The Rainforest Comes To Selby Gardens

Selby Gardens, Sarasota

In a region famously abundant with first-rate cultural experiences, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens always makes sure that children are never left out of the equation.  For nearly 40 years, Selby Gardens has provided a fascinating, family-friendly destination in which to develop an understanding and appreciation of plant life while opening young eyes to the vital importance of preserving our fragile environment.

To further underscore its commitment to children and the environment, Selby Gardens has just premiered its much-anticipated Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden.   A faithful rendition of a tropical rainforest, the garden provides an authentic setting in which children can cultivate an early appreciation for the living world through creative play and interactive discovery.

The commitment to go forward with the Children’s Rainforest Garden was accompanied by an equally strong determination that the completed project be judged among the best of its kind in the world.  With that in mind, Herb Schaal was chosen to design the garden.  Schaal, one of the most respected landscape architects in the nation, has more than 20 children’s  gardens to his credit; and has received nearly 60 state and national awards for his inspired designs.

A Tropical Adventure 

With two of Selby’s majestic Banyan Trees to anchor it, the Children’s Rainforest Garden enables children to safely wend their way up, around and through the tree’s towering canopy.  Along the way, they pass simulated rock formations with pockets of botanical plantings, a forest pool with a 12-foot cascading waterfall; and a canopy walk and suspended rope bridge where they can safely enjoy an aerial panorama of the gardens as if they were soaring high above them.  Our favorite view was looking down on the tree’s incredible serpentine root system.

The garden’s Rainforest Village includes three cylindrical huts with thatched roofs.  Each hut contains a different exhibit to further enhance the visitors’ learning experience while deepening their curiosity about life in a tropical rainforest.

Nearby, the Adventure Trail occupies the perimeter of the garden.   Its winding path offers a cave-like experience beneath the garden’s elevated decks; its hidden niches revealing an intricate weave of roots and vines.

Parents, of course, can accompany their children along their guided path of discovery; or relax on the garden’s shaded deck secure in the knowledge that a single entry/exit assures that no child can enter or leave without parental supervision.  Once inside, children are free to play and explore at their own pace; and  the garden is wheelchair accessible.

Santa comes to Selby 

The holidays are a wonderful time to visit Selby Gardens.  From December 20th through the 23rd—and again from the 26th through the 30th—the gardens will be festooned with life-size garden-themed holiday lights as part of its annual Lights in Bloom celebration.  For the first time, the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden will be similarly decked out in holiday lights with Santa and his elves making special appearances from December 20th through the 23rd.

For everyone on your holiday gift list, the Garden Shop—just inside the visitors entrance—offers a wide selection of orchids, bromeliads, tropical plants, garden accessories, and a full array of botanical books; as well as a variety of botanically-themed merchandise and jewelry.  Games, books, puzzles and other gifts are available for children.  No admission fee is required for the Garden Shop, which is always open during regular garden hours.

For more information about Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, including directions and hours of operation, visit Selby.Org.

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