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Marie Selby Botanic Gardens

Marie Selby Botanic Gardens
Sarasota, Florida

When my obsession with photographing gardens began many years ago, my grandmother introduced me to Selby Gardens in the town where she lives in Florida, and I fell in love right way. Now I make it a point to spend a day there every time I am in town for a visit. This modest-sized garden is nestled along the waterfront of the Sarasota Bay offers beautiful views and pleasing breezes off the water as you stroll through its well kept grounds. Each section of the garden blends seamlessly into the next, leading you from dense jungle surroundings through wide-open vistas, and along winding pathways with hidden nooks to discover. There is something magical about how the expert landscaping fits in so pleasingly with the surrounding area, creating a garden oasis that is transportive but still thoroughly integrated into the existing environment.

William and Marie Selby were avid outdoors people and their garden reflected a love of nature rather than showy display of wealth.  Instead of a palatial mansion, they built a modest house and left much of the land for propagation. Marie Selby was member of the city’s first garden club, and was a champion for preserving Sarasota’s natural beauty as the small town began to rapidly develop. It was Marie’s wish that her property became a botanic garden after her death, and it continues to thrive and grow all these years later.

The tropical display house, where you begin your visit, sets the scene for the abundance of epiphytes to be encountered at Selby. These are the specialty of the garden, which is dedicated to the display and study of plants that grow upon other plants or trees. Orchids, ferns, and mosses hang from and grow over just about every surface, and you are constantly encouraged to look upwards to observe plants clinging to tree trunks and branches. 

After the overwhelming abundance of the greenhouse you stumble outside and have any number of options for how you explore the grounds. If there are too many tourists around you can escape down palm-lined pathways into the Mangrove Baywalk, a network of boardwalks that weave through the dense clumps of mangrove trees that line the edge of the bay. My favorite spot in the garden is at the tip of the peninsula of land where you can sit on a bench under a tree and look out over the bay. If it is a particularly warm day, I recommend checking out the nature-themed art display in the Payne Mansion or grabbing an iced tea in the Carriage House tea shop. 

Final Rating: Selby Gardens has kept me coming back again and again because it has so much to offer and there is always something different blooming or a plant that you never noticed before. Aside from the engaging, educational plant displays, Selby is simply a secluded garden paradise where you can go to escape from the everyday and be surrounded with beauty. This unpretentious garden has understandably become a major attraction while still maintainging the feel of a small garden oasis.  FIVE BLOOM RATING

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