Visiting the Italian-Inspired Gardens of Vizcaya

Explore the tropical beauty of this European-inspired garden in Miami, Florida

Have you ever explored a garden that transported you to another place and time?

Last week, I met with several garden-blogger friends in Miami, Florida and we set off to explore Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.  For many of the bloggers, the warm weather was nothing short of heavenly and we were anxious to explore the tropical treasures located within the gardens of Vizcaya.


Vizcaya is the former estate of James Deering who spent a lot of time and money to create a piece of Italy in Florida.  To achieve this, he used plants adapted to Miami’s tropical climate while creating the illusion of a European garden.

The home, completed in 1918, was open to explore and is filled with many wonderful historical pieces that James Deering brought over from Europe. The house opens out onto the Bay of Biscayne and a stone barge was built as a breakwater to protect the home against the rising tide.

The formal gardens consist of 10 acres of formally landscaped areas, mirroring French and Italian gardens from the 17th and 18th century.  The garden was created to create the illusion of different rooms.  On the outer edges of the formal gardens lie 25 acres of natural forest.

As you walk from the house into the gardens, you are greeted by low hedges formally-pruned into mazes, reminiscent of gardens seen in Europe.  The large fountain takes center stage with Southern live oak and palm trees in the background.

Directly across from the house is a magnificent outdoor room that is called ‘the Casino’ (top right).  Between the house and the Casino, lie the majority of the gardens.


Walking through the gardens, we frequently heard the sound of water that was contained with in various water features.  I especial loved the step fountain in the middle.

Spanish moss hung from from the Southern live oak trees and mangrove forests along the outer boundary of the grounds gave the gardens an ‘other-worldly’ feel.


My favorite of the garden was the ‘Secret garden’, which was a grotto that you and to take stairs down into.  Along the wall by the stairs were wall planters that contained a variety of beautiful succulents.

Brightly colored, tropical plants grabbed your attention in the bottom of the garden.  Yellow Peruvian Candle (Sanchezia speciosa) contrast beautifully in front of the fuchsia-colored Ti Plants (Cordyline ‘Red Sister’).

Limestone was present throughout the gardens and was used extensively, giving the garden an old, aged look that made it seem much older then it is mirroring the illusion of a European garden.


The gardens of Vizcaya don’t have a regular flower garden.  However, flowering plants were seen throughout the entire garden.  Orchids (bottom left and right) grew outdoors and were hanging from containers and growing in the trees themselves.  Most cultivated orchids are epiphytes, which means that they receive water and nutrients from the air.

The fuzzy, purple flowers of Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) really pop visually against the red wall.  This drought-tolerant perennial attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds. (I have seen this perennial grown as an annual at the White House and as a perennial in Florida.  I also grow this as a perennial in Arizona.)


Statues were placed throughout the garden that adds to the formality of the garden, contributing to its European theme.

I urge you to take time to visit Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.  In addition to the small glimpse that I have shown you, the gardens contain a mangrove forest, a tea house, giant staghorn ferns, colorful succulents, bromeliads and air plants just to name a few.

Add a Comment

Want more garden tips for your backyard?

Get ideas and advice for a beautiful landscape with our free Gardening newsletter!

Enter your email address: