When I think of ‘The Ringling,’ I think of the spectacular legacy John Ringling and his wife Mable left behind when constructing the Ringling Museum and their home Ca’d’Zan. Since its inception and opening in the 1930’s, then known as The John & Mable Ringling Museum, an extensive amount of work has gone into the surrounding campus.
While John was busy collecting his art, Mable had her sight set on creating a living art display on their grounds where 66 acres of gardens, exotic plants and trees, including Florida’s largest collection of Banyans, are now flourishing.
The Bayfront Gardens are open for tours in November. Take the time to discover and tour the ‘living collections’ of the grounds and gardens at The Ringling. Appropriate for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a new spot to enjoy the outdoors; botanical buffs interested in native and exotic flora; lovers of history and property development. The Ringling Bayfront Gardens offer less discovered, awe-inspiring paths to the pleasure of art in nature.
The Dwarf Garden. John Ringling brought over a delightful collection of dwarfs and gnomes that bring a whisper of circus whimsy to the grounds just outside the current Visitor Center. The antique statues are a delight to photograph and are reminiscent of 18th and 19th century Italian and German gardens.
David F. Bolger Playspace. This recent addition invites families and school groups to play and frolic on this playground featuring a tower and slide, basket swings and hand-powered fountains.
The Secret Garden. Mable collected plants from her friends while spending winters at her home. Today, this is the place where she and John and his sister Ida have been laid to rest. Thanks in part to the local Sarasota Garden Club, a lovely collection of Bromeliads, Violets, and Bougainvilleas thrive today.
The Rose Garden. Horticulturist Ron Mallory was responsible for restoring the Italian-inspired Rose Garden to its former glory after the estate and gardens fell into disrepair in the late 1930’s. It’s since earned recognition as ‘the most outstanding All-American Rose Selections Public Rose Garden in the nation’ in 2006. Its circular design is in the form of a wagon wheel with courting couples garden sculptures lining a path to the gazebo. Close to 1,200 rose plants include Tea roses, Hybrid Tea roses, Floribundas, Miniature roses and Old Garden varieties.
“Right This Way to the Greatest Show on Earth.” Among the 66 acres of outdoor splendor to enjoy at The Ringling, probably the most noted is the Italian Renaissance Museum Courtyard. Witness a magnificent display of Italian, Renaissance and Baroque bronze and stone statues surrounded by the museum’s rich architecture and highlighted by the center of attention – Michelangelo’s Statue of David.
Explore a wide variety of tropical plants and flora and feel the cool bay breeze while also admiring the architecture along the Bayfront Promenade and Millennium Tree Trail. Developed in 2010, the promenade connects Ca’d’Zan and the tree trail at the southern end of The Ringling Estate. Finally, don’t miss Florida’s largest collection of Banyan trees in the center of the grounds and see if you can’t discover Shaving Brush, Tiger Claw, Monkey Puzzle, Rainbow Eucalyptus, six varieties of bamboo and the state’s largest Ear plant.
The Ringling Bayfront Garden tours are currently offered from mid-November through mid-April on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon at a cost of $20 for non-members, $10 for members. Special educational classes are also offered throughout the season. Call The Ringling at 359-5700 for more information.
photos provided by Patti Pearson, Ringling Museum, standard royalty free license.