The Courtyard: Designing Vizcaya’s Indoor Garden

The Glass Canopy: Protecting and Enhancing the Courtyard

The central courtyard of Vizcaya’s Main House boasts a unique and ever-evolving landscape. Over the years, it has undergone several transformations, each resulting in a more tropical ambiance than the previous iterations.

In 1983, the formerly open-air courtyard was enclosed with a glass canopy to safeguard the interiors and the precious collection from the harsh elements of South Florida, including salty air and high humidity. Additionally, this move aimed to enhance the Main House’s resilience to hurricanes and tropical storms. However, the original canopy limited the amount of natural light reaching the courtyard, affecting the types of plants that could thrive there. In 2012, a lighter, stronger, and more efficient version of the canopy was installed, significantly improving the growing conditions, and inspiring the museum’s horticulture team to explore their creativity.

Today, the courtyard thrives with a vibrant tapestry of colors, textures, and scents, reminiscent of its glory when the home was first built

Maintaining a Tropical Environment Indoors

While the glass canopy ensures the preservation of Vizcaya’s precious object collection, it presents challenges for the living collection on the main floor of the house. To safeguard the antiques, the environment is kept at a climate-controlled temperature of approximately 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

To counter the effects of the controlled environment and create a natural habitat for the tropical plants, Vizcaya’s diligent horticulture team maintains a humid atmosphere at ground level in the courtyard.

A Multilevel Tropical Paradise

The courtyard’s diverse plant collection is organized across several levels of height and texture. The lower level features enchanting Crotons, surrounded by an array of colored – foliaged plants. Moving to the mid-level, one can spot Cordyline, the brown – backed leaves of Southern Magnolia, lady palms, and the enormous leaves of Fiddle – leaved Fig, each adding its unique charm. Finally, at a higher level, majestic growing palms fill the air space above, creating an enchanting canopy, including a huge and glorious specimen of the Stilt Palm, a rare species from the tropical South Pacific. Adding an extra burst of color, orchids donated by the David A. Klein Foundation grace several courtyard palm trees.

Volunteer with Us

For those fascinated by Vizcaya’s horticulture practices and eager to work alongside our experts, becoming a garden volunteer is an excellent opportunity. Check out our schedule of volunteer opportunities and sign up online to explore the wonders of Vizcaya’s tropical oasis.

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