By: Renee Bentancourt
This magnificent garden was designed to complement the strikingly grand tropical architecture of the house, designed by Sotolongo Salman Henderson Architects (now MAS+ Architects). The structure’s large proportions, high volumes, expanses of wood and glass anchored by marble and granite paving required an equally audacious garden design. Peter Stelkow, principal of HS2G Inc., Landscape Architecture, created this perfect fusion of house and garden. To achieve this, he relied on asymmetrical design compositions, layers, bold massings of plants, rare collector plants, as well as his unfailing eye for color and form.
A rectilinear grid provides the first impression. A large live oak tree is under planted with a grove of extraordinary bottle palms growing in a bed of Liriope. Adjacent beds of soap aloe, Bulbine, and dwarf bougainvillea add a pop of color. Massive blocks of native limestone flank the entrance gate.
Once inside, the expanse of gray marble pavers is softened by strips of turf. Rectangular planting areas featuring a large Canary Island date palm, live oak tree, small white powderpuff trees, old man palms, variegated false agave and dwarf tree jasmine are under planted with masses of Farfugium japonica, Bulbine, dwarf bougainvillea and Liriope. Two identical reflecting pools on either side of the graded steps to the front door define the entrance. Groups of very tall Florida thatch palms and Key thatch palms grace their perimeter and reflect dramatically in the dark water.
The beautiful mirror finish knife-edged swimming pool is the stunning centerpiece of the back garden. Two identical columns topped with urns filled with blue fire glass frame the far perspective. A shallow spa for lounging and a sunken fire pit complete the leisure components of the garden.
Repetition of form and color are important design elements. The lovely silver color of a large Bismarck palm is repeated elsewhere in the garden by a clump of Moroccan fan palms, silver buttonwood trees, multiple carnauba palms, Copernicia purnifera, and a Yucca rostrata. An unexpected pop of silver is also provided by a small row of Podocarpus ‘Icee Blue’. Graceful lignum vitae is a feature nearby. Two large graceful clusters of cabada palms define the entrance from the house. A large pony tail palm featuring a striking umbel crown of leaves anchors the east end of the house.
Multiple rectangular planting areas with white powderpuff trees, Syagrus xxx, carnauba and hurricane palms parallel the pool. Spectacular cycads --- Dioon spinulosum, D. edule, D. mejiae and Elephantartos ferox -- add a sculptural understory. Muhly grass, Bulbine and aloe act as ground cover.
This garden unfolds in a sweeping and majestic panorama. However, within it are small islands of discovery which provide delightful take-away ideas for the home gardener who may have a smaller space to work with. Be sure to notice these as you tour this fabulous garden.