I love gardening and love living on the water, but it took me years of hunting to find just the perfect combination of these two elements here in the Florida Keys. But, from the moment that I walked down to the Bay at VILLA MARIA and set eyes on the spectacular view that stood before me, I instantly fell madly in love and knew that I had finally found my little piece of heaven here in paradise.
In 1997 the inside of the house was totally gutted and restored including the second floor which was remodeled and replaced with one oversized master bedroom with covered deck.
When the garden was originally designed, I focused on common plant types frequently seen in gardens in South Florida and as a result made every mistake imaginable. By the end of my first “winter” at VILLA MARIA just about every plant was dead and I was in shock and frustrated. However, this is when I had the good fortune to meet a lovely biologist, Dona Sprunt, who owned a local nursery in Tavernier. Dona encouraged me to “Go Native” and told me that if I would simply use plants that were native to the Florida Keys in my landscape design I would have great success with my gardening.
Thus began the greatest journey of my lifetime.
By 2001 The Florida Native Plant Society awarded Villa Maria 1st Place in Residential Design using Florida Keys Native Plants.
Suffice to say that I had become an addict and would stop at nothing to find yet another Florida Keys Native Plant. When Frank would remind me that I simply had no more space in the garden for yet another plant my reply to him would be “watch me!”