The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – Sarasota Campus is a 15-acre plot of land nestled between the sky-high condos of downtown Sarasota and the warm, boat and manatee invaded waters of the Tampa Bay. The land was bequeathed by the gardens namesake, Marie Selby, in 1973. The gardens are the “only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads and ferns, and other tropical plants” (Selby Gardens). The gardens boast a variety of these plants from different climates and environments with their own dedicated areas throughout the gardens.
I could go on forever about our adventure’s through the Selby Gardens, pointing out birds, looking at koi, and watching the boats in the Tampa Bay. This whole garden is an adventure through all of the climates in Florida, all within a 15 acre area secluded from bustling beach down the road.
Instead of telling you about every creature and plant I found along my walk, I’m going to show you some of my favorite spots – but feel free to message me on insta if you want more pictures or information about my trip or your future trip to the Selby Gardens.
The Butterfly Garden was my absolute favorite spot in the entire garden. Due to COVID-19, there was a six person limit inside the butterfly garden and masks must be worn – same with all of the enclosed exhibits on the land. If there was no limit and no fear of holding up others trying to experience the butterflies, I could’ve stayed with the butterflies all day. There is something fascinating about butterflies and watching them flutter around from flower to flower.
The Koi Pond was as peaceful as any place could get. It was hard to leave the swimming koi and the slithering snake along the ponds stone edge. With viewing points from three different angles, there was so much to take in.
There is currently a collaboration with The Dalí Museum and the Selby Gardens called the Salvador Dalí Gardens of the Mind. The pamphlet says through June 28, although we went on July 19, so I think it’s safe to assume COVID-19 had a part in it still happening. I’m not sure when it will end but I HIGHLY recommend going while it is still going on. It took us a while to understand why there were egg sculptures throughout the gardens until we realized they went with the Dalí exhibit. Along with the multitude of eggs and mustaches in the gardens there was a walk through art exhibit in the Payne Mansion on the grounds and plant exhibit in the Tropical Conservatory that went with the Gardens of the Mind.
Walking around the Great Lawn and exploring all of the mini paths off of the beautifully manicured grass brought me back to my childhood. I just wanted to run around and touch everything the way I would when my mom would bring my siblings and I to the park as a kid. This area truly brought at the kid in me but don’t worry, I’m still holding my hands back from all of their touching until we have a vaccine.
Looking over the Tampa Bay and watching all of the sailboats from the quiet of the mangroves was a whole other experience. It’s hard to find places around the bay where you can see the water, see the city, but hear nothing except the gentle wake of the water shifting the mangroves back and forth.
We are in Florida so of course the Native Florida garden was a favorite! This garden was Florida but without the motor sound of boats passing by. I felt as if I was walking along the shelled path of the tiny park down the road from my house but more peaceful and not looking right back into my dog hair covered house.
The Bromeliad Garden in the Display Gardens brought me out of Florida. I wanted to be sipping tea at a cafe in France. Something about this place felt out of this state and more inside of the covers of some classic novels. While small, this area brought me so much joy and fun.
This place was absolutely magical. You can plan on spending an entire day in the gardens getting lost among the different climates and the butterflies. With gazebos, trails, and hidden benches all sure to make great picnic or reading nooks. Be sure to bring water because in this Florida heat, that will be the only reason you would want to leave.
There was plenty more than just gardens and exhibits I’ve shared above. Below are a few honorary mentions but for anyone in the Tampa Bay or wanting to leave behind the beach for a few hours, I recommend exploring the Selby Gardens. There is also a 30 acre Historic Spanish Point campus only a few miles away in Osprey, FL for anyone searching for more flowers and gardens.
As always, follow along on my social channels to see where I’ll be writing about next!