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Last Update 06/03/08
Gotha Gardens -- Dr. Henry Nehrling -- The Man and His Work, Second of a Series
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
Dr. Henry Nehrling was finally able to move his family and collection of sub-tropical and tropical plants permanently to Gotha, Florida in 1893.  With the help of his "kind" neighbor he cleared and plowed the highest and driest portion of his lot (being careful to preserve native stands of Pine and Live Oak) on Lake Audubon (now known as Lake Nally) with the intention of planting a ten acre ornamental garden.

Upon completing this task the good Doctor began to journey into the wild woods surrounding his homestead.  His helpful "kind" neighbor went with him and helped the Doctor to collect small specimens of Magnolia, American Olive, Loblolly Bay, Wax Myrtle, American Laurel, Sweet May and many other "treasures".

Even though the work was hard, the plants were heavy, the sun was hot, the thickets were nearly impenetrable and the intrepid explorers often became lost in the dense stands of Saw Palmetto, Dr. Nehrling was always ready to make the trip into the woods again and again.

Home of H. Nehrling, Gotha, FL early 1900s

As Dr. Nehrling's "Palm Cottage Gardens" grew and developed over the years, his correspondents from around the world continued to send him new varieties of rare and valuable tropical plant specimens.  Included in his growing collection were Palms, Cycads, Caladiums, Ficus, Bromeliads, Orchids, Ferns, Amaryllis, Bamboo -- practically every type of growing plant.

Dr. Nehrling's Caladiums, 1908.gif

His prized Caladium collection alone consisted of at least 1,500 named species.

Dr. Nerhling's "Palm Cottage Gardens" soon attracted the attention of horticulturists, writers, nature lovers and tourists.  The inventor Thomas Edison was a patron of Dr. Nehrling's work and the celebrated naturalist David Fairchild was a colleague and admirer.  Visitors to the gardens included Theodore Roosevelt, John Borroughs, Liberty Hyde Bailey, Charles Torrey Simpson and many other notable ladies and gentlemen of that time.  

Unfortunately, the Gardens at Gotha were located in an area of Florida that is no stranger to winter freezes.  For years the Doctor played cat and mouse with the threat of damaging frosts.  Unfortunately in 1917 a particularly devastating freeze destroyed over $7,000 worth of his prized Caladium collection in addition to thousands of dollars worth of other rare and valuable plant specimens.  So, at the age of 66, rather than risking further losses Dr. Henry Nehrling determined to start all over again in a location further south.

Sources:   My Garden in Florida ; The Palmetto, August, 1982, Volume 2, Number 2; Photos Courtesy of Richard Nehrling

First Article of the Series

Third Article of the Series

Nehrling Index

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