Bayfront Garden Tours
Available January 16 - May 31
This walking tour led by volunteer guides will introduce you to interesting botanical specimens on the estate while providing a historic overview of the development of the estate. The Ringling Arboretum has been accredited at Level II through ArbNet and there are over 2350 trees within the arboretum representing native, exotic, historical, and culturally significant trees.
Garden Tours are available Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays and will take place entirely outdoors. It is 90 minutes in length and covers approximately 1 mile. We encourage visitors to bring bottled water, and wear appropriate footwear, preferably closed-toe, sunblock, and hats. There will be a maximum of 10 participants per tour. Masks are required of all participants, as well as social distancing. Tours are subject to weather conditions. Tickets will be availabe 30 days prior to each tour. Please check it at the Visitors Pavilion prior to your tour.
$15 / $10 for Members
While visiting The Ringling you are welcome to explore the Bayfront Gardens at your leisure. As awe-inspiring as any work of art, The Ringling Bayfront Gardens are a living treasure. Courting couples statuary watch over Mable Ringling's Rose Garden. The shade the majestic Banyan trees provide. The delight inspired by the whimsy of the Dwarf Garden. The echoes from the past where the Circus King finally rests in the Secret Garden. Enjoy the cooling breezes that blow along the bayfront promenade and Millennium Tree Trail. This is a place of nature’s making and man’s design.
The Ringling Arboretum
The Ringling Arboretum is situated on the grounds of the Ringling estate, a 66 acre complex of museums, theaters, historic mansion, and distinctive gardens. There are over 2350 trees within the arboretum representing native, exotic, historical, and culturally significant trees. The Ringling Arboretum has been accredited at Level II through ArbNet. Explore the Ringling on Treekeeper
The mission of The Ringling Arboretum is to provide an environment relating to trees that inspires, educates, and entertains our visitors.
Goals and Objectives
► To preserve and care for the trees currently inhabiting the arboretum space.
► To add and care for new species, both native and exotic.
► To educate visitors about basic tree maintenance, care, and local viability.
► To celebrate trees through events within the arboretum and in the surrounding community.
► To allow private or business groups and/or individuals to submit ideas, proposals, or donations for the arboretum in order to encourage community involvement.
► To allow approved volunteer groups and/or individuals to work in the arboretum by assisting with the care and maintenance of the trees, plants and general landscape.
Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden
With the help of many dedicated volunteers we cut back all of the roses every February and October. During the cutback process, an organic fertilizer is applied and at times a strong odor may be detected. During the spring clean-out we also remove mulch, add compost, and re-mulch. Upon completion of the cut back there are very few blooms. A nice flush of new blooms is expected approximately six weeks after each cut back.
It is one of the loveliest, most fragrant spots on the Ringling estate and one of its very first works of art. Completed in 1913, the 27,225 square foot Rose Garden is Italian inspired, its circular design patterned after a wagon wheel, its pathways lined with garden sculptures of courting couples in pastoral scenes. But when the estate fell into disrepair in the late thirties and early forties, the garden was one of the victim’s.
When restoration began, horticulturist Ron Mallory made it his personal mission to return the Rose Garden to its former glory. He recruited volunteers whose work revived the beds, earning the garden accreditation from the All-American Rose Selections in 2004 and recognition in 2006 as the most outstanding All-American Rose Selections Public Rose Garden in the nation.
While none of the original roses planted by Mable survive, some of the 450 rose plants are of the same varieties she planted. Today, the garden consists of roses introduced between 1752 and 2020, among them being Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Grandifloras, Shrubs, and Old Garden Roses.
The Secret Garden
Just north of Ca’ d’Zan is Mable’s Secret Garden, where she, John and his sister Ida Ringling North are buried. Mable created this garden with plants given to her by friends and neighbors during her winters at Ca’ d’Zan. She enjoyed entertaining her guests by taking them on tours. Today, thanks in large part to the efforts of The Driftwood Circle of the Sarasota Garden Club, varieties of Bromeliads, Philliline Violets and Variegated Bougainvilleas thrive.
The Dwarf Garden
Reminiscent of romantic 18th- and 19th-century German and Italian gardens, the Dwarf Garden is peopled with amusing stone statues that John Ringling had brought from Italy. Though modest and discreet, the statues serve as a symbolic link bonding the visual and performing arts celebrated at the Ringling.
Originally installed by the Museum’s second director, Kenneth Donohue, the Dwarf Garden sat between the north wing of the Museum of Art and the free standing building that housed The Historic Asolo Theater from 1958 to 2004. When the Theater was later moved into the Visitor Pavilion, the Dwarf Garden was relocated next to the Visitor Pavilion, where it continues to delight visitors.
The Estate’s Trees
Mable envisioned an estate with exotic trees and plants, and collected them with the same passion that her husband collected art. To wander the estate today is to wander through a 66-acre garden of trees, among them 14 Banyan, the largest collection in Florida; one Shaving Brush; one Tiger Claw; one Bunya Pine; one Rainbow Eucalyptus; and 6 varieties of bamboo.
The Bayfront Promenade and Millennium Tree Trail
Thanks to a generous donation from David F. Bolger, a bayfront promenade was developed in 2010, which connects Ca’ d’Zan to the Millennium Tree Trail at the southern end of the estate. Created to mark the year 2000, the trail provides a welcome respite from the intense Florida sun, and showcases a wide variety of trees, including oak, holly, citrus and magnolia.
Marrying perfectly with the Renaissance-style of the Museum of Art, the Courtyard embodies the ideals of the Renaissance garden. U-shaped, it has long loggias flanking a central courtyard that features bronze and stone copies of famous Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque sculptures, among them, at its heart, Michelangelo’s David. The courtyard consists of three, tiered terraces with turf, low-growing juniper and slash pines. The west end of the courtyard is home to a moat flanked by statues of reclining figures representing the Nile and Tiber, the great rivers of Egypt and Rome.