Visiting Lakeland's Hollis Gardens Park

I took a trip to Lakeland this week to visit the famed Hollis Gardens Park.

I was quite disappointed. hollis park 1

Not by the park itself; on the contrary, Hollis Gardens is a botanical paradise, with all sorts of exotic plants laid out in a Zen-like pattern. Overlooking Lake Mirror, you are almost guaranteed to get a picturesque photo no matter where you stand (and many parents with little kids in tow did just that).

eggplantWhat disappointed me were the herb, vegetable and fruit sections of the park. In news articles and second-hand accounts, I’d heard the fruit, vegetables and herbs were free for the taking, much to the joy of the local homeless population. In fact, some of the homeless population from St. Pete had moved to Lakeland because of the city’s liberal attitude. I thought I’d found a great story: Town welcomes bums with free fruits and vegetables! Hell, I even wanted a piece; I hadn’t eaten breakfast that day and was looking forward to a nice grapefruit and avocado. peppers

Alas, no such luck.

I should have known when I talked to the homeless men and women camped on the benches outside the park and they didn’t know what I was talking about. I circled the one-acre botanical garden three times before I found the “vegetable” section. It was almost bare except for a few immature peppers, corn stalks (without corn), cotton bushes and one almost hidden eggplant. And there weren’t any fruits! The herb section was better — I got to nibble on some basil — but that didn’t satisfy my hunger.

If anyone has ideas on other city parks that supposedly offer fruit and veggies for the taking, please pass them on. I haven’t eaten breakfast this morning either