|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
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.
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