Our 501c3 nonprofit organization has three gardens we steward.
Our main public property is the “Bodhi Garden” is a 40′ x 40′ herb garden in the heart of urban Downtown Orlando. The garden is surrounded by an eclectic and supportive community including an organic, vegetarian teahouse, a yoga studio, a healing center, a massage and chiropractor office, and the school’s two-story educational facility.
Our botanical sanctuary offers a peaceful respite for education, meditation, and communion with nature, smack in the middle of the concrete jungle. As an urban sanctuary, we often trade out the sweet sounds of the countryside for the rhythms of planes overhead and cars whizzing by along the nearby highway. Still, we delight in the wildlife that gathers in our urban garden – birds, butterflies, and small wildlife find a habitat in our small oasis. We grow approximately 50 species, which are used for educational purposes. These focus on medicinal herbs but also include species to feed and support pollinators.
Our school offers organic gardening, herbalism, and sustainable living curriculum using the garden as our classroom and model. We offer both extended courses and one-time workshops – on topics such as gardening practices, plant life cycles, and sustainable technology. In addition, everyone has an opportunity for hands-on education through internships and our volunteer program. Students at the school also use the garden for educational research on growth rates using different organic fertilizers, herbal treatments, and seed stock. Finally, anyone who visits our neighborhood has the opportunity to enrich their experience by wandering through the garden and learning more about individual plants through educational placards and our plant guide. In addition to our classes, we hold music and meditation circles in the garden every full and new moon.
As an educational garden, each harvest is carefully scheduled based on earth, lunar, and garden cycles. Garden classes and volunteers are coordinated to facilitate all harvesting. We focus our harvest on educational activities & on propagating new plants to distribute in our community. We are proud to have distributed over 1000 plants to members of our community through harvests from our garden in the form of seeds and propagated seedlings, to community members, local school gardens, and local community gardens. Volunteers and students in the garden also have an opportunity to take home freshly harvested herbs according to the harvest schedule.
Our garden’s centerpiece, the Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa) is a fifth generation descendant from the Bodhgaya grove in India, where the Buddha is said to have sat when he reached his enlightenment. This tree was rescued by staff of the Florida School of Holistic Living from University of Central Florida, where administration was removing its mother to pour a concrete courtyard.
This tree was planted on September 11th, 2007 – a New Moon – with 250 community members in a procession of prayer. Each participant added a shovel-full of soil along with their prayers for peace and harmony within our community. Around the Bodhi tree is a community altar, which stands as a testament of our community’s spirit, and individuals often leave tokens of gratitude, blessing, and prayer for loved ones or the planet.
In addition to the Bodhi tree, medicinal herbs that get extra attention in our garden include Henna, Beautyberry, Vitex, Rue, Elderberry, Lion’s Tail, Lemongrass, Passionflower, and a stately Neem Tree. Garden beds were constructed from lumber made from recycled milk jugs. An arbor was recently erected with a locally grown bamboo roof to highlight the entry as a sacred space. We also recently launched a Garden Map which outlines the species we grow, and directs visitors to visit our website to download a garden guide with more information about the medicinal and culinary uses, growth habits, and historical roots of each plant.
It has been a deep privilege to steward this small garden and to hear the feedback of those who have found a moment of peace among its borders. Our garden is open year-round and more information about viewing this public space is available at www.HolisticLivingSchool.org.
Our second set of permaculture gardens are tended at Wallaby Ranch, a 500 acre, privately-owned and operated hang gliding ranch operating in Central Florida since the 1990s. The hang gliding operations occupy sixty of the 500 acres. The remaining land is kept in conservation with a few hiking trails and secluded camping spots. It is primarily untouched by human hands. It is bordered on all three sides by tracts of conservation easement, cattle ranch, or hunting land; all of which are minimally disturbed by human hands. The sixty developed acres include lodging and kitchen/bath facilities so that educational groups can enjoy the land for research, education, and spiritual activities. Through the partnership with the Florida School of Holistic Living, educational programs include annual camping retreats, weed walks, plant hikes, weekend classes, and programs through the Community Herbalist educational program. Participants of hang gliding activities also benefit and learn from these gardens.
Existing medicinal species include:
- Saw Palmetto Sumac
- Wax Myrtle Pitcher Plant
- Sundew Cypress
- Elder Pine (four species)
- Stinging Nettle Blackroot
- Gnaphalium Smilax
- Florida Hypericum White Oak
- Plantain Magnolia
- Ponyfoot Usnea
- Centella/Gotu Kola plus an additional 20 species of cultivated herb species.
Our third garden is our director’s residence, located on ¼ acre in the urban city of Winter Park Florida, 2 miles north of our main campus in downtown Orlando. We have occupied this residence since 2007, and in 2009 began to develop medicinal gardens to complement the naturally occuring medicinal species already on the property. The small lot hosts nearly 200 species in a permaculture food and medicine forest, on what was previously a barren Saint Augustine grass lawn. It is ½ block from Mead Botanical Gardens, a 55 acre nature preserve. The land is used for field trips and classes for FSHL students and our interns maintain a medicinal plant nursery using the property. Through the partnership with the Florida School of Holistic Living, educational programs include visits from our Community Herbalist class, hosting our intern program, and cultivating plants and seeds to distribute to students and the community.
Existing medicinal species include:
- Saw Palmetto Elder
- Wax Myrtle Vitex
- Anamu Datura
- Gynostemma Surinam Cherry
- Family Doctor Plant Sansiveria
- Gnaphalium Dwarf Meadowsweet
- Ground Ivy White Oak
- Plantain Magnolia
- Ponyfoot Siberian Motherwort
- Centella/Gotu Kola Ginkgo
- Chaya Piper auritum
- Moringa Papaya
- Banana Betony
- Loquat Iboza
- Mulberry Jewls of Opar
- Spiderwort Bidens
- Amazote Ginger
- Turmeric Zeodary
- Sanseveria Sweet Herb
- Dream Herb Comfrey
- Violet Drymary
- Earthsmoke Tulsi
- Roselle and additional species of cultivated herbs.
At A Glance
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United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary Network