The central courtyard of Vizcaya’s Main House is one of our more unique landscapes and, as such, comes with its own challenges.
According to the museum’s archival records, full-size trees were initially planned to be planted in the courtyard in 1916. However, photographic evidence suggests that they were removed a few years later, likely because they grew too big, too fast, and too wild. In the years to come, the courtyard would undergo several changes, each resulting in a more tropical rendition than the previous. Watch the video below to experience this space.
The Glass Canopy
In 2007, the formerly open-air courtyard was enclosed with a glass canopy. This measure was taken to protect the interiors and the collection they house from the elements, namely the salty air and high humidity of South Florida. It was also an important move to make the Main House more resistant to hurricanes and tropical storms.
Unfortunately, the original canopy limited the amount of light that filtered down into the courtyard, and so, also the types of plants that could grow there. This canopy was replaced with a lighter and more efficient version in 2012, which improved the growing conditions in the space and allowed the museum’s horticulture team to get creative.
Today, the courtyard is alive with different colors, textures, and scents, just as it was when the home was first built.
An Indoor Tropical Environment
While the canopy improved the preservation of Vizcaya’s object collection, it does present challenges for the living collection that resides in the courtyard. To keep all of the antiques safe, the environment is climate-controlled and kept at approximately 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The horticulture team works to counter these effects by maintaining a humid atmosphere at ground level, creating a more natural environment for the tropical specimens featured in the courtyard.
The plants in this area fill three levels of height. Croutons that are visible around all of the colored plants are on the lower level. Borderline, brown leaves, lady palms, and magnolias have all been added to the mid-level. Then, at a higher level, there are taller growing palms that fill in the air space above. In addition, orchids donated by the David A. Klein Foundation are displayed in several courtyard palm trees for added color and interest.
Volunteer with Us
To learn more about Vizcaya’s horticulture practices and work alongside our experts, consider becoming a garden volunteer. You can check out the schedule of volunteer opportunities and sign up online.