Vizcaya is a fantastical treat! Upon entering the gates of this grand artistic dream, we were met by quirky reminders of what once was. Before you even enter the gardens, near the information center was a dried moat that really got us wondering… what is this place? We couldn’t wait to find out. Vizcaya was our fifth stop on The Photo Garden Bee tour of 09 and the most surprising of all the gardens we visited.
We began our tour of this Miami, Florida landmark at the back of the house where we were instantly transported from the Biscayne Bay to Venice. As impressive as this is, we had no idea it was just the beginning. The house is built right up to water and to each side there are armed wings with Venetian bridges and a tea house.
The bay of course has a barge that waits for those with a means to get there. It also a acts as a way of breaking the water in order to protect the home. This stunning Miami palace was the residence of James Deering. He used his sizable wealth from being a major maker of agricultural equipment to join the ranks of grand estate builders in America during the early industrialist age.
He hired several architects and designers to create the massive undertaking to be supervised by Paul Chalfin. The project soon turned into a vast collection of antiquities that were shipped back to Miami even during the war. Just after the death of Deering, the great hurricane of 1926 hit and devastated the property. This began decades of minimal upkeep due to the lack of appropriate staff and the great depression. Currently it is working on a rebirth.
One of the amazing things about this place is that it feels centuries old despite being built less than a hundred years ago. The look was Deering’s idea. He wanted Vizcaya to encapsulate the feel of history and family lineage that comes with a European property. What’s unique is that the grounds were built to emulate antiquity, the hurricane simply added the effect.
I love this place. After our bay-side venetian interlude, we headed down a white path and into a secret garden bursting with the color of “red sister” against yellow ochre stucco and beautifully carved local limestone. I’ve seen this plant before but never so wonderfully placed. According to Vizcaya’s Chief Horticulturist of Historic Landscapes here, the Hawaiian “Red Sister” or Ti Cordyline australis is very common, “but very tough, and usually isn’t grown well so it looks stalky and anemic. I took the opportunity to use a common plant in an unusual way, and do our best to grow it well. The Secret Garden can be bleak, and at the time Ihad no precedent to follow for plant materials, so I decided to have some fun.”
The Secret Garden is a distinct seaside garden complete with shell ornamental wall hangings and sculptures that draw from classical mythology.
The secluded garden was origianally meant to display orchids. I can only image what the aroma would have been like while walking in to such a display. Simpkins’s explains, “The Secret Garden was too hot and windy for orchids, so they scrapped the idea, including the wrought iron trellis they constructed over the stairways” According to Simpkins, the garden was, “modeled after the Secret Garden at the Villa Gamberaia in Settignano, Italy. I was there in August” he adds, “there is a resemblance in the architecture. The stone grotto in the back was designed to drip water.
This intimate space as well as the rest of the gardens were originally designed by Diego Suarez a native of Bogota Colombia who studied architecture in Florence during the early 1900s. The whimsical approach to disparate flora is beautifully combined within this seemingly ancient setting.
At this point in our visit, my husband parted to the cafe as I went to galavant around with camera in hand. I made it as far as the top of the stairs of this garden before calling him on the cell phone, “You will not believe what lies beyond the room we were just in, you have got to see this!”
With camera in hand we headed out to find out – yet again, that this was only just the beginning. This is going to take a few days! In the next few days we will again be delving into more of the magic that awaits, here at Vizcaya.
For more information visit http://www.vizcayamuseum.org/
Britt : )