Seven Acre Garden

2001 Award of Excellence, Florida Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects

During our initial visit with architects Steve Siskind and Bruce Carlson, we found the site to be mostly barren. A grove of coconut plams had been planted near a colorful two-story bungalow, which was serving as a temporary fishing camp. A few mature green buttonwood trees and a tall ficus hedge provided the only green. Our desire was to create a garden that would appear to be a natural hammock, accented in areas with subtropical plants that could thrive with little care. We also elevated vast portions of the site, since only a limited number of species survive at less than four feet above sea level. The garden was started several years before the main house and garage/guest cottage were constructed. This gave us time to find mature canopy trees and palms. Orchids are attached to the trunks of trees and also enliven the interiors.

We gently terraced the approach to the entry level. Walkways and retaining walls are surfaced in weathered keystone monoliths re-purposed from the excavation of septic tanks. Dune plantings protect a generous beach complete with a fire circle for entertaining. Everything is casual. The driveway and all the paths are of the same material as the beach. Dense native plantings conceal adjacent residences. The hammock consists of indigenous trees such as gumbo limbo, mahogany and strangler fig with an understory punctuated by blooming bromeliads, coontie and ferns. Green and silver thatch palms, blolly trees, bromeliads and wart fern envelop the covered passage between the public and private wings of the house.

Completed: 1996
Location: Islamorada, Florida
Architecture: Siskind Carlson Architects
Photography: Andre Van Rensburg Photography

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