; Rhoade on his red bicycle told me a little about the mission to try and save Nehrling Gardens. The Gardens are the former home of famed horticulturalist Henry Nehrling, who purchased the property in 1885 to establish a garden where he could experiment with tropical and subtropical plants year round. It is located in Gotha, Florida, a small community near Orlando that was founded by German Americans in the 1870s. The 1880s frame vernacular style home and semi-detached kitchen were moved by ox-cart to the site in the early 1900s.
Palm Cottage Gardens was Florida's first experimental botanical garden where Dr. Nehrling tested over 3,000 new and rare plants for the USDA. By the early 1900s it was a popular destination for thousands of tourists, nature lovers, and new Florida settlers. Many prominent people of the era, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Liberty Hyde Bailey, Theodore Mead and Dr. David Fairchild, marveled at the garden and celebrated Nehrling's extraordinary work. Of the 60 plus acres purchased by Henry Nehrling between 1885 and 1897, only the 6-acre homestead site remains; a portion of this extends into Lake Nally. Remnants of the original 100-year old tree canopy and many of his plantings still exist, and the house is a charming and authentic example of pioneer Florida life.
The Mission of the Henry Nehrling Society is to preserve Dr. Nehrling's historic home and gardens in Gotha, Florida, and provide a History and Horticultural Education Center focusing on environmental conservation and to:
- Honor Dr. Nehrling's horticultural and ornithological achievements.
- Preserve the remaining historical home and gardens in Gotha, Florida.
- Recognize the community's historical and German-American cultural heritage.
- Teach environmentally sound gardening and landscaping practices through horticultural classes and demonstration gardens; provide education for wetlands restoration and conservation.