Thursday, April 9, 2009
All Access: Vizcaya Gardens
As many of you know, keeping your lawn looking good is no easy task here in South Florida, so what if you had to keep more than a hundred acres perfectly manicured? Seven's Dave Kartunen found out with an All Access pass to Vizcaya's gardens.
WSVN -- Johnny Depp made landscaping look easy in the movie "Edward Scissorhands," but keeping a well-manicured garden is not so simple when you have acres upon acres to tend to.
Lan Simpkins: "It can be very challenging, very challenging."
Lan Simpkins is the guy in charge of keeping the gardens at Villa Vizcaya in shape, and there's a lot to keep track of, dating back to 1914 when industrialist James Deering built the lavish estate.
Lan Simpkins: "He purchased 180 acres for $1,000 an acre."
Flanked by Biscayne Bay and what was once South Miami Avenue, visitors come from all over the world to take in the breathtaking views and tranquil scenery, but what many folks don't know is all this used to be just a big swamp.
Lan Simpkins: "They actually scraped it clean, deposited the top soil and muck in another location, dug down and rebuilt the garden from the bedrock up."
And it's been a full-time job ever since.
Dave Kartunen: "All told, all of this beauty is a lot of time by mother nature, of course, but also just a staff of six who put in about 250 man hours a week to get it done."
Right now they are installing a new irrigation system to replace the old in-and-out system.
Lan Simpkins: "It pumped in water from the bay, ran it through all the fountains once, ran it back out to the bay."
As much as spectators are allowed to see here, the grounds do hold some well-kept secrets.
Lan Simpkins: "This is one of the secret compartments of Vizcaya."
Like this little hidden entrance way believed to be used by Deering's guests during big parties he threw.
Lan Simpkins: "This was originally used as a changing room, with a little bathroom back here."
You can't even see this door hidden in the coral rock.
Lan Simpkins: "There's some stories going around that this is where Deering hid his stash of liquor during prohibition."
And what once was considered the Marine Garden is currently off-limits to visitors.
Lan Simpkins: "This is a garden that originally had a saltwater pool on one side and a freshwater pool on the other."
But someone has taken up residence here, a five-foot long crocodile named Diego, along with a lot of other wildlife, and the final secret, check out this orchid lover's dream inside a special greenhouse.
Lan Simpkins: "We have about 2,000 different species, hybrids selections."
Deering wanted orchids to hang from all the trees in his amazing gardens. Now the crew is working to make that a reality.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
3251 South Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33129
Tel: (305) 250-9133