Tucked away in Gotha, twenty minutes outside Orlando, you'll feel like you've teleported to some charming Northern city. Nehrling Gardens is a six-acre, botanical, exploration garden that famed German horticulturist Dr. Henry Nehrling began cultivating in 1895. This hidden gem is a pretty big deal since it's a Florida National Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.
Nerhling Gardens once covered 40-acres sprawling with tropical and subtropical plants that Nehrling would study year round. The 1880s Florida wood frame vernacular style home and semi-detached kitchen Nehrling and his family lived in, is still on the property, but in need of some fresh (lead-free) paint and refurbishing. All the upkeep, touring and addition services provided at Nehrling Gardens operate on a volunteer basis. A non-profit group established in 2000 work to keep the place running and keep visitors informed about its great history.
Nehrling is kind of an underrated legend. Having studied 3,000 new and rare plants for the Bureau of Plant Industry, now known as the USDA, he was the first to bring bamboo to Florida. Some of his plantings, including a 100-year old tree canopy, are still alive and well on site.
The property is near Lake Nally and has a wooden seating area that overlooks the water. Aside from majestic towering trees and beautiful, vibrant flowers, there's also a really unique tree, fallen from a storm, that is now an art piece with animals like gators, turtle, birds and fish carved into it.
This was a really interesting place to visit and learn about for me because Nehrling and I are both German! I had heard of Gotha, but had never been to the city and was surprised to know this small community was founded by German Americans in the 1870s. I very proudly rep my Caribbean heritage (Trini dem girls!), but learning about Nehrling made me more proud of my Deutschland people too.
The garden is open to the public on the first and second Saturdays of each month. Private tours can be made by appointment with a $5 suggested donation.
On April 28, the gardens will host one of its few special events for the year with Corks, Caladiums & Canvases. This is a chance to stroll through the grounds while trying food and wine from regions where some of the garden's plants originated. There will also be live music and a silent art auction. There's an open call for chefs and artists to supply talent for the event, if you're interested send an email to info@NehrlingGardens.org
A bonus stop I would say you have to make when visiting Gotha is the burial site of famous TV painter and all-around chill dude Bob Ross. I never knew Bob was from Daytona and grew up in Orlando and I definitely didn't know he was buried so close by.
In the back of Woodlawn Cemetery in Section O you'll find Bob's marker. It's two rows up from the road between two sections of lawn and near a single tree with a bench-like marker. (Editors note: Nicole, they're never going to find it. I'll post the video below. LOL)