Photo story: Visiting Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in downtown Sarasota

Need an escape from the hustle and bustle of this week’s chaos? Yearning to take a leisurely walk outdoors on a largely shaded path among tranquil gardens overlooking the waterfront? Interested in learning more about Florida orchids and other tropical plants and what makes them thrive?

Or want to delve a little deeper into the biodiversity that makes Florida and the tropics a unique growing space for species of flora you can’t see at other places?

Welcome to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, a 45-acre waterfront property on the edge of downtown Sarasota about an hour’s drive (traffic willing) south of Tampa and St. Petersburg. 

Selby Gardens, featuring publicly accessible expansive flower beds of exotic and native plants akin to those found at Butchart Gardens in Vancouver, Longfellow Gardens in Minneapolis and Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia, stands out for its variety of tropical plants and for its new research facilities examining the history and procreation of thousands of orchids, bromeliads and colorful plant species that can’t survive outdoors further north.

While the new research facilities and library aren't open to the general public, you can get plenty of mind-expanding experiences by following the winding paths through the gardens. See some of the world’s most elaborate banyan trees; one of the world’s most diverse collections of bromeliads; and more than 6,000 orchid plants. Plus unique art exhibits.

Currently on site? You can visit "Clyde Butcher: Nature Through the Lens'' and "Yayoi Kusama: A Letter to Georgia O’Keeffe.'' Then take a break at a new garden-to-table restaurant, The Green Orchid, and browse the new gift shop.

For more information, including when to go and what to see, visit the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens website.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is a community leader and award-winning journalist with more than four decades of experience reporting and writing about the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. She serves on the boards of the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications Advisory Council, The Institute for Research in Art (Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and USF’s Public Art Program) Community Advisory Council, Sing Out and Read, and StageWorks Theatre Advisory Council. She also is a member of Leadership Florida and the Athena Society. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism, she won the top statewide award for editorial writing from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors while at The Tampa Tribune and received special recognition by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists for creative work as Content Director at WUSF Public Media. Past accomplishments and community service include leadership positions with Tampa Tiger Bay Club, USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy (WLP), Alpha House of Tampa Bay, Awesome Tampa Bay, Florida Kinship Center, AIA Tampa Bay, Powerstories, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Diane and her husband, Sandy Rief, live in Tampa.