Step into South Florida’s Secret Gardens

When writer Jack Staub set out to chronicle Florida’s stunning hidden retreats, he worried he wouldn’t find much diversity—a tropical garden is a tropical garden, right? But a handful of Floridians had a surprise in store for him—the lush and varied greenery of their secret Sunshine State gardens.

“As I made my way around South Florida, from east coast to west coast and from Jupiter down to the Keys, these concerns flew out the window as effortlessly as a couple of the wild parrots I so frequently encountered,” he wrote in the preface to his new book, Private Gardens of South Florida. “Did I find palms, alocasias, orchids, pools, lawns, and loggias? Most certainly. But I also found tiny and expansive gardens; fantastic ocean views and cloistered, intimate spaces.”

In their forthcoming book, Staub and photographer Rob Cardillo open the garden gates to twenty-two lush garden getaways. Take a tour through a selection of photographs from these private paradises, and your winter blues just might disappear.

A brick and riverstone pathway leads the way along a manicured lawn in Palm Beach. Bleeding heart vine creeps atop the Regency-inspired tennis pavilion.

From left: The owners of this Palm Beach retreat drew influences from their travels in Turkey and Morocco to create a carved-stone wall fountain set against an elaborately stenciled crimson wall; Twin Cuban Royal palms extend over a ficus hedge to cast reflections on a pool in Hobe Sound; A thatch-roofed potting shed in a Palm Beach garden.

A lush Coral Gables sanctuary includes a pond, stream, and waterfall. Layers of orchids, ferns, and caladiums fill the landscape.

The owners of this home call it the “smallest house and garden in Palm Beach behind an eight-foot wall right in the center of town.” They have transformed it into an oasis of tropical blooms and greenery.

A Florida-crafted wooden stairway in the shade of a thatch palm runs up the side of a guest cottage in Islamorada.

From left: A Palm Beach garden features an orchid house, precisely manicured beds, and borders of tropical plants; A massive pigeon plum tree adorned with vanda orchids and staghorn ferns greets visitors to the home.

The owner of this Northwood garden is a mid-century modern fan. She keeps a vintage Airstream “Cruisette” trailer as a mobile guestroom on the property.

Bougainvillea climbs the stable at a Wellington home and equestrian facility.

Private Gardens of South Florida.

Photographs by Rob Cardillo from Private Gardens of South Florida by Jack Staub, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.

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