Secret Garden Tour at Selby Botanical Gardens

This past weekend we had the opportunity to visit the Secret Garden exhibit at Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida.

About the garden:

William and Marie Selby bought 7 acres of land bordering the Sarasota Bay where they built their home in the 1920’s.  Marie Selby had a love of nature and a passion for gardening.  She planned the landscaping around the Selby home.  Although the Selbys were wealthy they lived a humble lifestyle.  They had a modest home and Marie was often seen wearing cotton dresses and sneakers.  Marie advocated for keeping Sarasota a green place as modern construction began to move into the area.  Upon her death in 1971 she left a request in her will that the property be converted into a botanical garden “for the enjoyment of the general public.”  The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens opened in 1975.  The garden specializes in epiphytic plants which makes it unique.

The cafe has multiple plant-based options, some which are vegetarian but can be made vegan by ordering without cheese or with daiya nondairy cheese instead.  For lunch, we ordered a grain bowl that contained quinoa, chickpeas, roasted cauliflower, golden raisins, queen apples, baby kale and edamame with rice wine vinaigrette dressing and a daiya grilled cheese sandwich.  The garden also offers assorted varieties of high-quality tea that are available hot or iced.


Along the garden path…




Koi fish swim by a statue in the pond.  Visitors can purchase food to feed them in the morning.  The fish are very friendly and will swim right up to eat from your hand.




Aerial roots of one of the many banyan trees on the property.  Visitors are encouraged to relax under the trees or climb on their massive roots.




‘Super Dwarf’ Cavendish Banana (Musa Acuminata).



About The Secret Garden exhibit:

The Selby Botanical Gardens are home to a rare collection of living and preserved botanicals many from the Victorian-era.  This includes a living collection, a botanical book collection dating back to the 1700s, dried plants that have been pressed and a spirit collection of flowers set in preservative liquid.  Many of these were out on display for the Secret Garden exhibit.  The Conservatory was filled with tropical plants set in the theme of a secret Victorian garden.


The Conservatory…




A close up of the table.  The air here was filled with the smell of orchids.




Pitcher plant in a hanging basket.




Large, golden frames were suspended from the ceiling to showcase orchids along the pathway.




Orchids peaked out from all different places.




This one looked as if it was stretching toward the sun.




Objects were tucked away in secretive corners like this beautiful statue…




…and this glass cloche.



The museum…

The spirit collection contains nearly 28,000 vials of flowers.   Dried specimens can be rehydrated but do not always retain their shape so spirit collections are useful because they do.  Flowers are preserved in 70 parts denatured alcohol, 27 parts water and 3 parts glycerin.






A large window in the museum overlooks a pond filled with lotus flowers.  Tiny fish swim below.  Dragonflies dance along the surface.



The Selby Botanical Garden is a wonderful place to spend the day surrounded by history and nature.  Sarasota is filled with eclectic shops and interesting cafes.  Many are vegetarian/vegan friendly.  After visiting the garden we went downtown and enjoyed a delicious vegan pad thai for dinner at the Drunken Poet Cafe.  Afterward, we walked over to A. Parker’s Books and Bazaar.  They specialize in antique and rare books, have a great selection of botanical prints and always seem to have the perfect music playing.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!


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