After more than a decade of planning, the new privately run Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens has opened in Punta Gorda, Fla. The waterfront gardens, which will continue to grow over the years, features botanical collections and contemporary art. Phase I opened in late October with 11 sculptures placed throughout the grounds, including two works by Boston sculptor Jacob Kulin.
Punta Gorda residents Roger and Linda Tetrault, working through their nonprofit family foundation, started developing their property along the Peace River in 2006, providing one of the largest endowments for public botanical gardens in the state.
Eventually, the gardens will cover 27 acres, of which 17 will be developed and 10 will remain as waterways, marshland, and heritage mangroves. This includes the Tetrault home and 4-acre property. Currently, 11 acres have been developed and as well as the Garden Community Center, with a café and rotating visiting exhibits.
Already planted are more than 3,500 botanicals, highlighting caladium, succulents, hibiscus, and more. Visitors can also stroll the Mangrove Marsh Boardwalk and view all three of Florida’s mangrove trees — red, black, and white.
Eleven sculptures by internationally known artists include the 21,000-pound “Steel Palm” by Kulin; “Ostriches” — two 20-foot-tall human forms by Chinese sculptor Yu Zhaoyang; and “Keel,” a lava stone structure by Turkish artist Kemal Tufan. In January, two pieces will be installed by Carole Feuerman, a pioneer in the world of hyperrealist sculpture.
On display through March is the visiting botanical photo exhibit by Michigan artist and photographer Laurie Tennent. Her outdoor collection is created from specimens found in the Peace River gardens. Five of her permanent works on aluminum were purchased for the garden.
Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens 5800 Riverside Drive, Punta Gorda, www.peacerivergardens.org. 941-621-8299. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for students through high school, and free for children under 6.
Diane Daniel can be reached at diane@bydiane