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Teaching & Demonstration Gardens

Welcome to the Gardens

The UF/IFAS Santa Rosa County Extension Teaching and Demonstration Gardens are a cooperative effort of the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners, the Santa Rosa County Extension Office and the Santa Rosa County Master Gardeners.

These gardens are an integral part of the Residential Horticulture program in Santa Rosa County.  Started in 2003, the gardens are still under development.

The objectives of the gardens are to:

  1. Disseminate research-based information on Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ practices and techniques to the citizens of Santa Rosa County and surrounding areas.
  2. Showcase plants and sustainable landscape horticulture techniques appropriate to the local area.
  3. Provide learning opportunities for home gardeners, Master Gardeners and landscape professionals on design, planting and maintenance procedures.
  4. Provide the public with an opportunity to view specific plants and evaluate how the plants will perform in their community.
  5. Provide an outdoor teaching laboratory for public classes to enhance hands-on learning activities.

These gardens would not be possible without the generous donation of equipment, supplies and money from our donors.  Please be sure to review the list of donors posted on the garden kiosk.

Special thanks to the Santa Rosa County Master Gardeners who provide ongoing garden maintenance and give so generously to this worthwhile project.

Vegetable Garden

Residents of Northwest Florida enjoy two vegetable seasons in the home garden.  Warm season vegetables including peppers, eggplant, okra, melons and squash are planted in the spring of the year.  Cool season vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, collards, onions and strawberries are planted in early fall.

The demonstration vegetable garden spotlights several different growing techniques.

  • The “square foot” garden demonstrates an intensive gardening technique.  Using approximately 4 foot by 4 foot frames, the beds are filled with organic material.  Close planting, typical of intensive gardening, provides a bountiful harvest from a small space.
  • A raised vegetable garden is an excellent alternative for those with limited space, infertile or diseased soil.  Raised beds can be made out of a variety of building materials.
  • A simple way to support vegetables that are trailing vines, such as gourds, is a trellis made from recycled materials

Herb Garden

The herb garden is attractively displayed in a charming circle. The circle is divided into four quadrants each representing different uses of some of the most popular herbs.  The themes of the four beds are culinary, medicinal, fragrance and tea.

Wasp Garden

An important objective of the Extension service is to bring new and improved technology and techniques to county residents.  Managing pests in a home landscape can be a time consuming task.  With an emphasis on environmentally-friendly pest management techniques, biological controls are becoming an important tool in our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) toolbox.

Working in conjunction with Dr. Howard Frank at the University of Florida,  the false shrubby buttonweed (Spermacoce verticillata) was introduced into Santa Rosa County in the fall of 2004.  This wildflower is an important nectar source for the Larra bicolor wasp, a biological control of mole crickets.  The adult wasps feed on nectar from a narrow range of plants and actively search for mole crickets underground.  Once in contact with a mole cricket, the adult wasp temporarily paralyzes it and deposits an egg on its underside.

After the larva hatches from the egg, it feeds on the mole cricket and eventually kills it.

UF/IFAS was scheduled to release the Larra bicolor wasp after the establishment of the wildflower.  To everyone’s surprise, the wasp appeared on its own in the summer of 2005.  This biological control is an important step forward in reducing chemical usage in the control of pest mole cricket.

Tropical Garden

One of the hottest trends in residential landscapes is the tropical look.  Defined by the use of large leaves, different leaf textures and colorful flowers, tropical-looking plants provides beauty and interest to the gardens.  A loquat tree, bananas, and crinums blend together for that tropical effect.

Butterfly Garden

Encouraging butterflies to the garden provides hours of enjoyment.  When creating a garden that attracts these graceful insects be sure to provide the following elements.

  1. Nectar food for the adult butterflies
  2. Food for the caterpillars, the larval form of the butterflies
  3. To round-out the butterfly garden, consider adding an artificial puddle or two. Several species of butterflies are attracted to free-standing puddle.


Vine Exhibit

Many evergreen and deciduous vines grow well in Northwest Florida.  The native cross vine and the early flowering Carolina Jessamine blend together on the vine fence.

Edible Landscape

The edible landscape bed is intended to show that many fruit producing plants are also attractive landscape plants. This bed includes blueberries, thornless blackberries, pomegranate and pineapple guava.

One of our most prized plants is located in this garden.  The Shell apple has a long and sentimental history in Santa Rosa County.  Mr. Dan Mullins, Extension Faculty, has grafted and propagate this rare and valued local fruit tree to preserve its rich history in Santa Rosa County.

Mulch and Groundcover Display

Mulch is a “must” in the Northwest Florida landscape.  Organic mulches reduce weeds, moderates soil temperatures, conserves moisture and adds organic material to the soil as they decompose.  Our mulch display shows you some common, and not so common, options.  Displayed are melalueca, eucalyptus, pecan shells and several others.

Groundcovers can be used in areas where other plants may have difficulty growing.  Many groundcovers grow well in our area.

Ornamental Grass Display

Many different types of ornamental grasses thrive in our hot, humid weather.  From huge to small, ornamental grasses provide texture and winter interest to the gardens.

The Pond

The water garden is located in the middle of the experimental garden.  It features native aquatic plants such as water lilies.

The Bird Garden

The bird garden has been designed to attract all types of birds including the exciting and fun hummingbirds.  The garden features nectar plants like firespike, cuphea and shrimp plants.  Bird feeders and a bird bath accent this truly unique garden.


Special thanks to the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners for their on-going, vital support of the building, technology, supplies, staff and maintenance.

Thank you Santa Rosa County Master Gardeners who provide financial support to the gardens as well as maintaining the gardens.

Thank you to the following corporate donors:

  • Andrews Sodding & Lawn Service
  • Cutting Edge
  • Emerald Coast Growers
  • The Garden Gate
  • Hiawatha Nursery
  • Insta Too
  • Lowe’s Home Improvement
  • Panhandle Growers, Inc.
  • Porter’s Plants
  • Rancho La Orquidea, Inc.
  • Riker Irrigation, Inc.
  • The Rock Yard
  • Santa Rosa County Master Gardener Association
  • Sod Solutions
  • Snyder Foundation Grant
  • Sunbelt Compost & Garden Supply
  • Turfcare Specialties
  • University of Florida, WFREC
  • University of Florida Student Club, Milton Campus

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