(video tour by Lynda Martin)
On the Tamiami Trail, between the Sarasota bayfront and the super-commercial part of the Trail, you might well have noticed the coolest fencing in the city. This photo snippet doesn’t do it justice, so you’ll just have to take my word …. At first you think “did the wind blow the posts over? They’re sideways — and they’re curved!”
And then of course you realize that you’re looking at a terrific piece of art. Hidden behind that artistic enclosure is Marie Selby Gardens Botanical Gardens – a unique and wonderful place to spend several hours, or the entire day!
I’m always impressed by the folks who came to Sarasota before the days of air conditioning and didn’t immediately flee to a cooler place. But Marie Selby and her husband Bill who hailed from Ohio were adventuresome types. In the early 1900’s they drove cross-country in their auto, which must have been an interesting trip, given there were so few cars and not many paved roads. And, they visited Sarasota and loved it enough to buy seven acres on the bayfront, build a house and live here (okay, maybe not in the middle of the summer) and plant lovely gardens. Mrs. Selby, who lived until 1971, was not an aficionado of the condo development she saw springing up and surrounded herself with enough trees and plantings that she didn’t have to look at the development she found offensive.
Today, when you visit Selby Gardens, you’ll understand what Marie Selby must have felt as you leisurely walk around and look at the fabulous orchids, the magnificent banyan trees, the butterfly garden, the Selby house (no, not a mansion, just a pretty, big house that now contains a museum), and a nice cafe. Oh, and did I mention the gift shop — the perfect place for buying orchids and gifts.
Selby Gardens specializes in epipthytes – plants that live on other plants. A common example is Spanish moss, those curly tendrils that hang off the branches of many live oak and other trees. (Unless you’re fond of many little bugs, I’d suggest that you not pull any off of the tree.) The Selby Gardens website is a wealth of information, of course, and its explanation of epipthytes makes it clear that plants cannot always be categorized neatly.
From its original seven acres, Selby Gardens has grown to over 14 acres, and has become one of the favorite “venues” in Sarasota to have weddings and other ceremonies. The view of Sarasota Bay is outstanding, and the trustees who oversee the Gardens have wisely put lots of benches around for visitors to sit and enjoy the view of the plantings or the bay itself.
Besides being a place for looking at beautiful plants, like Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, another Sarasota gem, Selby Gardens has the distinction of being dedicated to the education of the public and especially children. It hosts numerous programs on gardening and teaching children about our environment. Because of the beauty of the grounds, it’s a lovely setting for yoga and art classes. Check out the Selby Gardens website thoroughly before you go – especially to learn the special events!As always, we’re here with lots of rentals in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.
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Judy Gee, Owner