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The Garden of Charlie and Maria Arazoza, Miami, Florida

Tropical Splendor

By: Renee Bentancourt

“Art is a harmony parallel with nature,” Paul Cezanne.  We begin the description of this garden by calling to mind one of the great impressionist landscape painters of all time.  Cezanne went out into nature to capture its light, form, color, contrast and movement, and then set them down on canvas. Landscape architect Peter Strelkow, of HS2G Inc., captures all these elements not on canvas but on the earth.  He paints with plants, his palette the colors of nature. This garden delights and surprises through its use of natural forms and textures in layered and stylized compositions.

The street-level landscape has been planted with bold asymmetrical groupings of elegant Sylvester palms and Florida thatch palms. The understory features trios of variegated false agave.  This very large rosette shape is echoed by smaller silver-colored Yucca rostrata and even smaller Aloe rooikappie.  More vibrant color is added with masses of magenta dwarf bougainvillea and orange Bulbine.   A tall hedge of emerald green Clusia acts as a backdrop and privacy screen.

Enter a shady tropical paradise where a riot of colors, textures and forms awaits.  The burgundy of Cordyline ‘Auntie Lou’ and ‘Stoplight’ croton are echoed elsewhere in masses of bromeliads.  Emerald green is provided by masses of circular-leafed Farfugium.  Creamy white bromeliads punctuated by the fiery red of the vertical of Aechmea ‘Red Candles’ act as understory to elegant Copernicia purnifera palms, their amazing silver fronds and moody black trunks adding more texture and color.  A bed of rare Anthurium superbum provides a texture and color not seen elsewhere and acts as focal points in a field of orangey-red Neoregelia ‘Pimento’.

A lovely stand of Licuala grandis flank the front door.  Look closely and you will see it reflected in a large mirror placed on the house, doubling the impact. The illusion continues with the reflection of a “river” of black river rock which meanders through beds of burgundy and creamy white bromeliads.   Heliconia and fan palms provide a frame.  A dramatic cycad, Dioon spinulosum, and large live oak tree covered with orchids and bromeliads complete the canvas.

The west end of the car-park is rounded off with a standard Gardenia tree circled by Tahitian gardenia shrubs. Their white blossoms bring a heavenly fragrance and color to the garden.

Charlie is a life-long activist for Nature Conservancy, volunteer National Park Ranger and a member of the South Florida National Parks Trust. Charlie and Maria and the family are at the forefront of discovering, developing and growing plants at local and national levels for retail and wholesale trades. “We are the stewards of this property,” said Charlie, who spends much of his free time kayaking in the Everglades. “We wanted a sustainable landscape, not one that would require constant upkeep as is needed with annuals and water-hungry plantings.” Clearly, the focus is on responsible landscaping as well as creating a beautiful oasis for themselves, the family and their neighbors.

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