Leu Gardens


trolling through a garden and admiring natural beauty is one pleasure I cannot do enough and I had the chance to indulge myself on a recent visit to Leu Gardens. 


I had visited Orlando too many times to count in the last ten years and it was becoming a challenge to find something new and appealing. I had visited Disney World, many of the other tourist traps and the outlet shopping more times than I cared to remember. In a city where so much was built on plasticized fantasy, was choked with horrendous traffic; it was easy to forget that it was a real place, people called it home and there had to be some natural beauty that was not a fairy tale.

On the northeast side of downtown, outside of the tourist strip I found the Leu Gardens. The gardens consisted of fifty acres of land and a 19th century home that were donated to the city in 1961 by Harry P. Leu and his wife. They shared an interest in gardens inspired by their world travels and decided to have their own on their estate. The city has carried on with the gardens and opened the property to the public for touring.

Knowing how hot and humid Orlando can be even in early April I arrived early in the morning just after opening to avoid the worst part of the day. Thankfully the property which was originally settled by the Mizell family in 1858 had plenty of tree canopy with large oaks draped in Spanish moss.

I enjoyed the layout of the gardens, there were many corners to explore with a variety of ferns and other plants. It was a place to linger and go along at a leisurely pace without feeling that you needed to walk them in a particular order.

This is central Florida so of course there are citrus trees in the gardens. The property was a working farm in the 1800s; producing cotton, sugar cane and corn. I thought the rotting fruit was kind of beautiful hanging from the tree.

Bamboo grows well in much of the American South so I would expect to see it in a garden in Florida. Bamboo grows too well in the south and it is generally considered invasive.

The rose garden unfortunately did not have many blooms during the time I visited. It was a large rose garden and at the correct time of year I would imagine it is beautiful and fragrant.

This spiky tree looked like a medieval weapon and had eyes.

There were an abundance of other blooming plants and flowers along the pathways.

Here I found a garden of raised beds with plants and flowers from arid climates. A lizard had climbed a cactus to absorb the morning sunshine.

Further along I found another lizard soaking up the sun.

This is perhaps the most creative use of clay flower pots I have encountered. A flower pot person rested in a shady spot behind the monkey grass to rest.

This large flower clock on the side of an embankment was unfortunate. It might have been a neat idea in theory, but the execution ended up being tacky in that touristy Orlando type of way. There was an abundance of concrete surrounding this area which took away from the natural landscape and the numbers on the clock were askew. It reminded me of something I would expect at a hotel or shopping center.

Winding my way back towards the visitor center I came to this pond with water lilies. Strolling around for a couple of peaceful hours in the gardens I found this reminder that I was still in the middle of sprawling Orlando.

In a city that has traded much of its natural beauty for asphalt and artificial attractions chasing tourist dollars, the Leu Gardens offered a pleasant contrast.