If you’re a fan of HGTV or love to flip through the latest issue of Southern Living to be inspired by the gardens and beautiful landscaping there, but you have a hard time envisioning those same plants in your own yard, sometimes visiting a local garden will give you the best inspiration. Here are our choices for the top inspirational gardens in central Florida.
Many visitors to the area choose to stay in the Sarasota area for its beautiful shoreline and boating opportunities, but venturing inland and traveling just south of downtown and you’ll find luscious spaces touching the Sarasota Bay at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The gardens offers a variety of inspiring spots including a butterfly garden, which attracts butterflies year round, a bromeliad garden, fern garden, and bamboo garden. The Bromeliad Garden is a great source for finding inspiration for your own backyard. Since bromeliads thrive in the moist Florida air, they are a great choice for backyard installations. The gardens here will give you great ideas on how to layer different varieties. In fact, the Selby Gardens houses its own Bromeliad Identification and Research Center. Contact www.selby.org for admission prices and hours of operation.
Trekking up north to Pinellas County, be sure to check out Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. This unique attraction offers 30 acres of cultivated gardens. The remaining 90 acres are uncultivated and feature wildlife, natural areas, and trails. In the cultivated areas, Florida Botanical Gardens offers a Patio Garden, which will make you feel like you want to move right in. The Native Plants Garden is a great spot for learning about which plants would thrive the best in your own backyard, and the Palm Garden showcases some of our state’s most recognizable plants and trees. For more information, visit www.flbg.org before visiting.
Heading an hour inland from the Gulf Coast, you will find beautiful gardens near the downtown of Lakeland. Hollis Gardens is the only inspirational garden on our list that doesn’t charge admission, however, don’t pass up this opportunity to see some of the best displays in a compact space. Located on the south end of Lake Mirror, Hollis Garden is a popular spot for graduation and prom photo shoots because of its formal settings. Hollis Garden showcases water features, neo-classical architecture, and over 10,000 types of flowers and plantings. As you follow the paths, the gardens will tell a story, starting with the grotto and its native, primitive plantings. Next, you will see the native plants and trees, and then its “historical tree” section, which features trees grown from cuttings from George Washington’s and Elvis Presley’s yards. Maps are available when you visit, but if you can schedule a tour with a master gardener, you won’t regret it. See www.lakelandgov.net/parkrec/hollis-garden for contact information.
Bok Tower Gardens is famous for its singing carillion tower and its beautiful gardens, but its history is inspiring as well. Edward Bok was an immigrant from the Netherlands, but became a successful publisher and Pulitzer-prize winner. He established a winter home near Lake Wales and eventually hired Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., a famous landscape architect during this time, to create a special place for birds and visitors alike. The finished product has been enjoyed by millions of visitors since 1929. Visit www.boktowergardens.org to plan your visit.
Near downtown Orlando, fifty acres of inspiration is found at Leu Gardens. Boasting some of the most diverse collections of plants and trees, including azaleas, conifers, citrus, magnolias, ornamental grasses, and more, Leu Gardens also does a wonderful job of providing visitors with information via group-guided and self-guided tours. Because the tours are so popular, they suggest booking your guided tour several weeks in advance. For more information, see www.leugardens.org.
Floridians understand that our seasons are more subtle than those of our northern friends, so plan on visiting your favorite garden at different times of the year to gather inspiration for your own backyard.
Have we missed your favorite garden for inspiration? Contact us to let us know and we will check it out!