Original estimates on the damage Leu Gardens experienced from Hurricane Irma seem to have been drastically low-balled.

Leu Gardens Director Robert Bowden told his Board of Directors early Wednesday morning that his staff has performed a comprehensive inventory of the grounds and estimate that roughly 190 trees will need to be removed by FEMA before they reopen to the public. An additional 40 trees will be handled by Leu staff. Some of the trees identified as damaged will simply be pruned, but the vast majority will need to be cut down.

This sapling from the Liberty Tree at Magic Kingdom split in half and will need to be removed

The staff has been hard at work since the hurricane to move debris from the majority of the Gardens to the western section of the property where it will be taken away by a contractor in the coming months. It took roughly 90 days to sort through the same amount of damage following Hurricane Charlie and Bowden estimated that the timetable will be the same.

“You eat an elephant one bite at a time.”
– Robert Bowden

Leu Gardens is scheduled to open roughly half of the property to the public on October 1. The North Woods and camellia sections, and the other 50 percent of the gardens will remain off-limits until further notice. Monday, October 2 happens to be a Free Admission Day and is expected to be fairly busy.

Movie Night at Leu Gardens will still occur on October 6 at 7:30 p.m. They will be screening Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on the main field by the Garden House. Tickets are $6 per adult and $3 per child and you can bring your own wine.

The Holiday House was damaged in the storm and will also remain closed. As such, the Christmas ‘Holiday House’ event has been cancelled this year.

A volunteer cleanup event is taking place on Saturday, September 30 from 8 a.m.-noon. If you haven’t already RSVP’d you cannot just show up to work. They have capped the event at 100 volunteers in order to ensure they have enough staff to work with them so as not to further damage plants that are trapped underneath the debris. If you would like to volunteer at another date, you can reach out to Horticulture Manager, Eric Sondgeroth at [email protected] to sign up your office team or organization.

Editor’s Note: I sit on the Leu Gardens Board of Trustees and all information given to me for this interview is public record and included in the board minutes.

Brendan O'Connor

Editor in Chief of Bungalower.com

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