Florida Botanical Garden Expands and Educates with Children’s Discovery Garden

Largo, FL

April 02, 2024

Nature path through bamboo with orange hexagon bench in foreground.

Visitors to the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo can enjoy a new educational and environmentally sensitive garden that encourages sustainability and stewardship for generations. The Majeed Discovery Garden opened in January 2024 as the new children’s garden expansion of the Florida Botanical Gardens. As subconsultant to landscape architect Coyle & Caron, Inc., VHB provided environmental, civil, and design insight to protect natural resources in support of the Garden’s mission to educate children and guests about nature through a series of interactive experiences including the Bamboo Bridge, Pollinator Landing, Sensory Garden and Music Forest.

Located next to a wetland, the Garden project had stormwater, floodplain, and wetlands challenges. VHB created a unique stormwater design and pond around the Garden’s boardwalk and decks while providing educational opportunities to visitors and staying within cost constraints. VHB collaborated with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and state and local permitting agencies to successfully pair the wetland delineation and stormwater mitigation of the project. This included installation of a specialized filter to meet Pinellas County standards. VHB minimized impacts to wetland species during construction via floodplain compensation, and assisted Coyle & Caron with seed selection for planted buffers for erosion control. VHB’s contributions helped achieve a project goal of combining learning elements with the natural environment for guest educational opportunities.

Before construction started on the Children’s Garden, VHB Cares volunteers from the Gulf Coast office and their families helped relocate rare and educational plants. This included clearing a path through a densely populated invasive bamboo patch. Volunteers said that getting their hands dirty helped even more VHB employees become contributors to the project and gain a sense of belonging with the Tampa Bay community.

“It has been a privilege both professionally and personally to be involved in the design of the Children's Discovery Garden at the Florida Botanical Gardens,” said Marisa Blackwood, PE, Civil Engineer. “I grew up visiting the Gardens and attending their annual Christmas light display with my family, so it holds a special place in my heart. I'm proud to have played a small part in shaping a garden where the next generation can explore, learn, and create their own fond memories.”

Learn more about VHB environmental services.

Educational overlook surrounded by wetlands and aquatic plants. A sign by a garden building