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Florida Guide > Other Activities

A Day at Leu Gardens

We discovered the Harry P. Leu Gardens in a guidebook. No one we know had ever visited this Orlando attraction but it sounded like something we might both enjoy on a quiet day so we decided to visit and we were certainly glad we did. We were very impressed by the beauty and tranquillity of this oasis the heart of downtown Orlando.

The 50-acre site is well signposted from exit 85 on I-4 and approached through the city’s cultural district. The Gardens are beautifully landscaped and laid out in a series of themed areas. Each area displays a unique character and at the centre of the site lies the old Leu homestead. Visitors enter through the rainforest garden designed to emulate the Amazon rainforest with lush tropical planting along the banks of a tumbling stream leading down to the lake. Beyond this lies the most extensive collection of camellias in Florida, a sight to be seen during the early months of the year when they are in full bloom.

The largest rose garden on the eastern seaboard is formally planted with a magnificent collection of American and international roses. Weddings are in the white garden, which provides a romantic setting for couples tying the knot.

At the centre of the site lies the houses where Harry Leu and his wife Mary lived as they planted and developed this idyllic site, inspired by their foreign travels. The house offers guided tours, which take place every half hour. It is tastefully furnished, as it would have been during their residence. Beyond the house lie the vegetable and herb gardens growing plants that are still popular in American domestic settings. A citrus garden is all that remains of the citrus plantation that was on the site before the Leus started their labour of love. The planting in the butterfly garden, delightful in itself, attracts myriads of these exquisite creatures.

As you walk back to the visitor centre you pass the Home Trial garden planted to help locals discover the species, which will flourish in their own gardens.

Throughout the garden all the plants are clearly labelled, which will prove a boon to keen gardeners.

This attraction is well worth a visit for those seeking a respite from the frenzy the Orlando theme parks. My only criticism was the absence of a coffee shop or other refreshment venue, which could have been the ideal place to conclude our visit.

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Page added on: 26 May 2008
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