Visit Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens

Visit Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens

Welcome to Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens, a 27-acre site located on both sides of Riverside Drive in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Soaring sculptures and spectacular gardens sit side by side in splendid accord.

As soon as you park and pay admission on the south side, pick up a free brochure and map. Right away you see the Hibiscus Garden, Banyan tree, Cactus Garden and the Staghorn Fern Grotto. Notice the 20-year old staghorn fern weighting nearly 200 pounds. Donated by Joni Thompson of Port Charlotte, it helps answer the question – where are the plants coming from? Some 3500 botanicals are in the ground so far. Many are purchased and also donations of large plants and trees are encouraged.

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens has its first phases open to the public

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens

Sitting among the plants are large photos made for outdoor installation by Laurie Tennant, a Michigan artist and photographer. These photos are based on plants found in the Garden and will be on display through March 2018. The photo display was made possible by a grant from the Charlotte Community Foundation.

Keep your day planner open. You’ll want to come back here often.

Phases 1 & 2 opened to the public in October 2017. There is more to come, much more, including a new sculpture to be unveiled soon.

“The second week of January, 2018, a new sculpture will be dedicated,” said Rev. Bill Klossner, president of the Board of Directors for the Gardens. “We hope it is going to be the “selfie” place where people get their pictures taken.”

You notice I didn’t name the sculpture. And why is that? I’ve been sworn to silence. My lips are zipped.

But I can say, once it is unveiled, you are going to love it. Bring family, friends, a cell phone that takes photos, a camera, iPod, whatever works and click away.

Already installed on the grounds are 11 sculptures. Each one has a flair for the dramatic.

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens

When leaving the south side of the Gardens, crossing the street to the North side of the Gardens the “Ostriches” by Chinese sculptor Yu Zahoyang are your gigantic greeters, standing 20 feet tall and bowing at the waist.

“Steel Palm” a 21,000-pound sculpture by Boston artist Jacob Kulin is both a signature and centerpiece plus being an echo of a logo. A 50-million-year-old stone palm frond fossil is the logo for the non-profit Tetrault Family Foundation and provided the inspiration for “Steel Palm.”

Roger and Linda Tetrault, who began and fund the Gardens, have long been thinking big and thinking outside the box.

“This is their life,” Klossner said. “They worked in many places, often visited gardens plus they like art. Very few places have both.” The Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens does.

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens

After 10 years of planning the first two phases of the privately run Gardens are done and cover almost 11 acres. Visitors start on the south side and walk to the north side. When complete there acreage comes to 27 acres including 10 acres of waterways, wetlands and marshland plus 17 acres of Gardens. The Tetrault home and art collection are to be added.

“Their home has 200 pieces of art,” Klossner said. “The home and art collection will become part of the tour in the future.”

Art is acquired is a variety of ways – commissions or items found by the Tetrault family during their travels and also donated.

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens

The first donated piece is “The Wave” by Bob Richard. He and his wife are Port Charlotte residents in winter months. His work is displayed in the Gallery Officiel Montratre Paris, France.

“The Wave” is made of African mahogany, stainless steel and white marble.

In a moment of serendipity we were visiting the Gardens on November 8, 2017, the day “The Wave” was installed. Richard and his wife Pauline were standing next the sculpture, all smiles and photographing the piece in place.

Later he sent an Email saying in part: “I must thank both Roger Tetrault and Rev. Bill Klossner for allowing me the privilege of donating one of my artistic works to the Gardens. The addition of this Garden to the City of Punta Gorda is sure to strengthen the artistic and cultural strength of the area.”

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens – a new reason to visit Punda Gorda

Quite so, and for those who are into mindfulness be sure while in the Gardens to take the boardwalk all the way to the Peace River. Along the walkway stop to admire the impressive “Keel” sculpture by Turkish artist Kemal Tufan sits in a wetland area. Made of lava rocks, “Keel” looks like an ancient ship’s hull recently excavated from the river depths. In fact it is a sculpture created in Southeast Asia and one of the pieces weights more than 5,000 pounds.

At the end of the boardwalk is a gazebo overlooking the Peace River.

“One of my favorite places is to go to the gazebo overlooking the river,” Klossner said.

Indeed. I can see why.

I give this gazebo overlook a five-star rating as a Brown Bag Place – come here to de stress, meditate, maybe bring a brown bag lunch, a sketchbook, a journal – a pair of binoculars to watch wildlife – you get the idea.


What: Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens

Where: 5800 Riverside Drive, Punta Gorda, Fl.

Phone: 941-621-8299

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Email: [email protected]

Admission: Single Day – ages five and under free. Students trough high school $8, Adults $12 and Seniors (65 and up $10

Good to know: Walkways are wheelchair/walker accessible. If walking comfortable shoes are a plus along with sunglasses and a hat.

New Year’s Resolution

Get on board. Resolve to Like/Follow the Facebook page “Labyrinth of the Week” where you can keep up with posts on labyrinths around Florida as Lucy Tobias researches her upcoming book Circling the Center: the Labyrinth Trail in Florida publication date: September 1, 2018

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Wading trip – Get Wet and Wild in Punta Gorda

Wading trip – Get Wet and Wild in Punta Gorda

What’ in a wading trip? Get wet, get happy, learn new things. Are we fourth graders on a field trip? Heck no.

We are adults at the annual Florida Outdoor Writers Association Conference held last week in Punta Gorda – yes, we are fully-grown, allegedly responsible people who have elected to go on a wading trip.

I kid you not – they gave us plastic buckets. My plastic beach bucket is a swirly pink and white with a shovel attached. It is charming. I feel four-years old again and ready for the beach. Other pails are purple or yellow. We got them as gifts from the Charlotte Harbor Visitor’s Bureau to take with us on a wading trip.

Giggling, we pick up our buckets and head for the water’s edge.

Wading trip is a sea grass adventure up to your kneecaps

We are at Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda, Florida. The park faces Charlotte Harbor and is somewhat of a miracle. It was slated to be condos. Instead it is saved for the public to appreciate the tidal zones and marshes, a piece of authentic Florida.

Gingerly, we wade into Charlotte Harbor. Most of us are wearing crocs or sneakers because the sandy bottom has oyster shells that can rip open bare feet. The tide is out. Some of us are dragging what looks like a butterfly net on long pole along the bottom, scooping up algae, shrimp, a hermit crab in a periwinkle shell. It is something different with every scoop.

Monica Dorken (center) explains finds from the bottom of Charlotte Harbor to FOWA members. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias
Monica Dorken (center) explains finds from the bottom of Charlotte Harbor to FOWA members Sandy Huff (left) and Karen Smith (right). Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

Monica Dorken, our guide from the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, wears a weather-beaten hat. We knew immediately she had to be our guide even before seeing her nametag. An old hat is required guide attire.

The brave ones in the group wade out deeper. Water is up to their waists, then practically to their shoulder! Those of us with cameras hang back; reluctant to get inn over our knees, worried about dropping the camera.

Monica tells us about all the fourth graders she’s taken on these field trips, and I’m thinking, why should kids have all the fun? Why indeed. Let’s get wet and wild.

Wading trips a great way to learn new things about Florida
She brings out a cool viewer – put in some salt water and anything you’ve found, look through the viewer and a shrimp becomes gigantic.

Monica Dorken shows a cool viewer for seeing things up close.
Monica Dorken shows a cool viewer for seeing things up close.

The Center does these trips for free and sometimes schedules them for adults. Check their calendar.

In another lifetime I wanted to be a marine biologist and study the inter tidal zone. But life has a way of happening when you are making other plans. It feels great to be back in the intertidal zone. So much action here – the food web at work, with meals changing with the tides.

On this day, I’m amazed, once again, at how everything is connected. What runs off our lawns into the bays and oceans affects life there. Monica brings some really cool magnifying viewers. Put in some seawater and look inside. A small shrimp become gigantic.

Even trash has an effect on the environment. FOWA member Rodney Smith finds a green glass bottle in the water and shakes it to see if any small crabs are living inside.

FOWA member Rodney Smith checks to see if any sealife lives inside this discarded bottle
FOWA member Rodney Smith checks to see if any sealife lives inside this discarded bottle

A yellow-crowned night heron lands on a mangrove limb. Writer/author Sandra Friend captures the moment on camera. Her husband, cartoonist Rob Smith, sits on a tree limb, sketching nearby mangroves.

Before we got wet, Margo gave a talk on all the things we might see before we got wet on our wading trip. We handle a whelk egg case and starfish. It is not our day to find these things in the water. But no matter. We leave soaked and satisfied. When is the next field trip? I’m ready. I’ve got my plastic bucket.

Lucy Beebe Tobias is a member of FOWA and the author of 50 Great Walks in Florida, February, 2008, University Press of Florida. ©2008 Lucy Beebe Tobias. All rights reserved.

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