The grounds of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens were originally the home to William and Marie Selby that was given to the public by Marie upon her death in 1971. Officially open to the public since 1975, has more than doubled in size since the Selby family bequeathed the grounds to the public, from seven acres to an impressive fifteen, sitting on a beautiful bayfront property. Across eight greenhouses, the gardens boast more than 20,000 plants, with numerous others spanning the outdoor gardens. Selby is a leading botanical garden for the study and the conservation of plant species, and they are the only gardens in the United States to have a specialization on epiphytic plants, or ‘air plants,’ so named due to their growth on the surface of other with no connection to the ground and soil. The gardens are best known for their orchids, of which they boast a collection of more than 6,000. The living museum is committed to doing their part with environmental conservation, not only through the education of the public or conservation of species, but through recycling and water conservation as well. Many areas of the gardens are watered via rainwater that is collected in a 55,000 gallon reservoir and they strive to have their many publications produced using at least 30% recycled material. They also give financial assistance in the form of donations to protect areas of the world in which biodiversity is threatened, one of which was to the non-profit organization Rainforest Trust which served to protect 10,000 acres of land. The modest, Spanish-style house on the grounds of the gardens was built by the Selby’s in the early 1920s, marking the beginning of the grounds’ journey to what it is today. Marie and her husband were both avid nature lovers and the emphasis on their property was quite plainly the landscaping, of which Marie was in charge of. Mrs. Selby wanted to connect people with nature and preserve the beauty of the Sarasota Bayfront, eventually building a wall of bamboo along the bay to block her view of condominiums that, as she saw it, were an affront to the beauty. In 1955, one year before his death, Bill Selby started the William and Marie Selby Foundation. Having never had children of their own, Mr. and Mrs. Selby wanted help give the younger generations the education they needed through scholarships and grants. Mr. Selby set up the foundation with $3,000,000, and after his death when Marie became more involved, she often would personally match grants or scholarships with her own money, effectively doubling the amount given. Since its founding, the Foundation has offered financial assistance to both organizations and individuals in excess of $120,000,000, contributing nearly $3,000,000 per year.
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