By: Gillian Birch
If you are visiting Naples Historical Society’s Historic Palm Cottage, the oldest surviving house in Naples, Florida take a peek through the gate into the neighboring garden and appreciate the established plantings of this historic garden.
Known as Norris Gardens, this well-tended oasis is part of the complex owned and managed by Naples Historical Society on 12thAve South. Run as a 501© non-profit, the Norris Gardens were established 10 years ago. They are now widely used for 4thand 5thgrade student visits, lectures, and events supporting the Naples Historic Society. You can also take a self-guided tour as part of any visit to Historic Palm Cottage. Paid museum staff and docents are available for private garden tours and a team of volunteers help maintain the gardens.
History of Norris Gardens
The land on which Norris Gardens sits was once the site of another historic Naples home–Crayton Cottage. The half-acre was purchased in 2004 by the Naples Historical Society with the help of a generous donation from the Norris Family Foundation, hence the garden’s name.
The land was redeveloped to a traditional Victorian Garden design with a central oval lawn, lily pond, and pergolas for shade. It opened to the public in 2006. Surrounded by a hedge of Cocoa Plum, the six themed gardens showcase a diversity of Florida plants.
Six Themed Gardens
The Pioneer Garden grows a range of drought-tolerant plants including bromeliads, crown of thorns, and golden bamboo, said to have been used by the native Indians for their funeral pyres. The old Sapodilla tree would have provided pioneers with fruit that has a distinctive root beer taste.
The Garden of the Senses has waxy frangipani and fragrant ylang ylang flowers. The Water Garden is a place for quiet contemplation beneath the shady palms which surround the lily pond. The pièce de résistance is the bronze sculpture of a blue heron and a kingfisher, created by William H. Turner. More palms can be found and identified in the Palm Garden along with Florida’s only native palm – the Sabal Palm. The Shade Garden focuses on a red-barked Gumbo Limbo Tree, a huge Ficus, and many flowering orchids.
Finally, the Edible Garden features raised beds filled with plants that Naples, Florida residents would have grown and enjoyed over 100 years ago. Heritage tomatoes, capsicum peppers, herbs and citrus trees would have been staples in any early Naples garden along with Star Fruit and Sugar Apple trees.
Visiting Norris Gardens in Naples
The Norris Gardens can be visited as part of any guided tour of Historic Palm Cottage. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. – with or without a reservation. A docent will lead the 40-minute tour of the cottage and this is followed by a self-guided tour of the Norris Gardens. Informative boards identify the different plants in the gardens.
The large thatched chickee pavilion in Norris Garden provides a space for lectures, concerts, and outdoor events. There are an annual series of informative “Chickee Chats” each season which can be pre-booked. Musical performances and member events also make use of this beautiful garden.
Private tours of Naples Historical Society’s Historic Palm Cottage and the Norris Gardens are also available through the website or by contacting Naples Historical Society (239-261-8164).
If you enjoyed learning about Norris Gardens, check out this post about Historic Palm Cottage!