While I started YourBackyardTourist as a platform to share content surrounding my road trip to Yellowstone, it has also become the reason behind one of my new year resolutions. In 2020, I want to get out and explore not only the United States as much as I can but also the area I live in. I think like so many people I was stuck in this mindset of if I wanted to get out and explore, I had to get away from where I spend the majority of my time. But this year I want to spend time exploring my immediate area. I want to truly be a tourist in my own backyard.
Born Mariah Minshall, Marie Selby grew up camping and hiking along the Ohio River, which led her to fall in love with the outdoors at an early age. Selby’s husband William had visited Sarasota before meeting Marie and brought her to Florida with hopes she would fall in love with the area just as he had. The couple ended up buying seven acres of land on the Sarasota Bay and Hudson Bayou. Her love of the outdoors lead Marie to personally plan the landscaping throughout the property. In fact, there is a row of bamboo that can still be seen today that Marie planted herself. In her will, Selby expressed a wish to have her property turned it into a botanical garden, “for the enjoyment of the general public.” Following her death in 1971, her wish was granted and the gardens were opened to the public on July 7, 1975.
I first visited Marie Selby Botanical Gardens back in July to make a video for a content creation class. Right from the beginning I was taken aback by the gardens’ location. Selby Gardens sits on nearly 15 acres of land on the pristine shores of Sarasota Bay. Even if you aren’t into flowers or plants, it is worth a visit just to sit and take in the view. Selby Gardens is a true oasis, one can get lost in the beauty and lose track of time simply from walking around.
The gardens also have different exhibits that come through the on-site museum. During the time of my visit the exhibit was a nature-focused glass show, “In Dialogue with Nature: Glass in the Gardens”. The exhibit showcased beautifully crafted hand-blown glass creations displayed not only in the museum but also throughout the gardens. Something that made the exhibit a bit more special was that all of the pieces were by local Tampa Bay artists.
Today, Selby Gardens focuses on conservation and research and is recognized as an international leader in the botanical research of epiphytes (a plant that grows on the surface of another plant). As an acclaimed research center, visitors have the chance to learn about and see rare plants that they usually only hear about, like the cacao tree.
At Selby Gardens there is something for everyone, including the conservatory, display gardens, mangroves trail and museum. The most recent addition to the gardens is the children’s rainforest area, complete with a treehouse, playground and interactive displays for kids and kids at heart. People of all ages will find something for them at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, which makes it the perfect place for both locals to come back to time and time again or for the visiting tourist traveling through the area.
Head over to YourBackyardTourist’s Instagram to see more photos from Selby Gardens
More information about the gardens, including entrance fees and hours, can be found here.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens | 900 S. Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL