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Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Gardens Overview

  • Vizcaya Gardens

Vizcaya’s European-inspired gardens are among the most elaborate in the United States. Reminiscent of gardens created in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italy and France, the overall landscape design is conceived as a series of rooms.

The central space is dominated by low hedges, or parterres, in a geometric arrangement. Beyond that are the evocative Secret Garden, the intimate Theater Garden, the playful Maze Garden and the once-watery domain of the Fountain Garden. On either side of this designed landscape, James Deering preserved the native forest.

Horticultural innovations were common at Vizcaya, including the use of subtropical plants compatible with Miami’s heat and humidity. Deering was partial to orchids, and he had them displayed throughout the estate. Today, orchids are on view in trees and in the newly rebuilt David A. Klein Orchidarium next to the Main House.

Vizcaya’s exuberant gardens are characterized by an abundance of architectural structures and details, elaborate fountains, and antique and commissioned sculptures. The use of sculptures that were already old and of soft and porous coral stone resulted, quite intentionally, in the gardens having a weathered appearance soon after their completion. To further the appearance of age, Deering and Paul Chalfin planted numerous mature trees, along with vines and plants that would drape themselves over the garden structures.

Landscape architect Diego Suarez referenced many places in the design of Vizcaya’s formal gardens; most are around Florence and Rome. In the outer gardens that no longer exist, Vizcaya’s creators instead looked to the Everglades, North Africa and even Asia for landscape and architectural inspiration.

The original plan for the formal gardens included a series of terraces that began at the Main House and ended at a large lagoon. Suarez realized that the light reflecting off the water would be blinding to garden visitors and that the formal gardens would melt into the jungle beyond—hardly a fitting conclusion for such a grandly conceived landscape. He cleverly redesigned the entire formal garden and added the Garden Mound, an artificial hill that blocks the view from the house and creates long perspectives on its sides.

At the Garden Mound and elsewhere, Chalfin embellished Suarez’s design and their combined inventiveness created Vizcaya’s uniquely romantic subtropical gardens.

You can learn more about the art objects and plants in our gardens through the links below: