Image by Darcy Larum

Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida

by Darcy Larum February 5, 2017

Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida

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Located in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Sunken Gardens have been a landmark since 1935, originally named Turner’s Sunken Gardens after its creator George Turner, Sr. In 1903, when Turner purchased the property, he drained a small lake that had filled in over an ancient sinkhole. He then began to fill the rich soil of this drained lake with fruits and exotic plant species. As his garden expanded, friends and local residents would frequently stroll through it. During the 1920’s, his gardens began to have so many visitors that he started charging an admission of 25 cents.

By the 1940’s, the Sunken Gardens become a popular site for outdoor weddings and other events. Then, once the 50’s and 60’s rolled around, Turner and his sons added exotic birds and reptiles to the gardens as well as a gift shop. Throughout the next two decades, the exotic bird aviary continued to expand and draw more visitors to the gardens; it also became a popular location for magazine model photo shoots. Sadly, in the 1980’s, visitor numbers plummeted because of the increasing popularity of theme parks in Florida, and the Turner family put the Sunken Gardens up for sale in 1989. However, due to the love for which the locals felt towards the Sunken Gardens, funds were raised so that the city of St. Petersburg could purchase the gardens.

Today, the gardens are still a popular site for weddings and other events. They also offer horticulture programs and workshops for adults and children. Though, many of the exotic birds and reptiles were sold by the Turner family before they sold the property, there are still some bird and turtle exhibits tucked throughout the gardens, although plant life and education is now its main focus.

Visitors can stroll down a mile of meandering pathways lined with native and exotic plants. The Sunken Gardens feature a small exotic bird aviary, a flamingo pond, a koi pond, waterfalls, arched bridges, a Japanese garden, a butterfly garden, an orchid arbor, gift shop and a large wedding or event lawn. Plant life visitors can see and learn about over 10 varieties of palm and many different species of plants that include:

  • Cacti and succulents
  • Orchids
  • Bromeliads
  • Crotons
  • Allspice
  • Angel’s trumpet
  • Tree ferns
  • Banana trees
  • Bird of paradise
  • Bougainvillea
  • Camellias
  • Plumeria
  • Hibiscus
  • Gardenia
  • Lobster claw
  • Live oak
  • Hong Kong orchid tree
  • Mexican breadfruit
  • Spathiphyllium
  • Pothos
  • Sapodilla trees
  • Staghorn ferns
  • Timber bamboo
  • Star fruit
  • Papaya

The gardens are open Monday- Saturday from 10am-4:30pm and Sundays from noon-4:30pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $4 for children 2-11 years old. For more information about their children’s programs, classes, workshops or event scheduling, visit their website.

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