The Ringling’s Secret Garden, Roses, and oh! those Banyan Trees

Visitors come from all over to see the artwork at the Ringling Museum of Art but the grounds itself has a beautiful display of art, and the artist is mother nature.

John and I paid a visit to the grounds and gardens of the Ringling and we took along my mother, who has been cooped up at home during the Covid crisis. Due to health conditions and her age, she can not walk long distances and we were happy to find the grounds and gardens to be wheelchair friendly.

There are 14 Banyan trees on the grounds of the Ringling and some date back over 100 years, to the time of John and Mable Ringling. It is said that 13 of the trees were gifted to Ringlings by none other than Thomas Edison.

To give you an idea of how big these trees are, a single Banyan tree can grow to 100 feet tall, and with its aerial roots that descend down from its branches and root in the ground making new trunks, they can spread out a whole acre.

Mable Ringling had a passion for Roses and in 1913 her Italian inspired rose garden was completed. Lined with sculptures that the Ringlings acquired in Europe and the garden patterned in the shape of a wagon wheel, Mable’s Rose Garden is the oldest continuously growing rose garden in Florida.

Spring is the best time to view the blooms of Mable’s rose garden that has been designated an “Accredited Public Rose Garden” by the American Rose Society.

While none of the original roses planted by Mable survived the years gone by, the garden today includes the varieties that would have been planted back in Mable’s time.

Mable’s secret garden near Ca’ d’ Zan, the Ringling estate, is where John and Mable Ringling and John’s sister, Ida North are buried. At the burial site is a marble statue of Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers and spring.

Mable created this informal garden by plants given to her by friends and it became her place of refuge. The tasks of being a society hostess could sometimes be overwhelming and Mable would often escape into her gardens for moments of reflection. and solitude.

John Ringling’s circus may have been called “The Greatest Show on Earth” however, Mother Nature’s show of natural beauty, feats of astounding formations, and all that sparkle with enchantment may be much more deserving of that title. So come one, come all and experience and appreciate nature, the natural ringmaster.

Admission to the grounds and gardens is $5.00 however if you are visiting the Ringling Museum of Art and the Circus Museum, the gardens self-guided tour is included with that ticket purchase. Note: Admission to the Ringling Museum of Art and the Gardens is free on Mondays.

Tours of Ca’ d’ Zan require an additional admission.

The Ringling Museums and Gardens are located at 5401 Bayshore Road in Sarasota, Florida. Parking is free. Open 10 am to 5 pm daily

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