Orlando's Leu Gardens

Intro / Description

Do you enjoy gardening?  Flower or landscape photography?  Historical sites?  Then Leu Gardens in downtown Orlando, is a place you should check out. It’s a 50 acre park on the grounds of the former home of Harry P. Leu, who donated the property to the city in 1961.

Hibiscus and sky
Hibiscus and sky

There are about 40 different plant collections in the park including aroids, azaleas, bamboo, bananas, bromeliads, camellias, citrus, conifers, crepe myrtles, conifers, cycads, ferns, flowering shrubs, flowering trees, gingers, heliconias, hibiscus and mallows,magnolias, ornamental grasses, palms,perennials, roses, trees, and vines.  Many are labeled to help you figure out what you’re looking at.  Various pieces of sculpture are also located around the garden as well as some interesting planters.

Planter
Pot Heads:  Heads full of flowers:  A Leu Gardens Planter

The gardens are arranged in sometimes geometrical layouts which can lead to interesting photos.  These include the butterfly, kitchen, rose, and palm gardens along with many others.  And don’t forget to see the fairly famous floral clock!

The Leu House Museum has been restored and is on the National Historical Register.  It’s open for tours on the half hour starting at 10am (except in July when it’s closed for refurbishment).

Info for Photographers

Leu Gardens is very photo friendly.  Photography and video is permitted for personal, non-commercial use, but commercial photography requires approval in advance.

The house at the end of the lane
The house at the end of the lane on one end of the gardens.  False color IR photograph.

Photo hints:

A leisurely stroll through the grounds is the best way to find photo opportunities and will take you an hour or two.  Make sure you carry your gear with you.  The parking lot is too far to go back to if you want to switch lenses or grab a flash.  Speaking of flash – some of the flowers are located in very shaded areas.  I found myself making photos with my camera in my right hand and a flash in my left to help light my subjects.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee gathers pollen at Leu Gardens

Tripod/Monopod:

Tripods are allowed and would be good for all the normal reasons.  I didn’t bring one either time I visited.  I know, I know – I should have, but I was just carrying too much already.

Lenses:

You’ll want to have your macro and wide-angle lenses with you.  A longer macro will be most helpful.  Not all the blooms and interesting plants are right next to the paths.  And a longer distance to your subject will scare fewer insects away.

Best time to visit:

They’re open all year except Christmas day. Hours are 9am to 5pm.  There are different plants blooming year round.  Here’s a partial list by season (info from the Leu Gardens Map and Visitors Guide):

Spring  roses, hibiscus, day lilies, gardenias, trumpet trees, azaleas, citrus
Summer  roses, hibiscus, ginger, heliconias, canna, magnolia, crepe myrtle, banana, cassia, bird of paradise
Autumn roses, floss silk tree, cassia, hibiscus, ginger, helconia, bottlebrush tree
Winter  camellia, pink trumpet tree, azaleas, orchid tree

They occasionally host flower shows.  If you can catch one of those, you’ll be in for some extra treats.

Leu Gardens can be a very popular place, especially on weekends and during wedding season.  I visited once when two weddings were taking place and almost got knocked over by two photographers running backwards photographing a wedding party.  The weddings can sometimes block off areas in the park too.  Another time I visited was on a Friday morning and I had most of the place to myself.  So I’d suggest you try to avoid the weekends and weddings if you can.

Other:

Adult admission is $7.00, children in grades K – 12 are $2.00.  If you can visit on the first Monday of the month, admission is free.

I did see some birds there during my visit including Cardinals, Woodpeckers, and Northern Mockingbirds, among others.  And the birdsong adds a nice soundtrack to your stroll.

Summary

Please visit my Leu Gardens set on Flickr to see more examples of the photo ops you might find there.  I’m sure if you go, you come up with many others.  If you do, let me know about it.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157629660062855/with/7012298391/
Website:  http://www.leugardens.org/index.htm
Address / Phone: 1920 North Forest Avenue, Orlando, FL; Phone: 407-246-2620
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  Botanical beauty.  A great place for a walk with many fine photo opportunities.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

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