GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2008 show45
GardenSMART Newsletter Signup
 
Visit our Sponsors!
Visit our Sponsors and win.
Past Shows:

Show #45/1406
American Renaissance Gardens in Florida


Introduction
JOEL HOFFMAN IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF VIZCAYA and welcomes Garden Smart. Vizcaya was built by James Deering, an American businessman, who headed International Harvester. This property was built in the mid to late 1910's through the early 1920's and originally encompassed 180 acres.

Click here for more info Background
IN A GARDEN LIKE VIZCAYA THE EMPHASIS IS ON THE DESIGN AND GEOMETRY, the plants are like paint on a palette. They experimented with a variety of plants to get the textures and colors and effects and forms that they wanted. But they weren't so interested in collecting specific botanical species.

Click here for more info

Design Philosophy
AS STRANGE AS IT SEEMS DEERING WANTED TO MAKE THE PROPERTY LOOK EVEN BIGGER THAN IT IS. He was comparing it to Versailles as an example. When the king woke up there and looked across the vista he could see for miles and miles. Deering didn't have that much land, thus his designer Diego Suarez exaggerated the perspective from the main house. One sees the main sight line down the middle which then branches out at angles creating a fan shape. This design technique exaggerates the view and creates the impression that the distance is much further than it actually is. This is a good trick for any size garden. Another technique used was to keep the shrubs at a low level so one can look down them and carry that line out, causing the eye to follow it into the distance.

Click here for more info

Enclosed Spaces
ANOTHER TECHNIQUE TO MAKE AN AREA LOOK LARGER IS TO ENCLOSE SPACES, to create garden rooms and there are a number of those at Vizcaya. It's very typical of an Italian garden in that it was conceived as a series of vignettes or outdoor spaces and often focused on a water feature or a particular sculpture. This provides something to draw the interest and then expose the viewer to a kind of outdoor room.

Click here for more info

Outdoor Room
JOE AND LAURIE START IN WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY THE FOYER OF THE OUTDOOR GARDEN ROOMS AT VIZCAYA. Coming down through the hallway defined by the reflecting pool there are a series of choices to make-gateways and doorways that lead off to rooms that go along the waterfront, a couple of grottos or up the stairs to the top of the casino mound. Water was very important to Mr. Deering. Here they have incorporated environment into the design. They made sure that even if one can't see Biscayne Bay from the center of the gardens, one never forgets that water is nearby. And, they used a variety of forms of water. From the reflecting pool to the texture of the water cascade to slow drips in the grottos. All provide some sound and contribute to a cooling feeling and respite from the hot Miami sun.

Click here for more info


Change of Elevation
AS WELL, A SLIGHT CHANGE OF ELEVATION WILL DEFINE DIFFERENT GARDEN ROOMS. Laurie and Joe visit another garden room. This is the landing area. As one comes up the stairs from below there is a completely different look. It's a garden room, has water incorporated but now we're dealing with a feel of a circular pattern, geometric lines. One has had the contrast of leading up the pathway, climbing the stairs, now one stops and looks around and appreciates the surroundings. One can look back at the main gardens where we just came from and look at the house.

Click here for more info


Maze Garden
THIS IS THE MAZE GARDEN. It was designed to emulate renaissance gardens in Italy, England and Germany. They were designed as mazes because those were supposed to be a metaphor of man's journey through life. As one went around the maze one was supposed to contemplate their sins or something like that. That probably wasn't done here, they just liked the design. European maze gardens would have been made out of Taxus baccata 'European Yew' or Buxus 'boxwood,' hedge plants that like to hold a tight geometric shape. Those plants wanted nothing to do with the climate in Florida.

Click here for more info


Secret Garden
THIS IS THE SECRET GARDEN, even though it's not much of a secret. It has everything that a room has except a roof. Originally it was designed for the display of Brassavola 'Orchid.' Orchids were grown in a shaded house across the street and then when in bloom were brought here and put on display. This type of garden was originally found in northern Europe or in Italy to protect plants from the wind and cold air and to help retain heat. This would mean the plants would bloom longer into the season.

Click here for more info


Orchids
THEY STILL HAVE ORCHIDS ON THE PROPERTY, just as Mr. Deering would have wanted. But now they're on the other side of the house. The David A. Kline Orchidarium is now the home of the Vizcaya Orchids. Everything is in bloom and there are many different Orchids. This is not so much as it was in Deering's day, rather as he would have wanted his Orchid area to be. Back then he didn't have access to the number of species and variety of Orchids available today.

Click here for more info

Take Away
WE NEXT VISIT ANOTHER ROOM, which although simple is Laurie's favorite. It is simple enough that one can see all the ideas at work that we've seen in the other gardens. Here it's clear and basic. It starts with an introduction with the water feature, then a lower level, a change in level, about 3 steps, there is a contrast of textures with stone, some a native stone in the hardscape and then the turf. There is a sense of enclosure both through the architecture and the plants working together. It is then all pulled together by a focal point at the end, a statue. It not only draws ones eye but one wants to run up and see what's going on. Laurie thinks it captures in a really simple way a lot of the elements that make the gardens at Vizcaya terrific. In a big place, it's easy to get intimidated and think this is unrealistic for me. That's not true.

Click here for more info


LINKS:

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six

Garden Smart Plant List



Complete transcript of the show.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
In South Florida there are many great attractions but a must see destination is the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. It is a great source for design ideas, especially landscape design.
JOEL HOFFMAN IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF VIZCAYA and welcomes Garden Smart. Vizcaya was built by James Deering, an American businessman, who headed International Harvester. This property was built in the mid to late 1910's through the early 1920's and originally encompassed 180 acres. Mr. Deering came to Miami, like many others, because he was interested in the warm climate and beautiful scenery. He also had homes in the Chicago area, New York and outside Paris. He built the spectacular house and gardens as they are today but additionally at that time there were more expansive informal gardens that are no longer here. He was drawn to the area because of its location with its relatively virgin forest and what we call today the hammock. He did his best to preserve these and realized that by placing his property in the middle of the hardwood hammock with the bay and mangroves on one side he was creating a very special place. This is an American renaissance property. By that one refers to the era in which Americans were looking towards Europe for cultural traditions. Vizcaya is a great example. Artifacts and objects were actually bought to create the environment that felt very European. Vizcaya has an incredible blend of the European and American in Miami. There are native materials throughout, limestone, flora and fauna are explicitly Florida although they've been used in a fashion meant to invoke a European flavor. Vizcaya is different than anything else in Miami, which is a modern and metropolitan city, and provides an opportunity to step back in history and time and have a very calm and sedate experience.
Laurie Ossman is the Deputy Director and Chief Curator at Vizcaya. It's a big title and this isn't even her whole title. A big place means a big title. Laurie grew up in Seneca Falls, New York which is in the Finger Lakes. It was a very historic town and that got her interested in historic preservation in high school. She went to college and studied art history but missed the "hands on" with old buildings. So, she went to graduate school at the University of Virginia because if one can't learn about American architecture from Thomas Jefferson, one just can't learn. Since then she has had the good fortune of working at some of the countries greatest sites, including Monticello, the White House, Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island, then John Ringling's estate in Sarasota. From there she moved to Vizcaya. This presents a new challenge because in addition to the home she now has the opportunity to deal with an historical garden, something she's never faced before. Plus, it's a big place. It covers 54 acres, has 14 national historic landmark buildings, a hardwood hammock, the mangrove swamp, a 38,000 square foot house with 3,500 artifacts, some that date back to early Rome.
When Mr. Deering first came to Miami around 1910 there were fewer than 10,000 people that lived here and what is now Vizcaya was essentially a swamp. His idea was to bring the best of European old world culture to the new world. He wanted to reflect Miami's heritage and Mediterranean culture, the culture of Italy and Spain and the renaissance and the age of exploration and to give the city an artistic and cultural focus. He began by traveling and began shopping. Whereas most people come back from Europe with a collection of postcards James Deering and his designer Paul Shelton came back with over 100, 17th and 18th century sculptures and fragments of buildings which they incorporated into the main house. And, most importantly for the garden, design ideas gathered from the best gardens of the Italian renaissance and the Tuscan countryside. They did take some snapshots, those were available at the time. But most notably Edith Wharton, the novelists first big book was on Italian villas and their gardens. They went through that book with its illustrations with Maxfield Perish and used it like a tour guide. If one looks at Edith Wharton's book then looks at the gardens at Vizcaya, the illustrations almost come to life. It's like the best gardens in Europe brought back to Vizcaya. And they faced some huge challenges. Tuscany is not Miami. Tuscany has hills, a more temperate climate and a completely different vocabulary of plants. Diego Suarez, the garden designer, when coming to Miami looked at the vistas and realized much wouldn't work. The area was completely flat, the reflections off the water were completely blinding on the main house in the afternoon and there were no plants to work with with the exception of the hardwood hammock which wasn't exactly the right vocabulary for a formal Italian garden. Thus they had to begin by changing the topography and building an artificial hill to block the light from the water and also to provide a focal point for the gardens, so that as one sat in the house there was a main vista that led the eye out into the landscape and then to all the variety of incidents, vignettes and artworks that capture the eye and lead one around.
Top

Background IN A GARDEN LIKE VIZCAYA THE EMPHASIS IS ON THE DESIGN AND GEOMETRY, the plants are like paint on a palette. They experimented with a variety of plants to get the textures and colors and effects and forms that they wanted. But they weren't so interested in collecting specific botanical species. This horrified Dr. David Fairchild, the botanist who lived down the road. He couldn't understand this approach to design. When one looks at Fairchild Botanical Gardens and Vizcaya they show two completely different approaches. One emphasizes plant varieties, Vizcaya emphasizes design.
Top

Design Philosophy AS STRANGE AS IT SEEMS DEERING WANTED TO MAKE THE PROPERTY LOOK EVEN BIGGER THAN IT IS. He was comparing it to Versailles as an example. When the king woke up there and looked across the vista he could see for miles and miles. Deering didn't have that much land, thus his designer Diego Suarez exaggerated the perspective from the main house. One sees the main sight line down the middle which then branches out at angles creating a fan shape. This design technique exaggerates the view and creates the impression that the distance is much further than it actually is. This is a good trick for any size garden. Another technique used was to keep the shrubs at a low level so one can look down them and carry that line out, causing the eye to follow it into the distance. The shrubs are a good example of how they had to experiment. In France or Italy they would have used Taxus baccata 'European Yew' or Buxus 'Boxwood' plants that simply won't grow in Florida. Thus they tried a variety of plants from Casuarina equisetifolia 'Australian Pine' which is now considered invasive and can't be planted anymore, to the Jasminum simplicifolium 'Wax Jasmine' that is used today.
Top

Enclosed Spaces ANOTHER TECHNIQUE TO MAKE AN AREA LOOK LARGER IS TO ENCLOSE SPACES, to create garden rooms and there are a number of those at Vizcaya. It's very typical of an Italian garden in that it was conceived as a series of vignettes or outdoor spaces and often focused on a water feature or a particular sculpture. This provides something to draw the interest and then expose the viewer to a kind of outdoor room. So, there is the center open area but as one wanders through the gardens they're pulled off to the side by little quirks and clues that there is something going on over there. That then leads to another of the outdoor rooms.
Top

Outdoor Room JOE AND LAURIE START IN WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY THE FOYER OF THE OUTDOOR GARDEN ROOMS AT VIZCAYA. Coming down through the hallway defined by the reflecting pool there are a series of choices to make-gateways and doorways that lead off to rooms that go along the waterfront, a couple of grottos or up the stairs to the top of the casino mound. Water was very important to Mr. Deering. Here they have incorporated environment into the design. They made sure that even if one can't see Biscayne Bay from the center of the gardens, one never forgets that water is nearby. And, they used a variety of forms of water. From the reflecting pool to the texture of the water cascade to slow drips in the grottos. All provide some sound and contribute to a cooling feeling and respite from the hot Miami sun. Joe feels that even if we don't have a grand estate we can incorporate a small water fountain into our own gardens. It will provide a focal point, contrast and color.
Top

Change of Elevation AS WELL, A SLIGHT CHANGE OF ELEVATION WILL DEFINE DIFFERENT GARDEN ROOMS. Laurie and Joe visit another garden room. This is the landing area. As one comes up the stairs from below there is a completely different look. It's a garden room, has water incorporated but now we're dealing with a feel of a circular pattern, geometric lines. One has had the contrast of leading up the pathway, climbing the stairs, now one stops and looks around and appreciates the surroundings. One can look back at the main gardens where we just came from and look at the house. Going forward, one can next look off to the other side and down the staircase where there are other gardens to visit or rest in the shade of the casino, a little house, or take a stroll around the circle, appreciate the artifacts, the statues, the ancient urns, all under the shade of magnificent Quercus virginiana 'Southern Live Oak' trees. The large Live Oak trees provide great shade and a sense of enclosure because the canopy almost envelops the surroundings. These are native trees so they know how to withstand Florida weather. They do prune them back to let them be a little more aerodynamic. Wind and tropical storms and hurricanes go through them rather than toppling them over. That's one of the reasons that Live Oaks live hundreds and hundreds of years in the Florida climate. It's also another example where the designers knew that they needed to work with native plants in order to make the area a success and provide the sense of enclosure they were looking for. And the blend of European design ideas and native plants is really what makes Vizcaya unique.
Top

Maze Garden We visit another circular garden room, but this one is more of a work in progress. THIS IS THE MAZE GARDEN. It was designed to emulate renaissance gardens in Italy, England and Germany. They were designed as mazes because those were supposed to be a metaphor of man's journey through life. As one went around the maze one was supposed to contemplate their sins or something like that. That probably wasn't done here, they just liked the design. European maze gardens would have been made out of Taxus baccata 'European Yew' or Buxus 'boxwood,' hedge plants that like to hold a tight geometric shape. Those plants wanted nothing to do with the climate in Florida. They experimented and finally settled on Casuarina equisetifolia 'Australian Pine.' Those plants were destroyed in Hurricane Andrew in 1992. They replanted, the hedge had just taken hold again and in 2005 Hurricane Wilma hit and the area was submerged with storm surge, saltwater and muck. All the plants died. Those plants are now considered invasives, thus they're not allowed to replant those. Thus, it was back to square one. Now they're trying Jasminum simplicifolium 'Wax Jasmine.' It's supposed to be salt tolerant, drought tolerant and fast growing. This is a life lesson for gardeners. We're always going to be faced with challenges. If plants aren't working, if something is invasive, one needs to find something a little less aggressive, so look for different opportunities. They've done that here and a year or two later they have a pretty good sized hedge. It's tall enough for the kids to run around and play but not so tall that grownups will get lost.
Top

Secret Garden Up to this point the outdoor rooms that we've visited have had walls that were made of plants and trees. Now we're in a room with real walls. THIS IS THE SECRET GARDEN, even though it's not much of a secret. It has everything that a room has except a roof. Originally it was designed for the display of Brassavola 'Orchid.' Orchids were grown in a shaded house across the street and then when in bloom were brought here and put on display. This type of garden was originally found in northern Europe or in Italy to protect plants from the wind and cold air and to help retain heat. This would mean the plants would bloom longer into the season. Here although the walls protected the Orchids from the salt spray and wind, the stone actually absorbed the salt from the air and the Orchids didn't like that. So now instead of displaying Orchids in this space it features Bromeliaceae 'Bromeliad.' They provide color and allow us to appreciate the original design.
Top

Orchids THEY STILL HAVE ORCHIDS ON THE PROPERTY, just as Mr. Deering would have wanted. But now they're on the other side of the house. The David A. Kline Orchidarium is now the home of the Vizcaya Orchids. Everything is in bloom and there are many different Orchids. This is not so much as it was in Deering's day, rather as he would have wanted his Orchid area to be. Back then he didn't have access to the number of species and variety of Orchids available today. He was getting plants up north and they required colder nights. Now there's access to varieties from Central America and Southeast Asia. These Orchids like this hot, tropical Florida climate. Accordingly they have a wide variety of plants consistently in bloom for display in this garden. In this area there are approximately 15 varieties on display, in the greenhouses their Curator, Carol DeBiase, has about 100 different varieties of Orchids. Thus something is always in bloom and they always provide color to the area.
Top

Take Away WE NEXT VISIT ANOTHER ROOM, which although simple is Laurie's favorite. It is simple enough that one can see all the ideas at work that we've seen in the other gardens. Here it's clear and basic. It starts with an introduction with the water feature, then a lower level, a change in level, about 3 steps, there is a contrast of textures with stone, some a native stone in the hardscape and then the turf. There is a sense of enclosure both through the architecture and the plants working together. It is then all pulled together by a focal point at the end, a statue. It not only draws ones eye but one wants to run up and see what's going on. Laurie thinks it captures in a really simple way a lot of the elements that make the gardens at Vizcaya terrific. In a big place, it's easy to get intimidated and think this is unrealistic for me. That's not true. For example, consider all the water features that are incorporated throughout the garden. In our own garden we could utilize something as simple as a small water feature which could be purchased for a few dollars but still provide sound. The Maze Garden is another example. There were some plants that worked there, some that didn't. Substitutions were needed but rather than give up, keep trying new things. Focal points have been used effectively throughout this garden and they can be used in our own gardens by utilizing statuary, plants or trees. Every garden should have focal points. The lessons learned here are examples of classic landscape design and can be applied to our own gardens. That's what we try to do at Garden Smart, take the big picture and bring it home, make it applicable to our own gardens.
Thank you Laurie for showing us these wonderful landscape examples. We've learned a lot and this has been a pleasure. Vizcaya has been a very unique, yet informative learning experience.
Top


LINKS:

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six

Garden Smart Plant List


   
 
FEATURED ARTICLE
GardenSMART Featured Article

By InstantHedge, Photographs courtesy of InstantHedge

We have a new sponsor - InstantHedge. InstantHedge is unique, they utilize precision agriculture techniques that make purchasing a clean looking, square hedge, that has typically required years of waiting and work, possible in a single day. Thank you InstantHedge for your support of GardenSMART. Underwriter dollars make GardenSMART possible. To read more about InstantHedge and an interesting article click here.


  Click here to sign up for our monthly NEWSLETTER packed with great articles and helpful tips for your home, garden and pets!  
   
   
 
   
   
Copyright © 1998-2012 GSPC. All Rights Reserved.