Garden in downtown Orlando receives much-needed makeover

Orange County Government’s downtown garden received a makeover Wednesday as part of Orange County’s new initiative to focus on Florida-Friendly Landscaping and enhance biodiversity.

Volunteers spent the morning planting 17 species of native plants in the garden outside the Orange County Government Administration building at the intersection of Rosalind Avenue and Jackson Street.

"I didn’t sleep much last night because I was so excited," said Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Lead Gardner Phyllis Stopford. 

She helped plant flowers. 

"It’s really a demonstration garden for the community to let people know the different plants they can put in their yards." 

"The garden receives more than 500,000 visitors each year and this makeover will not only improve the curb appeal of the garden, it will help educate visitors on the importance of planting native plants," said Tia Silvasy, project leader. "Installing Florida-Friendly plants reduces water and fertilizer use and provides a habitat for butterflies and other pollinators which are all things we look forward to improving in this garden."

Orange County’s first-ever Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officer Jeff Benavides said the project is the first of many similar projects in the county.

"All of our new landscaping projects as well as any new construction projects are all Florida-friendly and primarily focusing on native plants to enhance biodiversity and to conserve water, frankly save us money. Less irrigation, less water to be used," Benavides said.

The Florida Wildflower Foundation funded the project with a $1,000 grant and includes partners from UF/IFAS Extension Orange County, Florida Master Gardener Volunteers, Orange County Government, the Florida Native Plant Society, and Grounded Solutions, LLC.