsai (AKA Golden Gate Ficus) is being featured at the Disney Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival until June of this year.

But as you can see from the photos, courtesy of Heathcote Bontanical Garden’s Facebook page, all of the trees are really interesting! 

Heathcote says all of the trees are native to the region with roots in the Bahamas, Brazil, and Madagascar. They are being displayed in artisan pots on pedestals made from Florida cap rock. 

They were gifted to the botanical garden from the late James J. Smith, a world-renowned Bonsai Master. His incredible collection is being cared for at the garden by Tom Kehoe, one of Smith’s most devoted bonsai art students.

But you don’t have to be a master to dabble in the world of bonsai; anyone can grow this horticultural art form at home! Just don’t expect to be as incredible as Smith or Kehoe right away! 

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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.