By Josie Gulliksen and Yours Truly
South Florida has a host of impressive gardens and homes that provide a glimpse into the area’s history. Stretching from Homestead to Palm Beach, here is an update of last year’s article with several new additions. Plus, a special experience at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
Gardens by Moonlight, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Take advantage of a rare opportunity to visit the Main House of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 3251 South Miami Avenue, at night during the Overload edition of Gardens by Moonlight. In addition to complimentary tours of the gardens, explore the museum’s Contemporary Arts Program exhibition ‘Overload,’ an immersive and sensory installations from international, national and local artists. February 28 at 6 p.m.
El Cid Historic District
Built in the 1920s, El Cid’s setting, design materials and scale reflect its development during the Florida Land Boom era of the mid-20’s. Like most of Florida, it was a victim of the 20th century Florida boom and bust economic cycle and after the 1928 hurricane, little construction occurred.
El Cid is a waterfront community in West Palm Beach known for its large, ornate Mediterranean and Spanish Mission-style homes and recognized by designers and architecture buffs throughout the country. Once a pineapple plantation, this area is home to some of the most prominent families in West Palm Beach. Every home has lush landscaping, and due to its beauty, preservation and nearly 100-year history, the entire district is listed on the local, State, and National Register of Historic Places. Wander through the property and you’ll find 281 historic buildings and homes, including the Norton Museum of Art and the 1.7-acre Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.
El Cid Historic District is a 500-acre neighborhood bound by Flamingo Dr., South Flagler Dr., Dyer Rd. and S. Dixie Hwy. in West Palm Beach, Florida. https://elcidhistoric.org
Key West Garden Club
Visitors to the Key West Garden Club and the Joe Allen Garden Center, the club’s meeting and educational facility, are invited to stroll the brick pathways through graceful arched courtyards and lush, colorful foliage of the West Martello Tower, a Civil War fort and a National Historic Site. Although the gardens were devastated due to Hurricane Irma, Garden Club volunteers redesigned and replanted accordingly.
Highlights are the totally replanted Butterfly garden, which attracts up to 20 different types of butterflies thanks to the planting of more diverse host and nectar plants. There is also a newly created white perfumed garden inside the inner courtyard, with many different types of Jasmin and gardenia to awaken the senses. Plus, a totally new garden featuring prehistoric plants that can live to 1,000 years and are beautifully sculptural.
In place of the Strangler Fig lost to Irma, there is a large pool and fountain, book-ended with two stands of dramatic Black Bamboo, each featuring red lipstick palms on either side. Head to the top of the hill where overlooking the ocean, are native trees, shrubs and wild flowers.
Guided tours will be offered Feb. 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Key West Garden Club is located where White St. meets the Atlantic Ocean. Open every day 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (305) 294-3210. http://www.keywestgardenclub.com
The Villagers at Douglas Entrance
When a group of Miami locals gathered together to save Douglas Entrance in 1966, a preservation group was created – and today, that group is called The Villagers. As advocates for the Greater Miami area, this group is a volunteer, non-profit 501(c) 3 organization that has dedicated itself to the restoration and preservation of historic places in Miami, including spots like Pinecrest Gardens, The Kampong, Montgomery Botanical Center, Miami-Dade Courthouse and more.
Every year, this organization hosts one house and one garden tour, the proceeds from which benefit the preservation of historic properties and funds scholarships for students interested in historic preservation. The House Tour usually has a theme centered on a certain time period or design style, and features some of the city’s most beautiful and interesting homes. Every property will have a dedicated guide, and in terms of transportation, visitors can walk or drive to the various properties featured on the tour.
A Rendezvous in the Redland, The Villagers’ 2018 Garden Tour, is March 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Two expansive and multidimensional properties will feature an extensive collection of orchids, Asian-inspired accents, water features, restored hardwood hammock, paths, pools and tropical plants, as well as several unique properties throughout 20+ acres. Members of The Villagers will be on hand to guide tour-goers through the South Miami-Dade Redland sites located at 21900 SW 157 Ave and 28100 SW 181 Avenue.
Visitors drive their own vehicles between the properties and the venues cannot accommodate wheelchairs, walkers or strollers. Carpooling and flat, comfortable walking shoes are encouraged. There is no smoking or commercial photography.
Tickets are $30, advance purchase and $35 the day of the tour, if not sold out, and are available through Villagers’ members or online (with a $2 service fee), at www.thevillagersinc.org.
Mounts Botanical Garden of Palm Beach
Mounts Botanical Garden, in West Palm Beach, is the oldest and largest public botanical garden in all of the Palm Beaches. Walk through its colorful grounds, and you’ll find endless collections of rare and vibrant gardens: like the O’Keeffe Rain Garden, the Rose and Fragrance Garden, the “Garden of Well Being,” the Mediterranean Garden, the Tropical Forest, Children’s Maze, An Edible Landscape, Windows on the Floating World – Blume Tropical Wetland Garden, the new Tranquility Garden and much, much more. Staying true to its commitment to the environment, Mounts Botanical Garden only grows and displays plants and materials that are green-friendly. Most special about this unique destination, however? In the midst of all its natural beauty, these gardens are a place for visitors to learn about – and appreciate – art, science, nature, and of course, gardening.
Mounts Botanical Garden is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members get in for free, and tickets are sold to the general public for a suggested $5 per person, with the last one sold at 3:30 p.m. Guided tours are led by specially-trained Mounts Docents. They can be scheduled in advance and are available for groups of 10 or more. These tours are priced at $15 per adult and $10 per child over the age of 5.
Mounts Botanical Garden is located at 531 North Military Trail, West Palm Beach, FL 33415. For more information, or to learn more about its beautiful gardens, click here or call the office at (561) 233-1757.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
By the time early settler Hugh Taylor Birch purchased the Bonnet House site in 1895, the grounds had already witnessed 4,000 years of Florida history. Bonnet House’s modern history began when Birch gave the Bonnet House property as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett in 1919.
Frederic Clay Bartlett created Bonnet House in 1920 on South Florida oceanfront land given to him and his second wife, Helen Louise Birch, by her father, Hugh Taylor Birch, a prominent Chicago attorney, real estate investor, and naturalist. Tragedy struck in 1925 when Helen died from breast cancer and in 1931 Frederic married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. She spent winters at Bonnet House until 1995. Together they embellished Bonnet House with the decorative elements that delight visitors to this day.Today, the estate is a preeminent house museum dedicated not only to historic and environmental preservation, but also to learning and creative expression – much like the Bartletts and Birches themselves.
Guided nature trail tram tours which last approximately 25 minutes are offered throughout the day. They are an additional $4 or take a self-guided nature tour with the $10 garden admission or $20 house and garden admission price. 900 North Birch Road Fort Lauderdale, (954) 563-5393 http://www.bonnethouse.org
40 years ago, the Fraga Family arrived from Spain where they had been for 10 years after leaving Cuba. What they created has become a garden experience with white glove service and an ambience that evokes the founders love of working with his hands to create a beautiful landscape. Walk through its topiary-lined entrance, and be awestruck by the shapes you find: topiaries as teddy bears, giraffes, porpoises and even alligators. Inside, a greenhouse is filled with orchids, bromeliads, ferns, palms, hostas and more. No matter where you are on property, it’s abundantly clear that, at Fraga’s, every plant is very well cared for; the property itself is a testament to nature as much as it is a business that sell plants. The nursery is named for the family that owns it, and today, it is run by Otto and Norma Fraga, who founded the business. Today, son Robert shapes the topiaries and his sister Vivian runs the business.
Fraga’s Nursery is located at 12300 SW 46th Street, Miami, FL 33175. It is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There are no formal tours, but the Fraga family is always available to take you through the property. For more information about Fraga’s Nursery, visit the nursery’s website or call (305) 559-9555.
Family owned and operated since 1977, Bullis Bromeliads resides and continues to grow on over 25 acres of land with over 18 acres of shade houses and 2.5 acres of greenhouses. Traditionally known for producing large bromeliads, Bullis specializes in the largest selection of Aechmea and Neoregelia species and hybrids in the market. Over the years, Bullis has introduced thousands of new hybrids with hundreds in production. They currently hold dozens of U.S. Patents and have many to come for the future. The most popular bromeliads they are known for are Aechmea Blue Tango (P.) and Del Mar (P.), as well as dozens of Neoregelia’s such as Donger (P.), and Maria (P.), and Valentines (P.).
Bullis Bromeliads is a wholesale nursery located at 24350 SW 147th Avenue, Princeton, FL 33032 and open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Retail purchases can be made by appointment on Fridays only by calling (305) 258-8932. There is no formal tour, but there is always someone onsite who can show you around. You can also wander the front garden and waterfall area or take a rest under their wraparound patio. For more information about the nursery, or to find out what plant species they currently have available, visit the Bullis Bromeliads website.
Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens was established in 1977 by Ann Weaver Norton to preserve the Historically Registered house and surrounding gardens in West Palm Beach where the artist lived from 1948 until 1982. The rare palm and sculpture gardens, exhibition galleries and artist’s studio provide a unique opportunity to experience the sculptor’s holistic vision in its intended setting.
Displayed throughout the house, studio and gardens are more than 100 works by the artist, including nine monumental sculptures, eight in brick and one in granite. Ann Norton’s monumental, silent, mysterious sculptures built over a period of 15 years were intended to be discovered as surprises amidst the dense, jungle-like vegetation.
The Gardens, at the request of Ann Norton were designed by world-renowned botanist Sir Peter Smithers as a rare palm garden, to represent her commitment to conservation and the preservation of a quiet retreat in the midst of a burgeoning city. The Gardens’ assemblage of over 250 rare palm species, cycads and unusual tropicals is recognized as one of the largest public collections in Florida.
Also on property is Ann Norton’s studio, created over four decades and featuring her works in bronze, stone, and wood as well as larger than life models, armatures, and studies done for her larger works.
Located at 2051 S. Flagler Drive in the historic El Cid neighborhood of West Palm Beach, the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens are open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members are free, $15 for non-member adults, $10 for seniors (age 65 and older), $7 for students, and children under five are free. Special event pricing varies. Gallery and garden exhibition talks are available on Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Gardens are closed on major holidays. For more information, please visit www.ansg.org or call 561-832-5328.
Fort Lauderdale Garden Club
Enjoy the splendor of South Florida gardening at its best and see the hidden treasures inside the walled gardens. The tour showcases six beautiful gardens and allows a peek into two homes in prestigious areas of Fort Lauderdale. Stroll through a garden replete with fountains bubbling away and a cascading pool on the water featuring an artistic mix of plants andsculptures in a Middle River garden. Also on the tour, a townhouse and garden that will soon be featured in a designer magazine and a look at the craftsmanship and creativity in a “Before and After” home and garden plus plantings and hardscape in a contemporary garden. For added educational value, a Florida-friendly landscape certified by the National Wildlife Federation and Naturescape Broward demonstrates that even in an urban setting, a yard can be a haven for native wildlife.
Visit the “Flower Garden” and enjoy light refreshments and explore the flowering plants, books and gardening tools offered by the “Garden Shoppe” and other selected nurseries and garden suppliers.
These gardens and homes are privately owned, not open for public viewing except for this exclusive fundraising event to benefit the aims, goals and special projects sponsored by Fort Lauderdale Garden Club, Inc. Fort Laudable Garden Club, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Date: Saturday, February 24, 2018
Time: Tour anytime at your leisure between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm
Location: Rio Vista, Victoria Park, Sunrise Intracoastal
Tickets: $25 if purchased in advance; $30 day of tour, if available. Tickets are limited.
Available online at www.flgc.org