Amazing Diversity at Montoso Gardens
Maricao is Puerto Rico’s top coffee growing region, with lush vegetation, spectacular birdlife and breathtaking scenery. It is in this paradisiac setting that visitors will find Montoso Gardens, located alongside the Maricao State Forest, at an altitude of 1500 feet on the southern slope of Pico Montoso Mountain. Originally developed by horticulturist Bryan Brunner in 1987 as a botanical garden, Montoso Gardens soon grew to include a tropical fruit and flower farm, as well as a nursery featuring more the six hundred species of exotic tropical fruits, flowers, nuts, spices and palms in a 90 acre area which is registered by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources as an Auxiliary Forest of the Maricao State Forest. While working toward being 100 percent organic, Montoso Gardens implements principles of sustainable agriculture such as cover crops, mulching, inter-planting and the promotion of biodiversity.
The temperate climate of Puerto Rico, and particularly this region of the island, is perfect for growing a wide variety of plants, as visitors to Montoso Gardens will see firsthand. Montoso Gardens has a wide variety of fruits, nuts and spices from 44 botanical families, many of which visitors can enjoy when in season. As many visitors to the gardens are accustomed to buying spices processed and packaged, it is especially interesting to see the plants these spices originate from.
With a palm collection of over 90 species, Montoso Gardens specializes in those that thrive in the cool and humid environment of Puerto Rico’s Maricao region. In pride of place among the hundreds of plants grown in the botanical garden and nursery are specimens from the Zingiberales order of flowering plants. While many of these are grown as ornamentals, one of the most readily recognized being the ‘birds of paradise’ or Strelitzia, quite a number have culinary and medicinal uses, such as cardamom, ginger, turmeric and bananas. Montoso Gardens has specimens from all eight of the families of the order Zingiberales – Musaceae, Strelitziaceae, Heliconiaceae, Zingiberaceae, Costaceae, Cannaceae, Marantaceae and Lowiaceae – and sell fresh seeds, rhizomes, cut flowers and plants directly to the public and through their online store.
Visits to Montoso Gardens are by appointment with a $5 per person fee. Visitors are free to use the network of trails and tracks to explore the area between the Prieto River valley and the top of the Pico Montoso Mountain at leisure. Truly a slice of paradise on the Enchanted Island.