January 15, 2015 from 5 pm until 8 pm

Bayfront Gardens, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243


imageJoin us on the Bolger Campiello for live music by Kettle of Fish. Food and beverage are available for purchase on the bayfront. Limited seating is available. This event Included with your Art after 5 Admission.

Hours: 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Admission: Adults $10; Children (6-17) $5; Children 5 & under free


Ringling_Book-300While the rest of the country is in the deep freeze, the roses in Mable Ringling’s gardens on the grounds of The Ringling are blooming.

They’re not at the peak of their glory; that comes in the spring, after they’ve been pruned. But still, during Friday’s inaugural tour of the bayfront gardens, many of the 1,200 rose bushes were festooned with red, yellow and pink blossoms.

A small group of hardy snowbirds, bundled in jackets, hats and scarves against decidedly un-Floridalike 52-degree temperatures and a brisk breeze off the water, followed docents Leone Levy and Sherie Philpott on the 90-minute walkaround of the 66-acre grounds, where they got a combined history of the bayfront gardens and a botany lesson.

Levy and Philpott are among a cadre of 20 volunteers who spent several hours in workshops with Maureen Zaremba, curator of education, and head gardener Kevin Greene, boning up on the hundreds of species growing on the grounds.

“I’ve always loved the grounds and gardens at the museum and one of my own personal passions is gardening,” said Zaremba. “John and Mable Ringling spent a lot of time and energy enhancing the landscape; we’ve been talking about developing a robust grounds program for the last two years, and decided this was the time to do it.”

A small group of hardy snowbirds, bundled in jackets, hats and scarves against decidedly un-Floridalike 52-degree temperatures and a brisk breeze off the water, followed docents Leone Levy and Sherie Philpott on the 90-minute walkaround of the 66-acre grounds, where they got a combined history of the bayfront gardens and a botany lesson.

Levy and Philpott are among a cadre of 20 volunteers who spent several hours in workshops with Maureen Zaremba, curator of education, and head gardener Kevin Greene, boning up on the hundreds of species growing on the grounds.

“I’ve always loved the grounds and gardens at the museum and one of my own personal passions is gardening,” said Zaremba. “John and Mable Ringling spent a lot of time and energy enhancing the landscape; we’ve been talking about developing a robust grounds program for the last two years, and decided this was the time to do it.”

Docent Sheri Philpott leads a tour of the bayfront gardens at the Ringling. / HERALD-TRIBUNE PHOTO BY ELAINE LITHERLAND

When the Ringlings bought the land that was first their home and now is the Ringling campus, it was covered with native plants, mostly palms and some oaks and slash pines. But Mable, who was an avid gardener, envisioned a more manicured, European setting, and the acreage was quickly relandscaped into a more formal style.

The banyan trees that now dominate the grounds were planted early in the 20th century, as were many of the Royal and Queen palms that stand in formation along the avenues of the gardens (the two can be differentiated by the Royals’ “self-cleaning” of old fronds). The banyans’ habit of taking over everything in their path is reined in by frequent trimming; one tree has literally embraced one of the small statues of a little boy along a pathway, the small face peering out from the aerial roots now firmly embedded in the ground.

The banyans’ berries are a favorite with rabbits on the estate.

“If you see any drunken rabbits running around, you know they’ve been eating the fermented berries of the banyan tree,” said Philpott.

Tubers hang from a sausage tree on the Ringling's grounds. / HERALD-TRIBUNE PHOTO BY ELAINE LITHERLAND

Less showy than the banyans but spectacular in their own way are the rainbow eucalyptus, whose mottled bark peels away in surprisingly bright colors, and the sausage tree, where long tubers resembling either sausages or potatoes are suspended from thin vines. The sausage tree’s flowers open only at night, emitting a “vile, vile odor,” said Philpott, and are pollinated by bats.

“It’s a dangerous tree,” she said, noting that the tubers can weigh several pounds.

Before concluding at the dwarves’ garden adjacent to the visitors’ center, the tour makes a stop in the formal gardens of the museum’s courtyard, which drew its inspiration from the gardens of Europe.

“We’re starting to think of this as another gallery.

Friday’s cool weather stood in contrast to when the docents were suffering through their training in summer’s heat and humidity. The tours will be offered only during the season, not in summertime.

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Contributors:

The Ringling

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