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Project Spotlight: Windows on the Floating World – Mounts Botanical Gardens

In the enchanting realm where art meets nature, a tropical wetland garden known as ‘Windows on the Floating World: Blume Tropical Wetland Garden’ has emerged as a testament to collaboration and sustainability.

A joint effort between Installation Artists, Landscape Architects, and the Mounts Botanical Garden, ‘Windows on the Floating World: Blume Tropical Wetland Garden’ stands as a fulfillment of a master plan and a vibrant expression of environmental stewardship.

mounts garden
The water’s edge seating area extends into the pond giving people a secluded place to relax and reflect.

Mission-Driven Design: A Tropical Paradise Unveiled

At the heart of this project lies a mission — “To cultivate a tropical paradise that enriches, entertains, educates, and inspires, all while fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between nature and people.” This mission serves as a guiding light, shaping the objectives and outcomes of the tropical wetland oasis.

Collaboration in Action

WGI collaborated with Harries Heder for Palm Beach County Art in Public Places to develop a tropical wetland garden that fulfilled a portion of the Botanical Gardens’ Master Plan. The work included incorporating the artist’s interactive installation pieces into an intimate garden setting to provide educational messages that support the mission statement of encouraging the art, science, and joy of gardening to foster a respect and understanding of South Florida’s subtropical environment.

The wetland garden has inspired people to practice yoga on the water.

Transformation of a Retention Pond: From Dull to Dynamic

The canvas for this masterpiece was a .25-acre portion of an existing retention pond, a space lacking sound, movement, and access. Through meticulous planning and thoughtful design, the team undertook the task of transforming this mundane pond into a series of immersive experiences. Excavation and widening paved the way for installation pieces: a cascading waterfall and the creation of a proper littoral zone, addressing the pond’s initial limitations and allowing visitors the opportunity to “descend” to the water’s surface.

A Journey of Discovery

To evoke a sense of discovery, the design strategically offers glimpses of the wetland from an upper walkway, where the sound of the waterfall tantalizes before revealing itself. Preserving existing vegetation enhances the mystery, buffering views until key vantage points are reached. Multiple access points provide varied perspectives, with stairways offering different entry experiences.

Educational Elements: Blurring the Lines Between Art & Knowledge


Interpretive elements, called viewers, dot the landscape, providing information about the wetland’s qualities. These educational installations equipped with pertinent information etched into the glass are strategically placed for casual discovery, highlighting the importance of cypress knees, the littoral zone, and the role of plants in water purification. The wetland’s main feature is a geometric walkway that allows visitors to seemingly ‘walk on water,’ with display windows showcasing the array of interchangeable Florida-friendly aquatic plants and serving as a dynamic component of the garden’s educational outreach program.

Sections of the pathway lead visitors directly to the waterfall, allowing them to approach and interact with the water or the rocks adorned with bromeliads. Specifically designed, the walkways can periodically submerge and be engulfed by water during the rainy season and extreme rainfall events. Constructed from Thruflow, a slotted material facilitating water drainage, the walkway offers a truly unique experience. The intentional flooding serves an educational purpose, raising awareness about the impacts of fluctuating water levels on wetland ecosystems. Ultimately, a control structure manages the water level in the retention pond, causing the water to recede to the intended design depth—6 inches below the walkway’s surface.

An extreme rainfall demonstrates the wetland’s fluctuating water level and creates a new learning experience. Within 24-48 hours, a control structure regulates the water level back to six inches below the surface of the walkway.

Sustainability Woven into Design

Beyond its aesthetic allure, the tropical wetland garden champions sustainability. Pervious concrete pathways encourage groundwater recharge, and recycled cap rock forms the foundation of the waterfall. The hardscape materials serve not only as functional elements but also as educational tools, showcasing sustainable options for visitors to implement at home.

A view from the stairway, which was incorporated into the middle of the waterfall, provides visitors with a sensory experience that encourages exploration of the enhanced existing island.

Awards & Accolades: Recognizing Excellence

This visionary project has not gone unnoticed, receiving accolades such as the 2017 Florida Urban Forestry Council Outstanding Project Award and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Florida 2018 ‘Award of Honor’ which is only bestowed upon projects demonstrating the inspired use of landscape architectural practices in an imaginative and well-resolved combination that adds to the body of the Landscape Architecture profession.

“Windows on the Floating World educates visitors and inspires them to learn more about the role and importance of wetlands and what can be done to protect them,” says WGI’s Kirsten Siegel PLA, ASLA and senior project manager. “As the artists of Harries Heder say, ‘this tropical wetland garden is about water, immersion, and experience. WGI helped design, develop, and transform a conceptual experience into a vibrant reality, and this award is a great testament to all of the talented people who were involved.”

A view of the display windows from the top of the waterfall provides visitors with a new vantage point of the wetland.

Looking Ahead: Tomorrow’s Future Designed Today

As this tropical wetland garden continues to flourish, it stands as a living testament to the harmonious integration of art, landscape, and sustainability. Visitors are not merely observers but active participants in an immersive experience that educates inspires and fosters a deeper connection with nature. In a world where progress and sustainability often find themselves at odds, this project showcases that they can indeed go hand-in-hand.

A Dominican coral stone landing invites visitors to leave the meandering path and experience the artists’ interpretive weir and rain gauge. The rain gauge has four adjustable markers that identify regional rainfall data.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast, nature lover, or someone passionate about sustainability, Windows on the Floating World beckons; plan your visit to witness the marriage of creativity and environmental consciousness. As we celebrate this collaborative triumph, let it serve as a reminder that the beauty of our world lies not just in its existence but in our commitment to understanding, preserving, and coexisting with it.

Inspiration Through Design

Contact our experts to discuss how we can help you thoughtfully craft landscapes that spark inspiration, foster a sense of place, & elevate the communities in which we live, work, and play!

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