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Sarasota Florida: Selby Gardens

Selby Gardens, Sarasota, Florida
Roger Fasteson

Thanks to Marie Selby, whose family camping trips fostered her love of nature, and the resources of her husband, William Selby, a wealthy oil tycoon, Sarasota has a magnificent waterfront oasis, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. What makes it unique among botanical gardens is that is has the world’s largest collection of orchids and bromeliads--over 20,000 species.

The Selbys visited Sarasota several times and moved here in the early 1920s. They bought seven acres on Sarasota Bay and built a modest Spanish-style home in keeping with their lifestyle.

The impact of the William and Marie Selby Foundation is seen throughout the community in the arts, education, libraries, and programs for children and the elderly. William Selby died in 1956, and when Marie died in 1971, she willed her proper to the community as a botanical garden for all to enjoy.

Since her death, her legacy has become world famous, not just for the roses she so loved but for the epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants without taking sustenance from them.

Upcoming and ongoing activities include

  • Spring Break Family Adventures runs through March 30 with outdoor activities to for families to enjoy. ($19, 4-11 $6, members and children 3 and under free)
  • See the kind of masks carved to scare off invading conquistadors at the 10 Anniversary celebration of Rainforest Masks of Costa Rica from March 7-April 18. Check the website for special events, like opportunities to meet the artists.
  • Sunday afternoons April 6- May 11, bring a chair or blanket to the banyan grove. From 1-3 pm there’s music and food under the banyans with the Spring Music Series. ($19, members free)
  • It’s dinner and dancing, live entertainment, and an auction at the elegant Birds in Paradise Orchid Ball on April 2. Dress code is black tie or feathered finery. From $300.
  • And what lovelier setting for a Mother’s Day Brunch? Reservations may be made for 10 am, 11:30 am and 1 pm $48 non-members, $38 members, $18 children 4-11, under 3 free.
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