Some call it St. Petersburg’s ‘oldest living museum’

Birds chirp, as breezes stir through the trees.

Butterflies flutter about and people relax on shaded benches.

This sign, in the Sunken Gardens parking lot, invites passersby to visit the gardens and explore the beauty that awaits. (B.C. Manion)

There is beauty around every bend and there’s no clue, in this tranquil place, that busy Fourth Street North is less than a block away.

There’s plenty to take in at this botanical garden, which dates back more than a century.

Described by some as St. Petersburg’s “oldest living museum,” it boasts some of the region’s oldest tropical plants. It has cascading waterfalls, meandering paths, demonstration gardens, and more than 50,000 topical plants and flowers.

It provides a picturesque backdrop for weddings. It hosts a variety of horticultural and children’s programs. And, it is a frequent destination for school field trips.

You can get a nice close look at some parrots at Sunken Gardens

There’s a bench there, made of fossilized limestone rock, known as the Sunken Gardens Growing Stone. A nearby sign proclaims: “Legend has it that, ‘He who sits upon the ancient stone shall be granted tranquility, inner harmony and the talent to make things grow.’”

All kinds of people spend part of their day here at Sunken Gardens.

Moms push strollers, or walk along, clinging to a small child’s hand.

Friends chat as they make their way through.

If you want to see some gorgeous hibiscus blooms, a stop at Sunken Gardens will satisfy that desire.

Couples share the experience.

And, there are families and nature lovers, too.

Those who want to learn the identity of various plants and flowers can check out the informative signs, and if you have a camera or a smartphone, you’ll find plenty of photo ops, too.

Sunken Gardens got its start in 1903, when George Turner Sr., a plumber and avid gardener, purchased the site, which included a shallow lake that was 10 feet below sea level, according to published historic accounts. He drained the lake to form his private, sunken garden. He also planted papayas and citrus, along with exotic plants on the rich soil on his property.

Don’t just look around and look down at Sunken Gardens. Look up, too. It’ll help you appreciate the many splendors of nature’s grand designs.

By the 1920s, Turner had opened a nursery and began selling fruits, vegetables, roses and other plants. Visitors paid a nickel to stroll through the gardens.

In the fall of 1935, he fenced his garden and began charging a quarter for admission.

Over time, Sunken Gardens became a popular tourist attraction, luring more and more visitors. At one point, it was rated among Florida’s top 10 commercial attractions.

After Turner died in 1961, his sons Ralph and George Jr., took over Sunken Gardens. The attraction eventually was sold to the City of St. Petersburg.

Sunken Gardens has numerous special events during the year. To find out more, visit

Sunken Gardens
Where: 1825 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg
When: Open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 4:30 p.m.
Sunken Gardens is open on most holidays, except it is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Cost: $10/Adults, $8/Seniors (62+), $4/Children (age 2-11). Parking is free.
Children’s Programs: Children’s classes are held on Saturdays beginning at 10:30 am. Location within Sunken Gardens is announced prior to the class date.
Info: (727) 551-3102

Revised August 9, 2018

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