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Leu Gardens - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Days Out

Florida’s Hidden Gem

All parked out and nowhere to go? You could try a relaxing day at the Harry P Leu Gardens, a peaceful horticultural haven in North Forest Avenue, Orlando. We found the address on Google and set off for a non-Disney day. There was ample parking and our first port of call was the Visitor centre, a pleasantly cool white clapperboard house, containing a gift shop, restrooms, library, museum and art gallery.

A picnic was our first priority – courtesy of the local Publix supermarket, and we sat in the specially designated shady picnic area overlooking a large, picturesque lake, watching herons, egrets and the ubiquitous but totally charming lizards.

Then we set off to explore the fifty acres of magnificent gardens. These are divided into various sections – for example, a whole area dedicated to Cycads, large plants like a cross between a palm and a fern, which have been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth – along with the Ginkgo trees. I was especially pleased by the Bromeliad collection and the fantastic Coleus plants and Crotons. In fact they have everything you ever tried to grow as a houseplant but failed – many times larger and revelling in its natural environment.

There is a section dedicated to Citrus trees – fifty different kinds, a genteel rose garden with a beautiful fountain, an azalea and rhododendron collection, and even a banana collection. Leu Gardens is also a wedding venue, and there is an enchanting White Garden, where all the plants are decked out in white to match the bride. Especially interesting are the “ideas gardens” which give helpful hints for designing gardens of your own according to the conditions in your patch – whether dry and sunny or damp and boggy. There was even an inspired use of raised beds to make gardening easier for wheelchair users.

Just in case you’re thinking this sounds like a place for real garden geeks, think again – children would love exploring the meandering paths, the wooden bridges over streams, and spotting the fantastically coloured butterflies. In fact there is a garden dedicated to nurturing butterflies, especially Monarchs, and an attractive vegetable garden with all kinds of interesting varieties.
Children would love the sculptures you come across unexpectedly in beds and clearings, also the large floral clock and the big fat Monarch caterpillars and cases with mysterious chrysalises chilling out, ready to hatch who knows when.

We spent a peaceful ten minutes on the decking watching the terrapins in the lake and then realised we were getting close to closing time – five o’ clock. Regretting that we hadn’t set off earlier, so that we could look through the house as well as the gardens, we set off home. When we come to Orlando again, we will certainly visit Leu Gardens for a second time.

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