An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

July 20, 2012

A Plant Geek in South Florida - Bonnet House

While the ink was not yet dry on the contract for my brother's new Florida getaway, I was already researching area gardens to visit.  Never mind the fact that I had not yet been officially invited, but I knew that would come, as he's a generous soul.  One of the garden's that popped up on the google machine was Bonnet House, which I first heard of from fellow blogger Philip at East Side Patch. Philip's post, and the fact that this green oasis is walled in by all the hotels, clubs and restaurants of modern Fort Lauderdale, put Bonnet on my short list. If you want to know the home's fascinating story just visit their site, but the short version is this:  rich northern captain of industry buys huge chunk of Florida oceanfront wilderness, gives it to artist son who builds unusual home for himself and wife #1 who dies young, son despondent until lively wife #2 comes along, Bonnet House thrives, lots of art created, wife #2 passes the century mark and bequeaths house and grounds to Florida preservationist. Now a piece of old Florida has been saved.

Agave Drive

Anole and Agave

The circular drive surrounds the Desert Garden and leads you to the front door.

Desert Garden

Desert Garden (2)

Desert Garden (3)


The front columns are carved from coral.

Coral Column

All of the rooms contain the original furnishings and open onto a covered gallery surrounding a lush courtyard. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take any interior photos.

Courtyard (4)

Courtyard (7)

Courtyard (5)

Courtyard (2)

Ceiling Detail

There are many connecting themes throughout the house, including monkeys. There are even some real ones climbing through the garden's trees.

Monkey Sculptures (2)

Orchids are also a theme and many of them are growing in the garden.

Orchid (2)

Anchoring the corner of the front porch is a large banyan tree which in this case is some species of Ficus. Climbing through its branches is something that looked to me like Philodendron with football sized leaves.

Front Porch (5)


Front Porch (2)

Bonnet House Slough (2)

Bonnet House

We will end this leg of our trip with was an obligatory "I was here" shot under the banyan tree.

Under the Banyan

If you would like to see the full set of my photos from Bonnet House, then click here.

Next we will be taking an early morning stroll in full-garden-voyeur mode.


  1. BEEUU(A)TIFFUUULLLL! Thanks for sharing those, Les...

  2. Garden paradise indeed! Quite the oasis. Now please do tell what kind of monkeys were climbing through the trees?

  3. How cool are those coral obelisks! Looks like you are enjoying your trip. :0)

  4. These are very nice, Les. We used to visit my wife's aunt and uncle when they lived in Ft. Lauderdale. Wish we'd known about this house, though. Did you get down to Vizcaya? There's a lot of interesting coral sculpture there, too. We were there before Hurricane Andrew when it was completely surrounded by lush palm forest. I'l told the hurricane flattened everything but the mansion.

  5. Monkeys!?

    That's just a beautiful place...

  6. OOOOOO les what an photographic experience....the place looks like Bali....the painting I gill work I wonder who did it..It's a low maintenance garden with average plant just turned amazing.....3which I love....thank you!!

  7. Oh my goodness!!! I love Florida! thanks for sharing these wonderful photos from your trip. This is the first time I have visited your blog and I think I may be hooked!

  8. Breathtaking garden and mansion. I love the shadows of the leaves on the ground, great effects. I also like the patterns on that wall, it is like a painting, very very nice! I imagine that you had a great day there taking these wonderful photos and enjoying the warmth and nature there.

  9. I have been to many places in Florida and do enjoy the variety of "house plants" that grow in the gardens. Your pictures bring the Florida landscape to a new level. Asolutely stunning. I SO enjoy your blog and all your photos. Thanks for sharing.

  10. What a marvellous legacy to future generations.

  11. It's interesting, having grown up in Miami I'd never heard of this garden. So glad to hear it has been preserved. Thanks for the tour, Les.

  12. Hi Les, Your photos due this beautiful home and garden justice. I love the play of shadows in a few of the shots and all the amazing textures. I look forward to the next post.

  13. So that's a banyan tree? That is just about the strangest thing I ever saw. Absolutely beautiful courtyard, though.

  14. This is my kind of a tropical oasis. Love your pics.

  15. Fantastical! A whole 'nother world...

  16. Glorious. I thought the ballustrades on the balcony railing looked like sitting monkeys, then read further. Did anyone else see it, or am I just an architect?

  17. Wonderful tour, I love the different climate and plantings. The house is not to shabby either.

  18. John,
    You are welcome, and I like to share.

    They were squirrel monkeys some of home came from a local bar.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my trip.

    I will surely being going there again, and Vizcaya will be on the list.

    Thank you!

    It was indeed beautiful. The people that lived there were fascinating as well, plus they had really eclectic taste.

    The garden looked to be fairly low maintainenc, though there were a lot of orchids growing everywhere. Some were attached to the palms, others hanging from the rafters of the porch.

    Please come back for more visits.

    NAL Mag.,
    I am glad you noticed the shadow patterns on the sand, because that is what caught my eye.

    I saw several examples of houseplants gone wild, particularly snake plants. Thank you for the kind comments.

    I love it when people preserve the past for the future.

    I don't know what your time frame is, but I do not think Bonnet House has been open to the public until the 90's sometime. If you ever head back that way again, you should visit.

    Thank you, I do wish you could see some of the interiors, especially the dining room. It was darkly paneled and had funky dishes and lots of taxidermied fish on the wall.

    The banyans were strange. A tour guide at another garden told us they are no longer permitted to sell them in south Florida (I am not sure that was true). They tend to take over.

    It was an oasis, especially from all the development beyond its walls.

    Yes it was another world.

    I can sort of see monkeys. There were many others in the decor too. By the way, I hope you read this, but I wanted to let you know it is impossible for me to leave a comment on your blog. I am not sure why, but will keep trying.

    Yes the house was very interesting. I have always loved courtyard homes, so Roman.


  19. While I have heard the term banyan tree, I had to google and read about them, most fascinating. I think of so many areas in South Florida as being fragile because of the hurricanes and other storms. This lovely place has been there through the ages... thanks for sharing it with us.
    Love the coral carved pillars!

  20. Les,
    Blogger changed something a month or so ago. I cannot enter comments on some blogs (mine) when using Safari. I can using Firefox. Something to do with cookie and security settings that Google changed to use to track us. Trying to fix.

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