Essential Gardens to Visit in Tallahassee
If you’re a gardening enthusiast, your thumb — and every other body part — will turn green with envy when you visit the gardens of Tallahassee. Because of its location and climate, the Florida Panhandle city is a biodiversity hotspot, dotted with extraordinary gardens. The city abounds in botanical beauty. Here are the essential gardens to visit in Tallahassee.
Described as “a masterpiece of floral architecture,” the gardens date back to 1923 when New Yorker Alfred Maclay and his wife visited Tallahassee. They became so impressed with the flora they bought a hunting lodge for their winter home. Camellias and azaleas became their passion. Following her husband’s death, Louise Maclay donated the gardens for use as a state park. Now the sprawling 1,200 acres are a paradise of the couple’s favorites along with magnolias, dogwoods, tulips, irises, and honeysuckle. Besides the gardens, the park offers trails for hikers and bicyclists, a lake for fishing and canoeing, and plenty of picnic areas. It’s also a popular spot for weddings and other social events. The park charges a per-vehicle entry fee.
For a taste of genuine Old South charm, put Goodwood on your list. This is a plantation that traces its roots back to 1834. Majestic oaks dripping with Spanish moss tower over the grounds. The abundant plants are all heirlooms, meaning their origins began in 1929 or earlier. The gardens are free to visit during operating hours, and for a fee, you can visit the historic plantation house and imagine yourself sipping a mint julep on the breezy porch. Goodwood has become a center for live music, holiday events, and lectures. You can also rent space for meetings, retreats, weddings, and other social events.
This little park – only 7 acres – is a hidden gem. It was once the site of a nursery established by an early-day camellia grower. Now the lush grounds are open to the public. It contains a concentric brick-lined camellia garden in addition to ancient live oaks, tall pines, bamboo, papyrus, and blazing azaleas. Walking paths and benches make for an easy, comfortable commune with nature. Another plus? This park is dog-friendly, so feel free to bring Fido with you. A manor home filled with antiques and artwork is available to rent for meetings, receptions, and weddings.
If you want to learn more about growing fruits and vegetables, scope out Florida A&M University’s Community Garden, a 3-acre plot on the campus. It was established more than 40 years ago as a place where gardeners can plant whatever they want. Participants get a 40-foot-by-40-foot plot to plant and tend to their veggies. The gardeners are so successful that each year they donate thousands of pounds of fresh produce to local food banks.
This herbarium on the campus of Florida State University has a museum-quality collection of more than 220,000 specimens of plants found in Northern Florida. It draws biologists from around the world who study plant systems, ecology, and conservation. Volunteers mount and label the thousands of specimens. The herbarium is open to the public, but officials ask visitors to contact the facility in advance to arrange access.
Amy Okafor loves a good landscape, and seeks inspiration for the one in her backyard by visiting every one she can in her travels. She writes about gardening and landscaping for a variety of local and national publications. Read more here.