More than a decade in the making and a gift of Roger and Linda Tetraul and the Roger and Linda Tetrault Family Foundation, the Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens has made its public debut.
On a rainy day in June 2014, I first visited the gardens to watch the sculpture called “Keel” installed by Turkish artist Mr. Kemal Tufan. The piece, which replicates a boat keel, has more than 20 individual pieces and the heaviest piece weighs 5,800 lbs. Because the individual pieces were so heavy, a crane was used to move each piece individually.
Although more than 3 years ago, I vividly remember that day. Members of the local media were invited to attend because this will be a significant cultural attraction for the area. It rained (and the pesky bugs were out in full force) and only one reporter showed up, who I don’t think wrote about the day. I tried to rally more media – that’s my job – and the response was pretty much, “Call us when you’re open.”
Today, Phase I of the gardens, a beautiful, youthful 11 acres, is open. When fully developed, it will be 27 acres of lush landscape dotted with large-scale interpretive, whimsical and sometimes quirky, sculptures crafted by artists from around the world. The first and signature piece installed in the gardens is “Steel Palm,” by Boston artist Mr. Jacob Kulin. It was inspired by a 50 million-year-old palm frond fossil in the Tetrault’s private collection. It stands 18-feet tall and contains of more than a dozen individual pieces.
Two sculptures called “Ostriches,” which are graphic designs on aluminum, stand 20′ tall at the entrance of the gardens and bow to greet visitors. They were created by Chinese artist Mr. Yu Zhaoyang.
When I say “fully developed,” not every acre will be developed. Some will be left natural and now, visitors can walk along a boardwalk through a stand of mangroves which has three species of Florida’s mangroves, red, black and white. I enjoy this walk because a bit of it is naturally canopied by the mangroves. Another boardwalk leads by “Keel” and out over the Peace River to a gazebo.
The Garden Community Center houses a café, gift shop and gorgeous photography exhibit called Botanicals by Michigan artist Laurie Tennant, on display through March 2018. She captured her botanical images by visiting the gardens and setting up her own darkroom to process the prints. Linda Tetrault was over the moon when telling me about Laurie’s talents and Laurie told me from the time she met Roger to Oct. 20, 2017, the garden’s opening, it was a two-year process. Fifty percent from the sale of her images will go back to the gardens.
Tour the Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens on your own or join one of the volunteers, which I recommend because they will probably point out something you would have missed. The gardens are a nice addition to Southwest Florida and eventually, I would like to see a Florida garden trail and at the very least, a Southwest Florida gardens tour to include Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, the Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens, Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs, Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, and Naples Botanical Gardens in Naples.
Learn more about the Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens by visiting their website.
Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens
5800 Riverside Drive
Punta Gorda, FL 33982
Tel: (941) 621-8299
View more images of the Gardens on Flickr account.
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