Naples Botanical Garden handled Ian better than expected


Hurricanes Charlie, Dorian, Irma, and Ian all impacted the Naples Botanical Garden, but luckily they fared better than they expected after Ian.

Thanks to their environmentally conscious planning, storm surge was not a big issue for them.

Between blossoming flowers, pristine grounds, and cascading trees, you wouldn’t know the extent of the damage Naples Botanical Garden saw from Hurricane Ian.

Flowers at Naples Botanical Garden. CREDIT: WINK News

WINK News spoke with Liz Chehayl, who works as the Brian Holley curator of collections.

“We opened up five weeks after the storm. And I think people were really surprised how great it looked by then,” Chehayl said.

But, it took everybody and a big effort by everyone involved to get it to look like it does.

“The first step you always take is doing some kind of triage. So you go through the garden and look at what can be saved and what can’t be saved,” Chehayl said.

Thanks to thoughtful garden planning it wasn’t so bad. In fact, there was less that needed to be saved than they expected.

Foliage at Naples Botanical Garden. CREDIT: WINK News

Chad Washburn works as the vice president of conservation at the Naples Botanical Garden.

“So as we designed and built the garden, we kept the outer natural areas intact. We did that to conserve the ecosystems, but they act as an incredible buffer from the coast, whether that’s from storm winds or storm surge. They act as that buffer. And they protect our gardens,” Washburn said.

Washburn did the math and predicts the undeveloped areas saved the gardens from a massive onslaught of 200 to 260 gallons of water.

“We need things that are drought adapted, that are adapted to hurricanes and storms,” Washburn said.

We are looking to and encouraging the use of Caribbean plans because of the salt water that’s in our soil.

The garden’s research is helping influence better practices outside the walls of the garden.

“We’ve been in conversations with some of the local cities, municipalities about incorporating more Caribbean plants into the landscape, and they’re very receptive. We’re at a point now where the climate is changing very quickly. We’re facing more storms, more high intensity, and more frequent storms like we’ve just had. So that conversation is really happening very quickly,” Washburn said.

The Botanical Garden is a great place to relax and enjoy nature, but if you look around there is so much to learn and so many beautiful an environmentally sound ideas to take home to your community also.