SPRING HILL — Sylvia Durell thinks the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens in Spring Hill may just be the county’s best-kept secret.
But Durell, the county’s landscaping coordinator, doesn’t want it to be. She and a handful of volunteers who work tirelessly to keep the 4.5-acre gardens in good shape, want and need more people to volunteer and visit this hidden gem, at 1489 Parker Ave., off Spring Hill Drive.
“This is the best example of how successful gardening can be in Hernando County,” says Durell, who took part in Monday’s guided tour of the nature area.
At least three dozen people showed up just before 9 a.m. and followed tour guides through 22 different themed gardens. Strollers encountered a tropical rainforest, butterfly garden, a waterfall garden complete with donated miniature railroad, an herb garden and a tea garden. They stopped by the gazebo, with a statue of Mother Earth.
The grounds are maintained by the Spring Hill Garden Club, which relies on donations to keep it looking pristine. There is also the occasional wedding, family party or community event held at the gardens, which bring in money. Last year, 17 people tied the knot among the picturesque backdrop of the gazebo and flowers.
Barb Dubin, tour guide and Spring Hill Garden Club member, moved to Spring Hill in October 2010 and fell in love with the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens instantly.
“This is our home away from home,” says Dubin, wearing sunglasses and a visor to keep the morning sun away.
“I just love it,” she says.
Garden club members are constantly changing out plants and installing seasonal blooms. Doug Brainard showed his tour group where volunteers trimmed banana trees and in just three days, new growth appeared.
Founded in 1993, the county leased the acreage to the garden club volunteers, who used grants and donations to transform a featureless piece of land into a thriving eco-system.
Durell says volunteers adhere to the principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping, which stresses low water usage, virtually no pesticides and a preponderance of natural products, such as mulch.
The number one principle: “The right plant in the right place,” says Durell.
Jeanne Erickson, manager of the botanical gardens, says volunteers are needed and can work as many hours as fits into their schedules. Even one hour a week would suffice, she says.
“We would like more people in the community to help us,” Erickson says. “We’re proud of this.”
Volunteers are usually available to answer questions from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. And guided group tours are available upon request.
For tours and reservations or to volunteer, call (352) 683-9933. Or go to www.naturecoastbotanicalgardens.com