Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is not the Garden of Eden, but it must be close!
If a leisurely walk through these gardens doesn’t put you in Heaven, it should, at least, put you on “Cloud Nine,” especially if you are a botanist, home gardener in your own rite, or at least if you have a green thumb, as I don’t!
But I surely appreciate the magnificent displays of natural beauty, manicured gardens and landscaped walking paths.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is one spectacular place and a beautiful, living part of Sarasota History. Nestled in and close to downtown Sarasota, looking out at the sparkling Sarasota Bay, it’s a very picturesque place in which to spend a day or afternoon exploring and appreciating the beauty of nature.
Driving by, you might miss it if you didn’t know it was there. Selby Gardens has a very unassuming entrance.
Peaceful, beautiful, serene, majestic, colorful, magical, alive and wonderful: all words I would use to describe the beauty on display at Selby Gardens.
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens features an impressive collection of tropical plants including more than 6,000 orchids on display in the Tropical Display House as well as 3,500 bromeliads in more brilliant colors than the rainbow.
Additionally there are some magical stops along your tour of the Selby Gardens; there is a Koi pond where you can watch some rather large, bright orange colored Koi as they swim near the surface and through the Lillie pads; the Bamboo Grove features giant timber bamboo from China.
Did you know: Bamboo trees, as Palm trees, are part of the grass family?
If there’s the slightest breeze in the air you’ll be able to hear the bamboo trees bouncing off each other, sounding vaguely familiar, like wind chimes.
Also on the grounds of the Selby Botanical Gardens is a Banyan Tree Grove. These trees were started by William and Marie Selby back in the 1930s. They’re now tall, wide and majestic, providing a shady rest stop on a hot day.
When you come to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens plan to spend enough time so that you can see everything. This should not be a rushed experience.
The entire Selby Gardens compound has grown over the years to now encompass 15 acres, with about 9.5 acres of outdoor gardens and more than 20,000 greenhouse plants.
So there is a lot to see and a lot of walking, but also a lot of “stopping” along the way.
You’ll want to stop and take in the beauty of the Butterfly Garden as well as the Mangroves and Bay walk.
There’s also a Canopy Walk at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens named “Walker’s Walk.” It is ADA accessible and offers you the opportunity to see the Gardens from the tree tops.
You might want to stop and sit in the garden’s Gazebo or at the Schimmel Wedding Lawn and Pavilion. From either of these two locations you’ll have a wonderful vantage point from which to survey the landscape, the gardens, the trees and the natural beauty that is all around you.
Other specialty gardens include: the Succulent Garden, the Wildflower Garden, the Hibiscus Garden, the Fragrance Garden and a Palm Grove that’s filled with a half dozen varieties of Palm Trees including two that are native to Florida: the Cabbage Palm and the Saw Palmetto Palm.
There’s also a special attraction for kids in an indoor exhibit called “Wild Things,” in which you and your children can discover the unique wonders of a rain forest and also see a collection of unique poison dart frogs.
Having taken over 150 scientific expeditions, over the years, to rain forests around the world, Selby Gardens has collected over 20,000 living plants for this exhibit.
More Recent History: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens was first opened to the public in July, 1975. The late Marie Selby, who died in June of 1971, left in her will instructions that her property be left to the community as a botanical garden “for the enjoyment of the general public.”
What a fantastically big-hearted person this lady must have been to have left a property of such great size and beauty to her community.
The Historic Selby House, a Spanish style 2 story structure, is still on the grounds of the gardens. It was built by William and Marie Selby in the early 1920s.
Out front of the house now is a lovely outdoor café area catered by a local caterer.
The Mansion seen on the grounds of Selby Gardens was purchased in 1973 as an addition to Selby Gardens as the foundation needed more “growing room.”
The Mansion is open and on display and often times there are world class art exhibitions featured inside that focus on “Botany and the Arts.”
With so much for the nature lover and botanist to see and enjoy; from the Butterfly Garden to the spectacular Banyan Grove and even World Class Art Exhibitions, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, a gift from Marie Selby to Sarasota and its generations, is truly a magnificent place to spend a day.
I’m not a gardener and have no talent for raising any kind of plants or flowers, but I sure have been able to appreciate this world of wonder known as Selby Gardens.
I hope you’ll have the opportunity to do the same.
A “Crown Jewel” of Sarasota attractions, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is open everyday except Christmas Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults $17 / Kids 6-11 $6 / under 6 are free (hours and prices subject to change).
If you would like to learn more about educational classes, lectures,
special events and even how to care for plants, click on this link to go
(Clicking this link will open another browser window, so make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off.)
Directions: From anywhere in the Sarasota area take U.S. Rt. 41 toward downtown Sarasota. Selby Gardens is just south of the downtown area, just off Sarasota Bay, at the intersection of Rt. 41 (also known here as Mound Street) and Palm Avenue. There are several free parking lots across the street from the entrance to the gardens, which is tucked-in toward the end of Palm Avenue.