Vizcaya – Florida Adventure Part 1
This past week I was so lucky to be able to attend the Tropical Plant Industry Exibition in Florida. I’ve been wanting to attend for years and this was the year! Thanks to the Florida Nursery, Garden, and Landscape Association for inviting the Garden Writers Association members to join them at the TPIE and for a great bus tour. The bus tour included Vizcaya, the Kampong, and some private homes. Today, I’m going to take you to Vizcaya. What a beautiful place!
Vizcaya was the winter home of James Deering, (1859-1925). In 1880, Deering founded the Deering Harvester Co., in Evanston, Illinois and in 1902 J. P. Morgan helped with the merger of Deering Harvester Co., McCormick Reaper Co., and others to form International Harvester. I’m especially intrigued by this, as I grew up in a rural community and my Dad loved International Harvester tractors. In 1908, Deering retired and in 1910 started making plans to build a winter home in Florida, traveling to Italy to buy antiques and look at the architecture of the homes. In 1912 he bought 130 of the 180 acres that would eventually make up Vizcaya from Mary Brickell. He then began to build a house in the Italian Country Villa style. In 1916 the house was finished and in 1921 the gardens were completed, designed by landscape architect Diego Suarez (1888-1974).
Vizcaya was closed the day we were there and so we had the whole place to ourselves. We were given a tour by the head horticulturist, Ian Simpkins. After being dropped off at the top of a hill, we started the descent towards the house. A fountain flowed down either side of the driveway keeping us company on the way.
As we walked through the arch into the gardens, a beautiful scent greeted us. Our noses led us to a beautiful potted plant I did not recognize. The most unusual part were the flowers. Not only were there beautiful yellow flowers but also white and orange flowers as well on the same plant. It was Gardenia tubifera.
Because the gardens were closed, so was the gift shop. My husband was thankful……
Across from the gift shop is the David Klein orchidarium. This is where some of the 12,000 orchids Vizcaya owns, are displayed. It is hard to see the orchids but they are hung in among the shrubs on either side of the lawn.
Spreading over an enormous area next to the orchidarium is the council tree or Ficus altissima. This is one of the “strangler figs” which start their lives growing up a host tree. Eventually they surround the tree and make it unable to increase in size, thus slowly killing it.
As we move around to the front of the house, which faces Biscayne Bay, the facade of the house is revealed and is stunning. Say nothing of the huge cement ship or barge in the water. We were told the ship was constructed on dry land and then they dredged around it to allow the water to surround it. There used to be trees and plants on the barge and parties were held out there. We were also told the mermaids on either ends were given breast reductions as Mr. Deering thought they were inappropriate.
The next garden is my favorite. It is a sunken courtyard filled with cactus, succulents and bromeliads.
The Fountain Garden is the next stop and the focal point is the Sutri Fountain built in 1722 for a small town in Rome and made of native Trivoli travertine. In 1908 it was taken down and replaced with a smaller one. Deering bought it and brought it to his garden in Florida.
The Australian pine trees in the pots are from 1917. The pots they were originally in had to be removed, as the plants were growing into the ground. They were root pruned and put into the pots you see here and are treated as bonsai now. They are set on square tiles to keep the roots in check so they can’t grow into the ground.
As we head up the stairs to the mound garden, I immediately notice the huge begonias at the top of the stairs.
I’m going to post the rest of the pictures here with captions. This was a beautiful garden and I just loved the history as well. It reminded me of my dad as he collected International Harvester mini tractors. I would have been thrilled to show him these pictures and tell him about this property. I hope you enjoy the pictures and can some day visit Vizcaya.
My favorite pictures to end the show….