While people in my native Boston are digging out from six feet of snow, visitors to my new home in Florida are touring the state’s spectacular tropical gardens. February to April is azalea time and even North Florida’s gardens seem to be blooming.
Bok Tower Gardens off US27 is still the most distinctive gardens to visit. With its unique singing tower atop 300 foot Iron Mountain, the gardens offer wonderful trails past a mountain lake and lush gardens.
Florida’s best tourist-oriented gardens are the huge Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables. To properly experience the 83 acre complex of 10 ponds and two miles of walkway, visitors need to take a tram tour and later select their favorite places to visit. Fairchild is always adding exhibits of note.
If you like roses, you will love the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando. Besides Florida’s largest rose gardens, Leu Gardens has dozens of inspirational garden designs and clever ideas for gardeners.
On the Gulf Coast is the 10-acre waterfront Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. It is one of the world’s top research centers for bromeliads and orchids, but I love the huge banyan trees, forest of ferns, and the mangrove trails.
The huge banyan trees in Selby
If you like formal gardens surrounding a historic house then you will like Alfred B. Maclay Gardens in Tallahassee. This is a great place for azaleas and camelilias when in season. Since this is a State Park, there are nature trails, kayaking, and fishing.
For a change of pace, visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. This is one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in the nation and the site of many cultural events in the winter months.
Here is my choice for forgotten gardens attraction: Ravine State Gardens in Palatka. This 1930’s WPA project contains a 1.8 paved road that weaves around a ravine filled with azaleas and exotic plants. There are bike routes and nature trails in this unusual spot near the St. Johns River.
Old postcard of the bridge across the ravine.