Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Harry P. Leu Gardens

During my two week vacation in Florida I visited three gardens:  Mead Botanical Gardens,  The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, and the Harry P. Leu Gardens.  Today's travel post is my favorite gardens of the three Orlando botanical gardens.

The first thing you see after you pay the $10.00 admission at the Welcome Center and walk through the gates, is this magnificent tree.   I had my son stand at the base of this tree so you could get an idea of the incredible size of it.  The branches are so huge, and form an arch over the sidewalk.  

We were fortunate to be there during the David Rodger's Big Bug Invasion!  When you pay your admission fee, you get not only a map of the grounds, but a map showcasing where all these giant bugs are located.  It's so much fun to find them.  Some are slightly hidden, and not that easy to find, but we eventually spotted them all!

Leu Gardens is not your ordinary botanical gardens.  Yes, they have a rose garden, and a butterfly garden like most botanical gardens do, but it is primarily a tropical garden.  It is filled with winding, shaded paths with towering palm trees and low tropical foliage on either side. My favorite part of this park was the Tropical Stream Garden.

There was so much bamboo in this park!  I am always fascinated with bamboo as it something we can not grow in Wisconsin.

 The praying mantis sculpture was one of my favorites.  All the bug sculptures were created using all-natural materials such as trees, branches, and saplings.  That is the Leu House Museum in the background.

This pretty path leads to the idea gardens where miniature types of gardens are on display that you could use in your own backyard.

 I loved the bright orange of this hot, dry climate flower.

Isn't this gazebo just lovely?  I like the blue jay stained glass piece at the top.

The rose garden was lovely, but unfortunately we were there when they had just cut most of them back.  According to a tour guide, they cut the roses back three times a year.  She said the best time to visit the rose garden is in June.  I was surprised and happy to catch this little honey bee in action on this white rose.

We did get to see some rose bushes that weren't cut back yet.  This garden blooms just outside the Leu House Museum.  You can see it beautifully from inside the house!

Here you can see some of the roses that have been cut back.  They still gave off some pretty coral blooms to match Ashley's dress though!

In addition to insect sculptures, the gardens also have lots of permanent sculptures as well.  We loved these farmer sculptures in the vegetable gardens.

A cottage and vegetable gardens.

One of our favorite things about the Harry P. Leu Gardens was getting to see this beautiful historic home.  Free tours are given every thirty minutes and the best part is, you get to see both floors ALL fully decorated in the time period of the house.  I've toured a lot of old homes in my life, and trust me, that's a rarity!  Usually part of the home is either off-limits and/or turned into a museum and is not decorated like a house anymore.  This home is absolutely gorgeous inside!  I would love to live in this house!

 This is Wychoff Overlook.  It's a dock that overlooks Lake Rowena.  You can see a lot of wildlife from this dock, such as the turtles and large heron in this picture.  We were also lucky enough to see osprey flying in the sky and another guest said "If you want to see something really special look up!" When we did, we saw them sitting in a large nest right above our heads.  They are such pretty birds!

 One of the many winding, shady, tropical pathways in the park.

 More bamboo.  Unfortunately, people like to carve in the bamboo even though there were warning signs asking people not to do that for it damages the plant.

 This dragonfly was a little harder to spot!

 Though this garden doesn't have a lot of flowers like most botanical gardens do, you can still spot some color now and then.

Along with lots of other interesting things, like the bark of this palm:

 Or the fruit of this tree:

We loved the gated entry and the swing in the Idea Garden.

Ashley used her amazing photo editing skills and created this photo of me sitting on the porch swing. You will see more of these pictures and this outfit on a future fashion post!

We loved the size and silver color of this palm frond.

This is the Butterfly Garden and one of my favorite spots in the Harry P. Leu Gardens.  Notice the box by the bench?  It is filled with Monarch Chrysalis.

Aren't these monarch chrysalis just gorgeous!  Such a miracle!

 Some pretty coleus plants.  I wish we could grow them this big in Wisconsin!

We were both humored and perplexed by this sign.  Why the singular nature?  I'm sure there is more than one alligator in that big lake...unless they have a pet alligator as my daughter joked.

Another part of the Harry P. Leu Gardens was the Northwoods Gardens which contained giant bamboo,  palm trees, and cycads.  It felt at times as if I were walking in a scene from Jurassic Park.  I kept expecting a velociraptor to leap out at me from behind a palm branch.  Just look at the scale of this bamboo with my daughter standing at the base of it. I assure you, it is not a photography trick.  That is really how huge it was!

This scary spider web sculpture was right in this forest.

Once you make it through the scary, prehistoric part of the park, you reach this pretty landing which has a view of the rose gardens and the floral clock.

 I don't care much for ladybugs after the DNR introduced asian beetles to our environment and created the annual mess we have with them today, but I do think this little guy is pretty cute.

The South Woods Garden is a beautiful, tranquil wooded garden path that is filled with white and pink camellias. This pretty gazebo was also one of it's blessings.

 If your fortunate to live near a major botanical gardens, you need to visit at least four times a year, for something different is always blooming.  We were lucky to catch the camellias and azaleas in bloom during this visit.

 This giant spider was so huge he hovered over the sidewalk!

 And finally, after we walked through the entire park, we headed back out the same way, through my favorite part of the garden:  the Tropical Stream Garden.

If your ever in Orlando and want to do something a little more laid back, quieter, and less congested than a theme park, I highly encourage you to visit Harry P. Leu Gardens.  It was a wonderful experience.  My only complaint is that there was not a restaurant on the property.  It is a large park and it takes most of the day to walk through it.  Of course, we got hungry and thirsty and although there are water fountains, there is no food to purchase other than a couple of vending machines back at the Welcome Center.  We were halfway through the park when we got hungry and thirsty and we had to walk all the way back to the beginning of the park to get something to eat.  I ended up eating a bag of chips and a Butterfinger for lunch.  Not very nutritious, nor very filling.  I've never been to a botanical gardens that did not have a restaurant before.  It was very disappointing and kinda stupid to me.  Don't they realize people will need to eat if the spend the day there?  You are allowed to leave and come back if you keep your admission ticket, but you can't bring a picnic lunch into the park.  The welcome center was a very nice facility with a balcony overlooking the lake.  It is rented and used for weddings and conventions, but it would be nice if a restaurant, or even a hot dog stand would open up in the same spot.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE and Travel Tuesday!


  1. What an amazing place Amy! My son would love this place. A future entomologist, he is. The photos are fantastic and the monarchs re so close to hatching! Florida is a magical place for sure.. not because of the mouse but the nature. That Alligator must have taken someones lunch. Ha! The photo of you in the gazebo is breathtaking. You are very beautiful. Hubby and I ...and of course the child will have to visit Harry P. Leu Gardens one day!

  2. I am wondering what type of fruit that is, I do not think I have seen it before.
    My fave shot was the one of the white rose with the bee, perfect timing.

  3. I'm sorry, I don't remember the name of the tree or the fruit. I am not from the South, so I have never seen it before either. And thank you for your comment about the white rose and bee photo. Yes, it was perfect timing. Especially considering how rare honey bee sitings are now!

  4. What a beautiful place. I can't believe I've never been there! The sculptures are amazing! Glad you had a great time.
    So glad you shared this on The Maple Hill Hop!

  5. What an amazing place, Amy. Your photos are great. Looks like you all enjoyed your time there.
    Thanks for taking part in the Travel Tuesday meme.

  6. Lovely, Amy!
    Thanks for taking part in the Floral Fridays Foto meme.


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