When Marie Selby Botanical Gardens decides to transform its gardens, it goes all the way.

This time to Tahiti, Paul Gauguin’s Tahiti.

Lean-tos, Tiki gods, dugout canoes and even a few mountains have transformed Marie Selby Botanical Gardens as never before.

The orchid house has undergone the biggest transformation, but it will not be open to the public until Sunday.

Two weeks of clearing out, some construction work and the installation of countless new plants not necessarily of the orchid genus have resulted in a stunning transformation that would likely be approved even by Marie and Bill Selby.

Angel Lara was the Selby expert in charge of this transformation, which was so amazing that Gauguin’s great-granddaughter Mette Gauguin, also an artist, was flown in to check it out.

Visitors to the grounds will find spectacular changes there today, Saturday, Feb. 9. Those who attend Saturday evening’s annual Orchid Ball will be the first to see more than the gardens until Sunday, Feb. 10 when all of Selby will be open to the public, including the Christy Payne Mansion where paintings by Gauguin, postcards from Tahiti circa 1890, family photos and more are on display.

A man from Pensacola was hired to hand carve several dugout canoes for inclusion in the exhibit and someone else crafted Tikis that have been placed throughout the gardens and some very large statues, which pay homage to Tahitian gods.

Selby Gardens has 800 volunteers, many of whom work in the gardens, plus the staff of top horticulturists.

Gauguin is known for his colorful artwork. That obviously was the inspiration for this exhibit which features so many reds and oranges and yellows that the temperature in the greenhouse usually used for an orchid display seemed warmer than ever Thursday morning for a special press preview.

The exhibit begins at the entrance where pillars have been wrapped in printed Tapa cloth to set the mood and a “painting” of colorful flowers has been mounted on the wall to the left of the main entry doors.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is at 813 S. Palm Ave., along the Bayfront in downtown Sarasota. Admission is free for members, $10 for guests of members, $20 for adults, $10 for those aged 4-17, and free for those 3 and under. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit: Selby.org.

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