Harry P. Leu was actually the 4th owner of damaged Leu House. His name is on this garden in Orlando because he and his wife Mary Jane traveled. Instead of bringing back traditional souvenirs, the Leus returned to Florida with plants and seeds. I wonder how they got them past customs? Their collection is what makes the Leu Gardens an important stop for tourists like Ruth and me who aren’t in Orlando for massive theme parks but looking for non-Disney-like attractions. However, we did encounter a lot of Orlandoans at Leu Gardens where most parking places were filled and a wedding was scheduled for later in the day.
I actually first heard about Leu Gardens from Atlas Obscura, which is always looking, like us, for offbeat places to visit. This is not exactly an offbeat attraction, but it is an unusual garden because of its flora diversity. There are over 40 plant collections from all over the world here. Gardener Ruth and I saw unusual bromeliads, Camphor and Tower Trees, ginger producing plants, a burst of bamboo as beautiful as anything we saw in Japan, etc.
The Leus reportedly doted on camellias. Their collection of them is now the largest documented one in Eastern North America with more than 200 varieties. Unfortunately, camellias only bloom from mid October through March in this part of the state. But because this IS tropical Florida, there is always something blooming and fun to see in Leu Gardens. The one exception to this is roses, which don’t do especially well in hot, humid places. Despite this, Leu Gardens boasts the largest formal rose garden in Florida.
We enjoyed wandering among the plants and trees but could not take a tour of the Leu’s home because it was closed due to Hurricane Irma. The damage she caused has still not been repaired. We did, however, happen to be here on the day that Ikebana enthusiasts were showing their exotic floral arrangements. This helped to make our visit to this 5 Compass garden even more exotic.