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Last Update 06/03/08
Gotha Gardens -- Another Florida Jewel Under the Gun
Originally Published 1999 -- These pages document FloridaGardener.com helping to spread the word regarding the beginning efforts to save Palm Cottage Gardens, Gotha, FL; the home and remaining gardens of Dr. Henry Nehrling, nationally known horticulturist and ornithologist, and the “patron saint of Florida Gardens.“
Dr. Henry Nehrling’s Hybrid Caladiums, click to enlarge
Dear Friends:

I wanted the opportunity to address everyone that I have come into contact with in the last four years, in regard to my research and work to preserve my great-grandfather's old place in Gotha, Fl (once known as Palm Cottage Gardens).  First to thank those whom have been supportive of this old noble place and the history that happened on the grounds of the garden.  I believe I have done an above average job in documenting the history of the old place and its importance in relationship with our beautiful Florida landscape.  I would like to recap for everyone one final time, why I think the old place is truly worth preserving.

1) Dr. Henry Nehrling first planted the garden in 1890 making it one of Florida's first experimental botanical gardens.

2) At the garden over three thousand new and rare plants were tested for the USDA/Florida.

3) Over 300 new and beneficial plants were introduced into Florida's landscape on the grounds of the garden, and later the garden in Naples.

4) Caladium plants were also introduced into Florida at the garden in Gotha, and over fifty new varieties were hybridized.  Today the Caladium Industry is worth more than 13 million dollars to Florida.  The Nehrling hybrid caladiums were the foundation for the caladium industry.

5) The old garden in Gotha was a must see for thousands of tourists, writers, nature lovers and new settlers into Central Florida at the turn of the century.  In 1917 the famous botanical explorer Dr. David Fairchild called Palm Cottage Gardens, the most interesting place in Florida.  The old garden was also visited by Theodore Roosevelt, John Borroughs, Liberty Hyde Bailey, Charles Torrey Simpson and many other notable men and women of that era.

6) Dr. Henry Nehrling's writings describe the history that took place at his two gardens.  Additionally he describes in full detail valuable information about Florida's horticultural beginnings.  HN also wrote one of Florida's first weekly gardening columns through the American Eagle (1921-1929).

7) Many of the plants, trees, shrubs and vines that were introduced through Palm Cottage Gardens were from other famous gardens, including the White House Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, & NY Botanical Gardens.

8) Today only a couple of the old gardens that were planted at the turn of the century still survive.  Six of the original forty acre garden are still intact in Gotha, along with an old Florida Cracker Home built in the 1880s.

9) Today some of the Palms, Bamboo's, Magnolias, Cedars, and a few other large trees that were planted by HN still stand on the old garden site.

10) By preserving Palm Cottage Gardens, we also preserve our horticultural history, the ceaseless efforts of HN and other men, and women, who helped pioneer a booming Florida horticultural industry.

The first time I met my second cousin, Mr. Werner Nehrling of Savannah, GA, I was told the story of my great-grandfather's old botanical gardens. Werner, who is now close to ninety years old and has an excellent mind, was able to tell me many wonderful stories about his grandfather, and his work as a pioneer Florida horticulturist.

The first time I met my second cousin, Mr. Werner Nehrling of Savannah, GA, I was told the story of my great-grandfather's old botanical gardens. Werner, who is now close to ninety years old and has an excellent mind,

 was able to tell me many wonderful stories about his grandfather, and his work as a pioneer Florida horticulturist.

Werner remembered vividly the time he and Grandma Nehrling went to visit Thomas Edison. Henry was doing experimental work for Edison and apparently had not been paid in a while, and Grandma Nehrling along with young Werner went to visit Edison and collect money that was due for Henry's work. Werner also was privileged to hear first hand accounts of his grandfather's adventures in the Florida wilderness from his father Werner, Sr.

I was also told of Henry's old garden in Naples, Fl now known as Jungle Larry's Caribbean Gardens. The old garden in Naples is still around and that was where my research began (1995), and continued to this day (February 28, 1999). I was amazed to learn about this old Florida history, and knew I had to do something to preserve one of his old gardens. It was disappointing to learn that there was nothing at either location to mark my great-grandfather's pioneering work and contributions to Florida. I just knew that once everyone heard about this old place in Gotha, and that it still exists there, that it would surely be saved.

Well, four years later and I am still calling, writing letters, e-mailing and sending out information about this old historic garden. The old place was due to be bulldozed back in 1979 when the current owner (Mrs. Barbara Bochiardy) and her late husband (Howard) rescued the old place.  As fate would have it, the property fell into the hands of another plant lover, and she has cared for the old place for nearly twenty years now.   Unfortunately, Mrs. Bochiardy can no longer take care of the old home and property, and we are now at another crossroad, she and I are hopeful that the time has come to permanently preserve this noble place.

My great-grandfather loved Florida, and his old books sing Florida's praises on every page. I had hoped that if all of us pull together we could surely find the means to save this little pocket of State history. To be completely honest, I feel I can do no more, and if it is not preserved then it just was not meant to be. I would encourage anyone who has not taken a few minutes to review the information I have mailed to you to please do so.

Most of my great-grandfather's papers reside in the archives at Rollins College, some at the University of Central Florida, and some at the Koreshan Foundation in Estero. I would also encourage anyone who is interested to visit one of these archives, if your interested in Florida's landscape than it would be a rewarding visit.

I would like to close my message with a quote from My Garden In Florida...

"The foregoing notes represent a part of my latest conclusions on horticulture in Florida, after thirty years of practice and experiments on my own ground, at my own expense, and with no other object in view than to promote by precept and example the cultivation and enjoyment of tropical and subtropical plants as the noblest, the most delightful and most satisfactory of all earthly pursuits and pleasures."

Dr. Henry Nehrling- 1920s

Your support is needed to accomplish the goals we hope to realize in saving an important part of Florida's history. 

God Bless,

Richard Nehrling

Nehrling Index

 
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