Gene Joyner is an example of a man who bloomed where he was planted.
The nationally-known horticulturist lovingly cultivated the land where he grew up and also single-handedly created Florida’s only rainforest.
The lush tropical landscape Joyner created, called Unbelievable Acres Botanical Gardens, started out in 1970 as two and a half acres of empty cow pasture holding only two pine trees. Joyner’s family owned the land, and he was raised in a home close to the field.
When asked why he started a rainforest in South Florida, Joyner answered, “I just love the rainforest. I looked forward to my visits every year.”
In fact, Joyner has traveled throughout Central America, South America, Jamaica and the Caribbean. He says that Costa Rica and Peru were his biggest inspirations. Although he has volunteers in the garden, Joyner does the bulk of the work himself, working 50 hours a week. It is truly a labor of love.
Joyner acted as the University of Florida Extension’s urban horticulturist for 35 years in Palm Beach County, and he is a featured speaker on the Christian station, WRMB (89.3 FM).
“I see the beauty of God’s creation in my garden,” he says. “I try to teach others to see His beauty in their gardens.”
The third Wednesday of the month from 8–8:30 a.m., Joyner shares his insights on the Master Gardener on his radio spot.
He also writes a column, “Gardening Tips for South Florida,” in the Condo News every other week.
When you step into the tranquil sanctuary at Unbelievable Acres, you will wonder if you’ve been transported to a rainforest in Costa Rica. God’s beauty and generosity abound here. Overhead is a canopy of trees 100 feet in the air, which keeps the garden cool and shady. There are colorful flowers and fruit. For instance, there are bananas with red, blue and purple skins. Butterflies gently flutter above.
This peaceful oasis can be found off of Jog Road near Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach.
Unbelievable Acres Botanic Gardens is open by appointment only for private tours. Private tours for 10 people or more are available anytime. Tours should be scheduled at least three days prior to the requested date. Guided tours for the general public are given on the second Saturday of the month between 1–5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6–11 years old and children under 6 are free. Tours are tailored to the needs of the participants – whether they are families with children, adults, students or experienced gardeners. The tour takes about an hour and a half.
After the tour, you are free to wander the winding paths.
Among the colorful flowers in the garden are bright yellow candle cassias (which attract sulphur butterflies), red firespikes (which attract hummingbirds), heliconias in gold, hot pink and red, frangipangi, which come in 18 colors and pink, yellow and orange blossoms on the Poinciana trees.
Blue jays and cardinals can be seen year-round. In the winter there are hummingbirds, painted buntings and owls.
There are lemon trees, coffee trees and cashew nut trees. There are spice trees: Cinnamon, bay rum and lemon spice. The perfume tree with its yellow flowers gives off a scent like Chanel No. 5, and you can smell the fragrance from 100 feet away. The traveling tree has a long bark which winds around the path.
Fruit trees thrive in this quiet oasis. The sausage tree bears sausage-shaped fruit which can grow up to two feet long, and its flowers are pollinated by bats. The jackfruit tree bears the world’s largest fruit, which can weigh more than 70 pounds. There are avocado trees, carambola (star-fruit) trees, banana trees and black sapote trees with chocolate pudding fruit.
To catch a glimpse of natural wonders like these, visit Unbelievable Acres for a quiet encounter with God’s creation.
Unbelievable Acres Botanical Gardens is located at 470 63rd Trail North in West Palm Beach. For more information, call 561-242-1686.