Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has a National Collection of Orchids and Epiphytes

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida USA. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are a delightful green oasis on the shores of Sarasota Bay. The 14-acre gardens were created by Marie Selby and still retain the feel of a private much-loved garden rather than a botanical showcase.

Start your visit in the theater with the short film. It tells the story of how this lovely Mediterranean style home and gardens were created by Marie Selby and her husband, William, who made his fortune in the oil industry. Although wealthy, they chose to create a simple home and informal gardens to enjoy as their winter residence.

The house is not open for tours but the property is used to house a reading room, café, gift shop and a Kids Discovery Corner. Other buildings behind the house are used to house the Museum of Botany and the Arts and are used for special events such as art exhibitions, photographic displays and garden themed activities.

Winding paths lead through the gardens, passing hidden areas, planted borders and unique features.

MustDo.com, Must Do Visitor Guides. Garden pathway at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida.

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

One of the highlights is an old ficus – commonly referred to as banyan – with spreading branches providing a shady canopy for many other plants.

Banyan Tree canopy Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida USA. Must Do Visitor Guides MustDo.com

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Highlights at Sarasota’s Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Bromeliads, palms and planted borders make this a restful place to walk at leisure, enjoying the fragrance of exotic blooms and flowering bushes. In spring, the huge pink tassels of the Shaving Brush Tree (Pseudobombax Ellipticum) are scattered across the grass making an unusual sight.

Rainbow Gum Tree Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida.

Photo courtesy Selby Botanical Gardens

The Rainbow Gum Tree is another tree worth looking for as it has an extraordinary rainbow-colored trunk. Further down the gardens huge staghorn and elkhorn ferns are suspended in the old trees on sturdy chains.

The hibiscus garden has many showy blooms as this flower is a favorite with Florida gardeners. At the far end of the gardens is the Butterfly Garden, planted with flowers to provide food and leaves for butterflies to lay their eggs.

MustDo.com, Koi pond at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida.

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Children will enjoy watching the koi in the tranquil fish pond which is fed by two waterfalls, There is also a special Children’s Rainforest Garden with plenty for youngsters to explore and enjoy.

MustDo.com, Hugging Tree at the Children's Rainforest Garden Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Kids can freely explore and play in the Children's Rainforest Garden at Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Orchids and Epiphytes at Marie Selby Gardens

This beautiful urban garden is a delight to stroll around, but it is also the home to over 6,000 orchids and epiphytes.

MustDo.com, Must Do Visitor Guides. Colorful orchid display at Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Not surprisingly, this huge collection of epiphytes is now the largest scientific collection in the USA. Carefully tended in a shady tropical conservatory, the specimen plants are surrounded by waterfalls dripping down mossy rocks. There are all types of orchids, bromeliads, amaryllis and anthuriums so there are always some showy blooms to admire whatever time of year you visit.

Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com | Bromeliad display at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida.

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

The gardens also have an interesting bonsai collection and a display of airplants dangling from the branches of a live oak.

Selby Botanical Gardens borders the lapping waters of Sarasota Bay and the pavilion with its stained glass panels is a popular location for weddings. You can enjoy the same view that the Selbys must have enjoyed almost 90 years ago, watching sailboats in the broad bay. A pleasant boardwalk follows the edge of the gardens around to a strip of sandy beach decorated with driftwood and seashells before returning to the house.

MustDo.com | Relax and take in the view of Sarasota Bayfront Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, Florida USA.

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

MustDo.com | Enjoy a snack or lunch at Selby House Cafe Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, FloridaBefore you leave enjoy a snack or lunch at Selby House Café and then be sure to stop by the Garden Shop. You’ll find a nice selection of gorgeous orchids and other tropical plants, gardening books, home accessories, children’s games, books and puzzles. Garden admission is not required to shop the vast array of botanically-themed merchandise in the gift shop.

Related Posts:

Written by:

Nita Ettinger is the co-publisher for Siesta Publications and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed publications and the website MustDo.com. Must Do Visitor Guides are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County chambers of commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications are found.

[gravityform id="2"]

Newsletter Sign-up