Botanical gardens are particularly lush in Florida, but there’s even more reason to visit the Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota.
It specializes in epiphytes, or “air plants” — plants that grow upon trees and branches to take advantage of brighter light in the upper canopy of a forest.
These epiphytes include orchids, bromeliads and gesneriads, all of which produce spectacular flowers and, often, unusual colors and shapes of leaves as well.
The Selby Garden contains the most diverse living and preserved collection of ephiphytes in the world, with thousands of species represented.
Orchids are the largest species of flowering plants in the world, with more than 27,000 varieties, and about 70 percent of them are epiphytes.
The Selby Garden celebrates the wonder of orchids every fall with a spectacular orchid show.
In December, the garden adds a special evening light show for the holidays that has become a Sarasota tradition. This year’s Lights in Bloom is Dec. 20, 1018-Jan. 1, 2019, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
In addition to the full menu at the cafe, Michael’s On East will provide grilled foods and a cash bar each evening during the holiday show.
Luckily for year-round visitors, even when the fall orchid show is over, the Selby Garden has orchids and other plants in bloom every month of the year.
While October and November are considered orchid season because of the number of orchids in bloom at that time, no matter when you visit, you will see a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors of these “most beautiful and most wonderful” flowers, often including rare and unusual varieties not found anywhere else.
The Selby Garden is kid-friendly with a children’s rainforest garden, colorful play structures and a banyan grove that includes treehouse-like structures for everyone to climb into for a view of Sarasota Bay and the sailboats bobbing on moorings at the city marina.
The outdoor gardens are at their best in the winter months when it’s comfortable to wander through mangroves and tropical plants. In addition to the orchid house, Selby Garden also has display gardens for butterflies, bonsai, bromeliads, fragrance plants and edible garden plants.
The Selby Garden has a small café on the grounds and a shop where you can buy orchids, succulents and other plants to take home with you. It is a 5-minute drive or 20-minute walk to the shops and restaurants of downtown Sarasota.
The orchid show at Selby Gardens takes place every October and November with a different theme each year. For details, visit https://selby.org/