Winner of 2020 Florida American Society of Landscape Architects Design Award!
Peter Strelkow RLA, ASLA | Landscape Architect | Contributing Writer
The botanical gardens at Belen Preparatory include several magnificent flowering trees. Like all
trees, they provide cooling shade and wildlife habitat. As a bonus, their intense and dramatic
flowers bring bold splashes of color to the quad at different times of the year.
A few of the trees lurking in the quad will grow to enormous size. Near the drop-off in the
xeriscape garden lives the giant White Kapok tree. Rarely seen in South Florida, but common
in much of South America, this deciduous tree (loses its leaves in winter) forms a massive
bulbous trunk. White flowers cover the canopy in the fall.
Another massive tree is the Red Silk Cotton near the cafeteria. In the genus Bombax, it is also
deciduous and hails from wet tropical regions in Asia. Famous as a street tree for centuries in
China, Myanmar, India, and Pakistan, this tree explodes with huge red flowers in late winter and
At the drop-off area are a row of blue flowering Lignum Vitae trees. Slightly larger than our
native Lignum Vitae, it is the national tree of the Bahamas. These small and extremely tough
island trees were originally used for shipbuilding and medicinal uses. This little tree will surprise
you with a strong burst of attractive lilac flowers. Once the flowering is done, the tree forms
bright orange-yellow fruit capsules which open to brilliant vermillion red seeds.
Another Bahama native that is thriving in the garden is the White Dwarf Tabebuia. Seen near
the tennis courts in a large group, this elegant tree is at times covered in pale pink flowers.
The most prolific of all the flowering trees is the Pink Powderpuff tree, next to the Banyan. This
fast-growing beauty seems to flower constantly. It also attracts multitudes of yellow sulfur
butterflies and honeybees. If you are lucky, you will see small jewel-like that hummingbirds that
migrate through Florida in the Spring. How cool is that!
Bulnesia, a flowering evergreen tree also known as Verawood, is located across from the
Banyan. Native to Columbia and Venezuela, this large tree makes a stunning display of bright
canary yellow flowers several times during the year. Fast growing and durable, this beautiful
tree is becoming more common throughout South Florida.
Across from the pool is a small row of Crepe Myrtle trees that flower lavender for many months
each summer. These deciduous trees are tougher than nails and grow in almost any condition.
The ‘grande dame’ of the quad is the Queen Crepe Myrtle tree. Its gorgeous lavender flowers
dominate the rear area every summer. Native to India, it is also very attractive in winter as its
leaves show ‘fall color’ in shades of red.
As you explore the campus, keep an eye out for what is flowering throughout the year. Seasonal changes bring a kaleidoscope of color in flowering tropical trees, butterflies, and birds. This is one of the benefits of living in South Florida: enjoy it!!!
Peter Strelkow is a Registered Landscape Architect (FL#884) with his degree from the University of Florida. As Principal of HS2G INC, he has over 35 years’ experience in Landscape Architecture with projects in Florida, the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Ecuador. He has received numerous awards and several published projects. For an expanded version of this article or more information please refer to www.hs2g.net
For more information about building a garden for your estate in South Florida, please contact Peter Strelkow, principal at HS2G.
To read more you may also visit The Belen Jesuit school article