I’m on the highway for my autumn road trip, heading toward the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the fall color should be terrific. I’m not far along yet though, and spent the morning doing some off-the-beaten-track sightseeing in Central Florida. My destination: Nehrling Gardens in the unincorporated community of Gotha, about 10 miles northwest of downtown Orlando.
The property is the house and about six acres that once belonged to Henry Nehrling, a horticulturalist who did extensive research on tropical and sub-tropical plants at the end of the 19th and early 20th century. Nehrling died in 1929, and the property changed hands a couple of times, but in 2009, it was purchased by a new non-profit, the Henry Nehrling Society. With the help of volunteers, the society is gradually reclaiming the gardens from the kudzu, air potato vines and other invasives that had overrun everything else. Some of the trees that Nehrling planted have survived and are now more than 100 years old.
Ultimately, the society hopes to open the gardens to the public on a regular basis (it now only offers pre-arranged private tours), hold community events and educational programs there, and develop a line of Nehrling plants for sale. But for now, in addition to the physical work on the property, the society members are working on fund-raising. If you’re interested, check out their Web site. And if you’re in the neighborhood at lunch time, try Yellow Dog Eats.