A butterfly flew onto my hand in the Butterfly Garden, one of the largest in Florida, as I wandered through Selby Gardens Historic Spanish Point in Osprey during a recent visit.
This colorful winged creation of nature is only one of the treasures of this bayfront property that is a revered part of Sarasota's storied history. Century's old trees, native Florida plants, sculptures, and old restored buildings dot the landscape as you walk along nature trails littered with crushed shells.
The gardens date back 5,000 years. In the "A Window to the Past" exhibition visitors can step inside an ancient shell midden and be surrounded on three sides by what lies beneath the surface.
In 1867, the Webb family from Utica, NY, established a homestead on the grounds. This heritage is preserved, and visitors can tour the carefully restored 1901 Guptill House, the rehabilitated Mary's Chapel, and a reconstruction of the Webb Packing House.
In 1910, Bertha Palmer bought over 80,000 acres of land in and around Sarasota and Manatee County. Of that total, 350 acres were on Little Sarasota Bay that included the Webb homestead. Palmer called it The Oaks.
She preserved the pioneer buildings and connected them with lavish formal gardens irrigated by shell aqueducts, still on view, to carry water thorough her scenic gardens. Three of them – the Sunken Garden, Duchene Lawn, and Jungle Walk – are available to visitors today.
These photos capture only a small portion of the beauty of the Gardens and are a taste of what you can expect if decide to visit.
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