One of the defining features of the old Cypress Gardens was the botanical gardens and LEGOLAND Florida has retained a large proportion of it as an additional “land”. They have repaired the bridges and generally tidied up the canals and gardens and hope to draw more people into the gardens possibly with treasure hunts or even LEGO figures.
When LEGOLAND Florida opened it was called the Botanical Gardens but it has now been renamed back to Cypress Gardens.
To start with the fate of the famous Southern Belles was uncertain but they have been replaced by LEGO models of the belles instead.
The origins of the Southern Belles dates back to the very early days of the park. In 1940 a cold snap killed some vines by the main park entrance so the idea was put forward to dress young ladies in traditional Antebellum dresses and lace parasols to distract the visitors from seeing the dead plants by the entrance and they became an integral part of Cypress Gardens throughout its long history.
The gardens contain many exotic plants as well as native species like azaleas and camellias. One of the landmarks is a giant Banyan tree (native to India) that was planted as a seedling way back in 1939.
Botanical Gardens History
The Botanical Gardens is how Cypress Gardens started in the first place. Cypress Gardens first opened on January 2, 1936, as a beautifully landscaped botanical garden designed by Dick and Julie Pope, the original owners. It contained a combination of over 8,000 native and exotic species.
The gardens run down to the shores of Lake Eloise lined by Cypress trees. There is a man-made canal which runs through the gardens and you used to be able to take an electric boat tour around the gardens along the canal.
Over the years the trees and shrubs have matured and today it is a well established garden with a riot of colour from the many flower formal beds.
The gardens themselves are owned by Polk County and are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.