Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Secret Garden in Key West

The information center guide leaned over like he had a secret to share. I had just inquired about the Key West Botanical Garden and he asked, “Do you really like gardens?” When I shook my head vigorously in the affirmative he said, “You’ll have to check out the Secret Garden.” I was all ears.
What gardener can resist visiting a “secret garden”? Nancy Forester’s Secret Garden is a gem in the heart of downtown Key West, Florida – only a couple of blocks from all the tourist shops and restaurants on Duval Street. If you have visited Key West, you probably know that this island is very developed. The last thing you expect to find is an undeveloped acre of land in the downtown area.

The Secret Garden is the back yard for several homes – a space tended and nurtured by Nancy Forrester and company. It is a beautiful, lush rainforest like existence. I felt like I was in the jungle during my visit. You can meander down numerous paths, or you can sit quietly in a corner and meditate. The cool, moist rainforest is an inviting change from the heat of the day.

Not only is the secret garden home to a wide variety of canopy trees, such as palm, fruit and spice trees, the mid and under story exotics include beautiful bamboo, ferns, aroids, cycads and so much more including a large collection of orchids. Many of the plants in this garden are rare or endangered species.
But that’s not all. This rainforest is also home to a Parrot rescue program. A large number of beautiful parrots live in the garden, each with their own story – abandoned or homeless for various reasons. Nancy has taken them in and benefactors can adopt a bird to help support his or her ongoing care.

Nancy works to protect, nurture and share this garden treasure surrounded by city sidewalks and closely-set Victorian homes with large porches and storm shutters. She refers to the garden as "living art." Nancy’s work also includes coordinating staff to maintain the gardens, providing food and care of the birds, and educating the public and encouraging their support to help “preserve the last undeveloped wooded acre in the heart of the Key West historic district.”

If you visit Key West, I encourage you to visit Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden open 7 days a week. Stroll along numerous paths viewing the wonderful tropical flora and fauna and pause and reflect on the garden in one of the peaceful sitting areas. This garden is food for the soul – a world within a world where you can erase the clutter in your mind and just breathe...

If you’re not planning a trip to Key West, you can visit the garden online and view a series of videos about the garden and Nancy’s work - the MANA Project.


  1. I'm gonna' have 'ta add this one to my list!

  2. What a wonderful space. And even better that they're rescuing parrots. Very nice.

  3. We visited Key West twice, but I've never heard about this garden. Thanks for the info!

  4. That guy really was sharing a prized bit of info with you! The Secret Garden sounds like the best and most delightful place in Key West. We hope it remains undeveloped and appreciated. Nancy F. looks like a fun and happy person too. Thanks for giving us this good traveling tip!

  5. Hi, sure wish I was in Key West just about Wonderful pictures of the secret garden! I love exotics and tropicals..wished they could survice better in our zone 6. I found you through a comment you made on Garden Muse and stopped by for a visit. Your home garden is lovely..I'll be sure to follow you through the season..thanks, and nice to meet you!

  6. I am so happy I stopped by your garden today. YOUR wonderful key west photos warmed me up. I am in zone 5 so we are still frozen! Can't wait to share photos as they bloom. Happy Bloom Tuesday.

  7. Hi, thanks for popping into my blog and I'm really glad you enjoyed it.
    I've just read through yours - the secret garden looks wonderful and so lush! It's chucking it down with rain here in the cold UK, so it was great to practically feel the heat of that garden!
    I love hostas and have got quite a few in my garden - but there's always room for more! But I had never come across the HVX vius, so thanks for that - I'll keep a look out for it from now on.
    Nice to meet you.

  8. If you have been to key west but not stopped by Hemingway's, you missed out! The trees and plants around the home are incredible. I was not expecting the landscape around the home to be that cool. It's not neat and organized it's just old, lush, and tropical. I love it.


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