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Monday, January 31, 2005

Botanical Gardens 

Wherever I've lived (and that hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of places truth be told) I've always been lucky enough to live within reasonable driving distance of beautiful botanical gardens. I grew up in Maryland and on many occasions visited Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. My husband and I along with our friends would drive about 2 hours to arrive at Longwood at opening time. We would then amble through the acres and acres of gardens oohing and aahing along the way. The greenhouse alone was one of the most gorgeous sights we'd ever seen - constantly changing for seasons and holidays. Ladew Topiary Gardens was another treat within an hour's drive. Henry Ladew created beautiful gardens on 15 of his 22 acres. The topiaries by themselves were well worth the visit.

Now that we're in Florida we've learned that there are many great places in fairly close proximity. The most easily accessible is Sunken Gardens. Located in St. Petersburg, this six acre landscape is over 100 years old. It originally belonged to the Turner family and was purchased by the City of St. Pete in 1995 to preserve the beauty for everyone to see. Just over the Skyway Bridge is the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, named after the original owner who donated the grounds to Sarasota. I haven't visited either of these gardens yet but they are on my "to do" list.

Here's the one I really, really want to visit - the Thomas Alva Edison winter estate in Fort Myers. Edison was not only an inventor but a botanist who looked to plants to help solve problems. For instance, did you know that Edison used bamboo fibers in his early light bulb filaments? Or that he used Spanish moss as stuffing for car seats? I sure didn't. There's lots more to be learned and even more impressive, Henry Ford purchased the neighboring property so not only the 14 acres of the Edison estate but also the 3.5 acre Ford estate are readily available for all to see. Edison's estate was donated to Fort Myers in 1947 and the Ford estate did the same in 1988. I have been in Fort Myers but have not yet had the opportunity to visit the Edison and Ford estates. But I promise this. My plan is to take a day off and rook my husband into driving down with me. It's only about 2 1/2 hours from here and a fairly easy drive. If that doesn't work, then plan B is to grab my sister, you know her better as Part Time FLA person, on one of her next visits and talk her into driving down to Fort Myers with me to enjoy these gorgeous gardens. Of course, these gardens are just the tip of the Florida iceberg. I'm sure there are many, many more to learn about. Happy Gardening and look for a botanical garden near you. You'll be very glad you did.

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Thanks to Andrew Stenning who contributed the photograph for our masthead

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