2018-02-01 / Spotlight News

‘Enchantment’ restored, Wonder Gardens holds a gala

By Ann Marina


Natalie Weiss, 6, learned about alligators at the Wonder Gardens. Natalie Weiss, 6, learned about alligators at the Wonder Gardens. The Everglades Wonder Gardens will host its third annual “Enchanted: An Evening of Wonder” on Thursday, February 15. The fundraising gala kicks off with wine, hors d’oeuvres and a stroll through the newly restored exhibits, followed by an elegant dinner and entertainment.

Bonita Wonder Gardens, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization whose board members are local volunteers, is working to preserve the cultural icon on Old 41 Road.

Since 1936, the attraction has welcomed visitors of all ages to 3½ acres of native trees and plants and wildlife species, including rescued birds, alligators and other reptiles.

In September, Hurricane Irma’s winds greatly damaged the Wonder Gardens.

“We lost 55 trees that were 10 feet tall and above, and 31 palms,” said Executive Director Thomas Hecker. “We were able to save one of the banyans that was knocked down. It’s now divided into three smaller trees, which are thriving pretty well.”

Executive Director Thomas Hecker said visitors enjoy feeding the flamingos in their fence-free pond. Executive Director Thomas Hecker said visitors enjoy feeding the flamingos in their fence-free pond. There was an outpouring of community support for reconstruction, with generous donations of work time from O’Donnell Landscapes, American Farms, and The Tree Service. “By November we were back in shape for receiving visitors,” Hecker said.

With the shade canopy significantly reduced, there is more sunlight reaching the gardens. “People seem to love it more the way it is now,” Hecker said. “The sunlight is great for flowers and gives a warm welcome for snowbirds.”

Hurricane Irma destroyed the fencing around the pink flamingo lagoon, but in lieu of a new fence, a border was created with pink canna lily plants donated by American Farms. “We now have a blooming fence around the lagoon,” Hecker said.

Chris Lord, a Wonder Gardens docent and tour guide, said the pink flamingos are a favorite attraction for many visitors. “At last year’s ‘Enchanted’ event, several of the birds were swaying back and forth to the music,” she said. “It was so cute, like they wanted to give us extra entertainment.”

Even with no fencing around them, the flamingos haven’t flown away. “They hatched here 40 years ago,” Lord said. “I guess they don’t even think of leaving.”

More birds will soon be placed in the pink flamingo lagoon. “We’re getting some roseate spoonbills and pink ibis,” Hecker said. “With the pink canna lily border, the lagoon theme is entirely pink.”

Plans are in place to assemble three new pavilions at the Wonder Gardens, where people can learn about exotic birds and butterflies. A fourth pavilion, the Tea House, can seat about 50 people and will be available to rent for weddings and other events.

For more information about the Wonder Gardens or to purchase tickets for “Enchanted,” visit www.evergladeswondergardens.com or call 239-992-2591.

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