Garden visits Gardening

A South Florida Garden Tour

Day Three: More South Miami Gardens

For those who have been following the Laidback Gardener blog, this is the third and final day of the media tour organized by the FNGLA (Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscapers Association) for members of the Garden Writers Association, a tour that took place from January 17 to 19 2017.

Again, the weather was perfect: warm but not hot, and sunny with only a few clouds.

As with Day 1, we headed south of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting our visits in Miami.

Hyde Beach

Green wall still under installation.

Our first stop was at a development called Hyde Beach Resort and Spas where GSky® Plant Systems, a leading provider of living green walls, was installing a huge green wall of 5800 square feet (540 m2) on the front of a commercial building around a giant “H” logo.

Climbing plants on trellises will soon cover the wall in greenery.

This was not your typical green wall with plants inserted into a panel, but rather used climbing plants grown in containers that give cover by climbing up trellises. The two plants used were pandora vine (Pandorea jasminoides) and confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). Of course, these plantings are very, very young (only weeks old at the most and indeed, the planting is still on-going), but the trellises should disappear under flowers and foliage within a year.

Aqualina Resort & Spa

A fountain welcomed us to Aqualina Resort & Spa.

This is a very luxurious resort complex, with individual units selling for millions of dollars. We stopped in to see two green walls, one indoors in the sales unit, the other outdoors, but the director eventually invited us in to visit the sample unit, so why not? The rooms were gorgeous, with spectacular views over the beach and a chinchilla throw on the couch.

The outdoor green wall is done mostly in scheffleras, asparagus ferns and ficus.
Green wall in the sales office: here low-plant tropical plants, mostly philodendrons and pothos, were used.
View from the sample unit over the pool and beach.
3 million dollars gets you a lot of luxury!
A $1,200 Bentley dog bed. Remind me to get one for my dog!


The cars in the parking lot give an idea of the lifestyle in these units.

Tropical Miami Garden


The private home we visited.

Our next visit was to a private garden south of Miami. Built around a multi-level home with terraces, all designed by architect Max Strang, it was planned to have a bit of a wild look to it: no hedges that need constant shearing and plenty of native plants to act as a buffer. We visited with Brian Rodgers of Avalon Gardens, the full-service landscape design and installation company that installed and maintains the landscape.

The Australian violet (Viola hederacea) used as a ground cover. For me, it’s a houseplant!
The pool area melts into the surrounding vegetation.
The second floor terrace is surrounded by low-maintenance succulents.
The gardens filled with tropical plants chosen for a natural look.

Bullis Bromeliads

IMG_2426.jpgWe ate our lunch on the bus as we headed to our next stop, Bullis Bromeliads in Princeton, southwest of Miami. This is a brand-new facility for the Bullis family, opened only last year, but the company was founded in 1977. Still family-owned, we were greeted by two members of the 4th generation… the rest of the family was busy at the TPEI show the day of our visit.

Main office at Bullis Bromeliads
Bromeliads out for a canoe ride.
Bromeliad Christmas trees are a tradition at Bullis Bromeliads.

I’m known of Bullis Bromeliads for a long time. After all, I collect bromeliads and Bullis bromeliads show up all over the USA and Canada! They’re renowned wholesalers and hybridizers of these “tank plants”, especially aechmeas, alcantareas and neoregelias. Some of their hybrids are classics: Aechmea ‘Blue Tango’, Neoregelia ‘Donger’ (which I’ve grown for years), Aechmea ‘Del Mar’ and many others. They currently have 400 varieties available under vast shade houses and greenhouses.

The shade houses stretch as far as the eye can see. By their intense color, they remind me of the tulip fields of Holland!
IMG_2379 Purple Passion.jpg
Neoregelia ‘Purple Passion’
IMG_2383 Casablanca.JPG
Neoregelia ‘Casblanca’… and it hasn’t even reached full color!
IMG_2386 America.jpg
Aechmea ‘America’: this new introduction is a variegated mutation of the popular Bullis hybrid ‘Blue Tango’. The name ‘America’ was chosen because is it red, white and blue (and green).
The outdoor gardens were a delight for the senses!
Bromeliads may be mostly epiphytes, but these are taking well to growing in the ground.

We visited their main farm where shade houses stretch out as far as the eye can see. We were given a great tour of the establishment and answers to all our numerous questions. We could even buy plants at wholesale prices! Plus there were beautiful gardens to discover with many unusual plants and trees.

Bullis Bromeliads is not normally open to visitors, but maybe you would wrangle a visit. Here’s their web site:

Block Botanical Gardens

The Block residence with its striking front door.

I’ve often thought of my home garden as a sort of mini-botanical garden. Well, Jeffrey S. Block, who in real life is world-renowned anesthetist and researcher, has done just that: turned his yard into a private botanical garden. It is jammed with exotic plants, including a wide range of palms, cycads, bromeliads, aroids and orchids: you name it and he probably has it! There are even a few national champion trees!

Jeffrey Block showing us the key to Miami, offered to his grandmother, a renowned florist and decorator.

Jeffrey Block toured with the group and showed us the highlights of his garden, explaining how he developed his award-winning garden over the last 27 years.

Shingle plant (Rhaphidophora spp.): this is the juvenile state of this climber.
IMG_2456Platycerium coronarium.jpg
I have seen many specimens of crown stag horn fern (Platycerium coronarium) in my travels, but none as large and spectacular as this one!
IMG_2462Angiopteris palmiformis.jpg
The elephant fern (Angiopteris palmiformis) is the world’s largest trunkless fern.
Part of the back garden.
Freycinetia cumingiana is a close relative of the screw pine (Pandanus).
The botanical garden surrounds the pool area.
Jeffrey Block’s pet cockatoo entertained us with song and dance.
The shade house is a tropical paradise!
I’ve read that Licuala mattanensis ‘Mapu’ is the world’s most sought-after palm… and hard to keep happy as well. Here though the tiny gem seemed perfectly satisfied.
We only toured the two greenhouses rapidly, as we were running out of time… but they were chock full of extraordinary plants.

I absolutely adored this garden! I’m sure I had a smile that stretched from ear to ear when I visited, I was that happy. I’m postive I’ll dream of this garden for years to come!

Block Botanical Gardens is open to visitors by appointment… and to be honest, if you’re a plant nut visiting the Miami region, this is one garden you simply shouldn’t miss. Here are the coordinates:


Address: Block Botanical Gardens
7299 SW 79 Court
Miami, FL 33143

Web site:

Many Thanks

This brings this 3-day saga to an end. I began writing this last text at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, continued at the Montreal Airport and am now finishing it from the warmth and comfort of my basement office as a cold wind howls outside. What trip! What extraordinary plants! And I’m just soooo happy!

Jennifer Nells and Sylvia Gordon.JPG
Our hosts, Jennifer Nellis and Sylvia Gordon

I must absolutely thank the FNGLA (Florida Foliage, Growers and Landscape Association) and especially Jennifer Nellis and Sylvia Gordon, for putting this tour together for us and accompanying us on our visits. It was a truly remarkable garden tour and one which will, I’m sure, be repeated next year. If you’re interested, become a member of the Garden Writers Association and get your name on the list. GWA is “The Association for Garden Communicators”, so if you communicate in any way about gardening, be it as an educator, master gardener, lecturer, photographer, nursery employee, or actual journalist or writer, you really owe it to yourself to join.img_2405

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

0 comments on “A South Florida Garden Tour

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!