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The Henry Nehrling Society

June 23rd, 2008 · 2 Comments

A Wisconsin schoolteacher named Henry Nehrling purchased 40 acres of land in the Town of Gotha in 1885 to grow tropical and sub-tropical plants outside year round. He was also a horticulturalist, an ornithologist, and his Palm Cottage Gardens on Hempel Avenue was a popular tourist destination at the turn of the century which had visits from the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and David Fairchild. Today, only 6 acres remain of the original garden.

Dr. Nehrling tested over 3,000 new and rare plant species at the garden. He also introduced over 300 beneficial plants to the local landscape which include caladium, hybrid amaryllis, and gloriosa lillies. Dr. Nehrling is also considered to be the father of caladiums.

A local group called the Henry Nehrling Society works to preserve his Gotha home and gardens. The group also provides a history and horticultural education center. Their site also offers an in depth history of Gotha which include Dr. Nehrling as well as the Nally family who also became enthralled by gloriosa lillies. What a great organization here in SW Orlando.

Here’s the links to become a member, donate, or volunteer.

Watch Video: Saving “Dreamland”: Henry Nehrling’s Florida

Tags: Places in SW Orlando · SW Orlando History

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Adora Mitchell Bayles // Aug 9, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I am writing the sequel to my book, “Wagons South!” and need a list of breeders and varieties of caladiums bred by these breeders from 1929 (Time of Dr. Henry Nehrling’s death) until 1954. The original book is about my father J.D. Mitchell and Dr. Nehrling, who was his mentor. Mitchell learned about caladium culture from Dr. Nehrling as a lad and later made a fortune as a grower and breeder. “The Caladium Kings,” sequel to “Wagons South!” will contain Adolph Leitze, Dr. Nehrling, J.D. Mitchell as the chronological Caladium Kings and Vivian “Boots” Holmes, as First Lady of Caladiums. Surely, there is a list somewhere of these varieties in a legal document somewhere! Can you help me?
    Thank you.
    Adora Mitchell Bayles
    100 River Road Apt 112
    Wilton, CT 06897
    PS Most breeder history only dates back to Dr Gary Wilfret of Happiness Farms in Lake Placid, Florida. I need earlier history.

  • 2 Theresa Schretzmann-Myers // Jul 7, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Adora, if you check out Dr. Nehrling’s original antique book from the library, “The Plant World in Florida,” pp. 261 under “Caladiums” he writes,”The fancy-leaved Caladiums originally came from Para, on the Amazon, and are among the most brilliant and fascinating of foliage plants. They grow easily in South Florida in rich, moist soil, and prior to the disatrous freeze of 1917, I had about two thousand named varieties in my plant houses at Gotha. The display they made was exquisite. On entering the first house, visitors frequently exclaimed: “What immense masses of Caladiums!” “Yes,” I would answer, “but these bright and showy as they are, consist only of the wild species which take care of themselves, dying away for a time in the summer, but coming up stronger and more luxuriant with with every November.” These Caladiums grew to great size, some of the leaves a full two feet in diameter and big enough to serve as an umbrella. The vivid red, yellow, purse white and transparent colors outrival the autumnal colors of the north. In another part of the plant house were the newer varieties, of which I had about fifty with beautiful foliage, pure white, rich pink and scarlet. These colors come in every combination and shading, edged and spotted with various shades of green.” He also talks about them in his original antique books, “My Garden In Florida Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.” You can research Dr. Nehrling’s more extensive research notes and seed journals in the Nehrling archival collections at Rollins College Olin Library and UCF Library. Dr. Nehrling’s great grandson Richard Nehrling may also be able to supply you with a list of his caladium varieties.