peacock in the nature coast botanical gardens by lucy tobias

Strolling through the Nature Coast Botanical Garden and Nursery

By Guest Author Posted on October 25, 2023

by Lucy Tobias, guest author

One day stands out as a pop-the-cork day for the Spring Hill Garden Club.

Until that day, club members used a small tract of land at the Lake House on Kenlake Avenue to grow plants and sell to the public.

On November 5, 1994, the club signed a 99-year lease with the Board of County Commissioners in Hernando County to lease a 4.5-acre piece of scrub land off Parker Avenue. The plan? To build a nursery and botanical garden.  With everyone’s signatures, the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens and Nursery began and has been growing ever since.

Creating a Public Garden with Volunteers

One acre is set aside for their nursery. The rest of their land is a thriving botanical garden packed with landscapes that change with the seasons. The Nature Coast Botanical Gardens and Nursery is an absolute delight to visit, especially as the weather cools and fall returns.

It boggles the mind that these gardeners, all volunteers,  have over the years designed and constantly maintained 22 different garden themes on a mere 3.5 acres. You could walk the walkways at a fast clip. But that would miss all the details, the sweet surprises. 

Stroll through the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens and Nursery. Take in the sights on both sides of the walkway. Step off the path and into individual gardens. Sit on a bench. Listen to the breeze coming through a canopy of trees. Be inspired with ideas you can do at home or in your neighborhood. Take pictures. Perhaps bring a sketchbook and do drawings. Dream.

Entrance to the Butterfly Garden. Photo by Lucy Tobias

Wear good walking shoes. The path is brick but if you go into the individual gardens, you will be walking on grass, dirt, and forest paths. Honestly, there is so much shade here you do not need to bring a hat. We left ours in the car during a recent visit. Somehow, in designing the gardens, the original tree canopy remains largely intact, so lots of shade.

Admission is free. Gardens are open from dawn to dusk. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday volunteers are working in the garden and welcome your questions.  Tours can be arranged for groups of five or more. 

The gardens are a popular venue for weddings. Plus, sometimes the gardens become a venue for live music, like the Hernando Symphony brass quintet on select Saturdays.

If you want to take home a plant (or two), be aware the plant nursery is open from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday and Saturday mornings.

nature coast botanical gardens entrance
The entrance to Nature Coast Botanical Gardens. Photo by Lucy Tobias

Step on the wide brick walkway to begin the journey. First stop – the Welcome Center. For kids, there is a scavenger hunt sheet they can use. As the seasons change the Welcome Center posts what is blooming. Pick up a map and guide to carry with you. Just a suggestion – proceed counterclockwise by turning to your left after the Welcome Center.

We found ourselves stepping off the path into almost every garden. The Herb Garden, for example, is laid out in a circle like a huge pie cut into pieces. Each section had different herbs. This layout would be perfect for a small community garden or a back garden with a bit of open area. Of course, I had to rub the rosemary plant and inhale its heady scent. 

You hear the waterfall making water music before you get there. A scale model of the Garden Railway runs around the waterfall. It even has a miniature village. On most Saturday mornings volunteers turn on the railroad and the train chugs away!

nature coast botanical gardens
Can you see the small frog on the lily pad? Photo by Lucy Tobias

To me, the enchantment at botanical gardens is often in the details, the small surprises uncovered while being still and looking closely. For example, standing at the waterfall, admiring the lily pads, I saw a dark green frog sitting quietly on one of the pads. It blended in perfectly. The sight felt like a gift. 

As the path winds along, more gardens unfold. A rain forest, a desertscape, an orchard, a rose garden, and, of course, my favorite, the butterfly garden. Sitting for a spell, a zebra longwing fluttered by. A bumble was busy. Bees landed on native flowers to do their job – collect pollen.

A picnic area, heavily shaded, is the perfect place for a break or lunch. 

More gardens were revealed as we walked, so we often strayed off the path to walk in a secret garden, palm garden, wildflower garden, poinsettia garden. We meandered on. The Asian Garden has species of grasses, ginger, and some tall bamboo. A red laughing Buddha stands among the bamboo.

rain wall
A rainwall has a viewing platform so you can stand and watch the rain. Photo by Lucy Tobias

One recent addition – a rain wall. Beautiful sound. Even a platform where you can stand and watch the rain fall.

The Fantasy Garden is a favorite for children and their Bromeliad Garden is one of the largest in Florida. We finished our walk around the gardens in about an hour and a half. The Walkmeter app said we’d done just 0.37 miles. Few steps. Many memories. Lots of inspiration.

Nature Coast Botanical Gardens survives on volunteers and donations. A donation box near the end of the walk is ready for your contribution.

The gardens change with the seasons—more reason to come back often.

the herb garden
The circular herb garden is divided into sections like slices of a pie. Photo by Lucy Tobias

Nature Coast Botanical Gardens & Nursery Trip Essentials

About Lucy Tobias:

Lucy Beebe Tobias is an award-winning author, photojournalist, and illustrator who creates lively and engaging books on environment, exploration, and ecology. Her writing is family-focused, senior welcoming and always eco-friendly. Tobias is a former newspaper reporter and photographer for the New York Times Regional Group. Lucy is the author of the best-selling book “50 Great Walks in Florida” (University Press of Florida), “Florida Gardens Gone Wild” and numerous other publications. Her work is available in print, as e-books and online at



Sherry Goodman says

Is there a time of year to visit that stands out?

Cami says

We love this garden! Its a beautiful spot. Great write-up about it! Thanks for driving up this way to see it.

Jud says
Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ says

Nice, thanks!

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