Feast of Flowers: Florida's Botanic Gardens

A waterfall feeds the koi pond at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.

Florida is always in bloom, and its array of flora is showcased in tranquil parks and sprawling gardens across the state.

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales

Dutch immigrant Edward Bok created this idyllic garden sanctuary, topping it off with a 205-foot bell tower made of Georgia marble and Florida coquina rock. Stroll along the garden paths, lie upon the lawn, feel the breeze and take in the beauty of azaleas, camellias, magnolias, ferns, palms, oaks and pines, while listening to the 60-bell Singing Tower during afternoon carillon concerts.

Harry P. Leu Gardens, Orlando

Near downtown, this 50-acre oasis is accented with oak-shaded walkways and delightful gardens adorned with azaleas, camellias, roses and palms, as well as beautyberries, bottle brushes, bromeliads, firecracker plants, flame vines, plumbago, primrose, snapdragon, tabebuia
and violas. Soothing and serene, it’s an ideal retreat anytime, but especially during musical moonlight strolls in April and October.

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville

A 1.5-mile walkway through Kanapaha’s 62 acres leads to 24 major collections that include Florida’s largest public display of bamboo, the Southeast’s largest herb garden, a hummingbird garden, rose garden, Asian garden, water lily garden and a rock garden dotted with colorful cacti. A popular setting for weddings, Kanapaha’s Summer House is ideally suited for receptions and events.

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, Tallahassee

Alfred B. Maclay had such a soft spot for camellias that he sent men to scour the Southeast for them. When he died, his wife continued his dream. Today, Maclay’s home is surrounded by this outstanding collection of camellias and azaleas. Of the park’s 1,200 acres, 28 are tended gardens that also include dogwoods, oriental magnolias, tulips, irises, banana shrubs, honeysuckle, silverbell trees and pansies, all nestled beside placid Lake Hall.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables

In South Florida, tropical and subtropical plants grow year round, making this 83-acre haven a hot spot for horticulturalists. Explore the Vine Pergola, where flowering vines, including the Jade Vine, bloom year round, or seek shelter among the rainforest's soothing waterfalls and shady trees. Stop for a photo in the Bailey Palm Glade, Palm Allée or the Overlook, where sun-dappled passages open up to magnificent lake and lowland views. Time it right to enjoy festivals celebrating chocolate, orchids and mangos.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota

Alluring walkways wind through this 14-acre bayfront garden. Among its enchantments are orchids, hibiscus, a bonsai display, bromeliad garden and the world’s most outstanding collection of epiphytes (air plants). The grounds also feature a banyan grove, waterfall, koi pond, fernery, palm grove, bamboo garden and butterfly and hummingbird gardens. Events include the Lights in Bloom Holiday and Tropical Fourth of July celebrations.

Florida Botanical Gardens, Largo

This park covers 182 acres, nearly half of it a permanently protected preservation area. Here, you'll find topiaries, waterfalls, herbs, tropical fruits and native plants, plus more than 300 varieties of bromeliads. The park also features demonstrations on the natural process of composting, a cottage accented by an Old World garden and programs on cultivating your own Florida-friendly garden.

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