Whenever I travel, I always enjoy visiting Public Gardens. I used to manage public gardens, so I got lots of great ideas for the garden where I worked at the time. Now, I just enjoy the superb horticulture, and the opportunity to get lots of pictures to share with people. I interned at the Marie Selby Botanical Garden in the spring of 2000, and I had not been back since. I was thrilled to see that the garden was just as stunning as usual. Let me take you on a short photo tour.
Marie Selby is known for its Orchid research. It has one of the largest herbarium collections and collections of orchids in spirits (basically-orchids preserved in liquid for 3-d examination of their structures). They just published a great new book-The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Illustrated Dictionary of Orchid Genera. Because I could not justify buying the book-though it is SPECTACULAR-I bought the t-shirt with the book cover on the front!
One of my favorite parts of interning at Selby was the chance to teach people about interesting plants. Selbys research focuses mainly on orchids and bromeliads, as well as other epiphytic plants. (That means plants that live on other plants.) They routinely send their researchers on plant exploration expeditions and frequently discover new species. When I went out to schools to give presentations, I could request plants from the collection to take with me. This one was one of my favorites. Ants make their home in the big root structure of this plant-you can see the tiny holes they use to reach their homes!
It is always funny to travel to warmer locations and find plants that we consider indoor plants sprawling along the ground as ground covers. This is Golden Pothos. We have several of these hanging out at home.
Another houseplant in the north that thrives in tropical and sub-tropical climates is a ficus tree. Inside, most ficus plants stay under control. Outside, in their preferred climate, they grow and grow up, and down. The picture shown here is of banyan tree roots being trained into an arbor. The tree maintains itself through storms and such by constantly putting down roots and rooting into the ground. In this way, one tree can cover acres of space.
The gardens, on the bay in Sarasota, FL, were the estate of the Selby family before becoming a public garden. In the background is the original house. In the foreground is one of the many live oaks with a collection of bromeliads and orchids growing on its branches.
If you find yourself near Sarasota, FL, the Selby Gardens are worth the price of admission. The tropical house displays fragile, beautiful specimens from the collection. The grounds are right on the bay, providing spectacular views. The horticulture is top-notch. If you love orchids and bromeliads, the shop is a must-see. Bring extra money and space. I dare you to come home without an orchid. (I bought three!)