Skip to main content

RSW Living Magazine

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens - Grounds to feature world sculptors, opens in October, Punta Gorda setting

May 22, 2017 12:43PM ● By Kevin

Steel Palm by Boston metalsmith Jacob Kulin rests at the highest point on the grounds that will cover 27 acres at completion. Photo by Ann Marie O'Phalen.

A giant crane in June 2014 was used to carefully place lava rocks on a plot of land in Punta Gorda without disturbing the natural marsh setting. The rocks were part of a 5,000-pound metal sculpture fashioned by Turkish artist Kemal Tufan, a first phase in a $30 million project. Tufan’s Keel is one of a dozen sculptures that will be placed in the Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens scheduled for opening in October.

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens is being assembled by Roger and Linda Tetrault, whose home rests on property fronting the Peace River in Punta Gorda. Roger Tetrault is the retired chief executive of large industrial firm. The couple’s idea was to build botanical gardens with sculptures and an art gallery on their property while retaining the natural environment. They formed a nonprofit, endowing funds towards the project.

Their waterfront garden will feature sculptures, flowering trees and plants and boardwalks to view the river and marsh. “We have a diverse sculpture collection with works by international artists from Turkey, China, and Indonesia, and national artists from California, Boston, New Orleans and Detroit,” says Roger Tetrault. 

A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Roger Tetrault has a background in space aeronautics―he was an investigator in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. He retired as board chairman for McDermott International, a Louisiana firm. Linda Tetrault has advanced degrees in industrial psychology. Business pursuits and personal adventures took them around the world, where they developed a passion for botanicals and art, particularly sculptures. Their Punta Gorda estate was intended as a retirement home, the couple says, deciding to add what would become the Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens. The final phase will cover 27 acres.

Artwork and sculptures in their exhibit are extensive and will include work by Dan Sater, Ichwan Noor, Jacob Kulin, Lin Emery, Yu Zhaoyang, Carole Feuerman and Tufan. A sprawling sculpture of steel rods entitled Tree Trellises is fashioned by a team of Michigan metalsmiths. Kulin’s Glass Fronds is of glass, aluminum and steel and lies near the Tetrault’s home. The project’s logo is inspired by a palm frond fossil. The Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens will be one of the largest such projects in Florida.

In addition to the sculptures, naturally, there is also an abundance of beautiful botanicals, such bromeliads, hibiscus, orchids, and 16 cathedral oaks that are planted in rows outside of the Gardens Community Center, where private events will be held. The center will also feature a café and cascading ponds.

Joining in the project are community members offering botanical donations from their own collections. A 20-year old staghorn fern specimen, weighing roughly 200 pounds, and is one of the six different staghorn species in the garden, for instance, was donated by Joni Thompson of nearby Port Charlotte.

Strolling through the garden will be an exceptionally enjoyable experience, thanks to boardwalks that will allow guests to enjoy a view of the river and the marsh. Although the gardens are well in the works, and opening day is set, the actual completion date is somewhat indefinite. “We have actually only worked on 11 of the 27 acres, and the gardens will continue to grow year after year,” explains Roger Tetrault.

Eventually, the Tetrault’s private residence and the guesthouse will serve as a fine-arts museum. “We hope guests will come back again and watch us grow,” adds Roger Tetrault.

Written by Ann Marie O’Phelan, a frequent contributor to TOTI Media. 

About the Project

Within the Peace River’s watershed, which ultimately drains into Charlotte Harbor’s National Estuary, this waterfront oasis will encompass a diversity of both wetland and upland native habitats and an island amphitheater. All three of Florida’s mangrove trees are found within these tidal wetland communities, providing shelter and sustenance to many aquatic and terrestrial species. Flowering trees and plants will bloom throughout the year and more than 1,500 linear feet of boardwalks will provide optimum viewing of the river and the marsh.

Source: Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens

If You Go

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens, 5800 Riverside Drive, Punta Gorda.