Mounts Botanical History

The Garden’s Namesake

Marvin “Red” Mounts

For 40 years, the entire farming community of Palm Beach County received invaluable assistance from Marvin Umphrey “Red” Mounts. He was born in Oklahoma in 1898 at the family’s sod farm house. After he graduated from agricultural college at the University of Florida in 1925, Mounts was hired as Palm Beach County’s first assistant agricultural extension agent. His territory covered 1,261,000 acres.

Mounts encouraged farm families to expand their usual crops of green beans and tomatoes to a variety of tropical fruits and up to 18 vegetables to improve their health as well as their finances. He introduced a grass for cattle grazing that held up on wet soil, investigated the best fertilizers and pesticides, and taught farmers about marketing. He showed cattlemen how to breed Cracker cows with beefier types from up north and how to fatten them faster with new strains of grasses. He collected soil samples and helped identify which nutrients were needed.

When not in the field, Mounts would compile farming statistics, lecture to garden clubs, and preach the gospel of agriculture at school career days. Mounts also formed the first chartered 4-H Club in Florida and helped to establish the Audubon Society of the Everglades.

In his early days on the job, it  took Red Mounts two days to travel from his office in the county courthouse to the Glades (Everglades Agricultural Area) using barges and the Conners Toll Road, now Southern Boulevard. When the Palm Beach County Agricultural Extension Agency moved to Military Trail in 1954, the new building was named for Mounts, as was the adjacent Mounts Botanical Garden. Marvin “Red” Mounts died in 1969.

History Timeline

1925-1965: The Garden was named in honor of Marvin U. “Red” Mounts, who served Palm Beach County Extension and Palm Beach County farmers for over 40 years. He established and cared for the Garden’s collection of fruit trees to help produce new food resources that could help families overcome vitamin deficiencies. By 1964 there were 69 fruit producing trees growing on site.

1954: The Mounts Building at 531 N. Military Trail was built and plantings were begun soon after.

1975: Clayton E. Hutcheson became the Director of the Palm Beach County Extension Service. He established a demonstration garden in an old horse pasture to show which plants could thrive best in the South Florida climate.

1978: Hutcheson, supported by horticultural groups (Rare Fruit Council International, two Orchid societies, Herb Society of Palm Beach County, Fern Society, Begonia Society, Rose Society and Hibiscus Society), developed the property, including Lake Orth.

1979: The Extension office building was dedicated as The Mounts Horticultural Learning Center.

1983: The Friends of the Mounts Learning Center was established to support the Garden. This effort grew out of a garden advisory committee formed in 1975 by Clayton Hutcheson. It was a non-profit organization whose goal was to provide voluntary personnel and funding support from private sources to facilitate acquiring and exhibiting horticultural materials and to provide educational opportunities to Palm Beach County.

1985: An expansion effort added 10 acres to the Garden.

1986: The name of the center was officially changed to Mounts Botanical Garden and the first Garden Curator, Douglas Galbraith was hired. In the same year the name of the Friends was changed to Friends of the Mounts Botanical Garden, and it became a 501(c)3 non-profit with the purpose of support, expansion and development of the Garden.

1988: A new $1.4 million, 18,000 sq ft office complex was built to house the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service. The building was dedicated as the Clayton E. Hutcheson Agricultural Complex.

1991-1996: Two master plans for the Garden were initiated, one by a University of Florida landscape class and another by Sasaki and Associates of Watertown, Massachusetts. These two plans were evaluated, combined and reworked as a project of the University of Florida’s Department of Landscape Design in affiliation with Larry Teague Landscape Architecture to develop a Master Plan that could be implemented in the near future.

1997: David Rogers’ Big Bugs became the Garden’s first blockbuster exhibit.

1999: Mounts Botanical hired Don Stramanak as Educational Programmer and the Garden Safari series was born, significantly expanding youth programs.

2004: The Master Plan was completed and accepted.

2004–2005: Hurricanes Frances, Jean and Wilma wreaked havoc on Palm Beach County and destroyed major parts of the Garden including 70% of the tree canopy.

2006–2009: Major efforts took place to clear, replant flowers and trees, and reestablish beds that were ruined by the hurricanes.

2011: The Chickee Hut Teaching Shelter was built through a generous donation from the Rare Fruit Council.

2014: The name of the Garden was changed to Mounts Botanical Garden of Palm Beach County.

2017: The Windows on the Floating World: Blume Tropical Wetland Garden opened to the public.

2018: A County Proclamation declared May 6-12 as Mounts Botanical Garden week.