In 1884, Henry Nehrling purchased 40 acres in the newly-formed German-American community of Gotha in Orange County, Florida. The garden, begun in 1886, ultimately became Florida’s first experimental botanical garden, where Nehrling tested over 3000 new and rare plants for the United States Department of Agriculture. Over 300 of these beneficial plants were introduced into Florida’s landscape, including palms, cycads, caladiums, hybrid amaryllis, hybrid magnolias, crinum lilies, camellias, bromeliads, Indian hawthorn, bamboos, and gloriosa lilies.
Dr. Nehrling's Palm Cottage Gardens soon became a popular destination for tourists, new Florida settlers, and prominent botanists and figures of the day. Following Dr. Nehrling's death in 1929, the Palm Cottage Gardens languished until Julian Nally purchased them in 1934. Nally, a pioneer in bromeliad propagation, added several greenhouses to the property and continued Dr. Nehrling's mission until his death in 1977.
The remaining 6-acre core of the garden was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.