Something For Everyone

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There is nothing sweeter than discovering a little treasure in your own back yard. The history buff in me was drawn to the Sugar Mill Gardens simply because it hinted that there might be ruins and because I just love gardens.

From the moment I walked in I was glad I decided to stop by. It really was an old sugar mill turned botanical garden. But what made it even nicer was the fact that it was run completely by volunteers and existed solely off of donations from the community and visitors.

Whether you are a history buff or an archaeologist, you are sure to appreciate the ruins of the sugar mill which was destroyed during the Seminole War.

Sugar cane was introduced to Florida in 1565 but would not become a commercial enterprise for another two hundred years when sugar mills created big profits for plantation owners. These plantations were run by slaves.

The destruction of the mills is a record of one of the largest slave rebellion’s in the US history, more commonly known as the Seminole War which is quite interesting in itself. For more information about that click here.

And who wouldn’t like dinosaurs? As you walk along the nature trails don’t be surprised if you run into a dinosaur or two, remnants from the 1950’s when a dermatologist named Dr. Perry Sperber leased the land and turned it into an amusement park which featured dinosaurs, a natural sun dial (which really works) the sugar mill ruins, a train ride and a Seminole village. Even the bathroom marked the time of Bongoland with its dinosaur murals. The dinosaurs were made by M.D. “Manny” Lawrence out of concrete and chicken wire and are now protected artifacts. These roadside attractions along the Florida coast were popular but short lived. In fact Dr. Sperber also was half owner in another park called Sea Zoo which was the precursor to Sea World. Like many forgotten towns, progress from the Interstate drew visitors away from the more rural routes.

Inside the gardens are many projects done by local Boy Scout troops such as the pond with a walking bridge crossing over it or the fern habitat with various species of fern growing on it. One boyscout was involved with an Ivy restoration exhibit which had been destroyed in hurricanes. I really enjoyed seeing so much creativity that involved so many different groups.

Some might say that this garden is for the birds…well, in fact it is. This is one of the favored bird watching places in the county. Bird lovers and gardeners have dedicated memorial benches throughout the place which makes it really nice if you want to just sit down for a few minutes.

Of course you may instantly think of weddings when you see this place. It just has that kind of setting to it and there are a regular stream of them with several locations to choose from. Once married you are allowed to hang a plaque on the hitching post.

Many plants are donated to the gardens and whatever is not used is sold for bargain prices or given away to those who would like them but can’t afford them.

As I took my own stroll through the gardens I saw people of all ages and they all seemed to be enjoying this peaceful, tranquil garden, that has been donated to the county. This truly represented a labor of love for all who helped keep it maintained.

Here is the link to their website and if you click the link called glances you can see a beautiful gallery of flowers in the park.