Ian Simpkins

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens: An Oasis Outside Miami

Surrounded by a lush subtropical forest, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of Miami’s hidden gems. The European-style estate resides in the Coconut Grove area just south of downtown Miami, and was built between 1914 and 1922 as the winter estate of early-century magnate James Deering.

The Main House and formal gardens appear as a dreamlike vision next to the shores of Biscayne Bay– a waterfront locale that feels more Italian than Floridian, as the estate gardens were designed to resemble the country estates of the Veneto region of northern Italy.

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Picture by Ian Simpkins

Garden Collage spoke with Vizcaya’s Miriam Reimer Barcia, who told us that Vizcaya’s European-inspired gardens are among the most evocative and elaborate of their kind in the United States, comprised of a series of outdoor rooms, each with its own distinct character. The central space is dominated by low hedges, or parterres, in a geometric arrangement that is ideal for photography. “Beyond that are the evocative Secret Garden, the intimate Theater Garden, the Maze Garden and the once-watery domain of the Fountain Garden,” she wrote.

Secret Garden - Borinsky

Bill Sumner

Vizcaya’s gardens are characterized by an abundance of architectural structures and details, elaborate fountains, and antique and commissioned sculptures– accoutrements that are principally unique as the only formal European-styled gardens in America, which were landscaped using exclusively subtropical and tropical plants.

Vizcaya’s Chief Horticulturist Ian Simpkins oversees this spectacular space, managing a team of eight gardens whose ranks include a display horticulturist, curators of horticulture and orchids, and a landscape maintenance team. They also have a collection of almost 15,000 orchids– a wedding favorite– which are maintained and displayed by the Curator of Orchids (a fabulous title) and endowed by the David A. Klein Foundation.


Picture by Ian Simpkins

For those curious about the authenticity of the vision, Vizcaya completed a Cultural Landscape Report in 2011, which was an effort to “restore the gardens to their historical magnificence” while recording their unique history vis-a-vis a collection of significant founding documents. The garden staff now uses this report to guide maintenance and renovation decisions, ensuring that Vizcaya experience remains as authentic and wondrous as possible.

The facilities Events Director, Adrienne Kaiser, and her assistant, Linda Aragon, work very closely with all Viscaya’s wedding clients to ensure that have a spectacular and one-of-a-kind experience. Even if you’re not getting married, Viscaya is well-worth a visit. They host about 70 facility rentals a year, and the majority of those are weddings– understandably, as the gorgeous location and tropical aesthetic makes it the perfect garden to plan an unforgettable moment.

Learn more about Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on their website.

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