a subdued planting palette in the tropics
Named for a revered native tree, Villa Guaiac is enlivened by an interplay between simple geometry and complex sculptural plant forms. Graphic large plant masses frame and emphasize mixed planting compositions. Pure white volumes become screens on which the sun projects light and shadow. Tropical color is used sparingly to draw attention to the subtlety of leaf color and texture. Silver Bismarkia palms contrast with bright green Coco palms and the smooth brown bark of Gumbo Limbo trees. The ocean is a constant presence that is framed and modified by the architecture and landscape in the foreground.
Large, mature specimen trees distinguish this tropical hillside garden. Working in a design and management capacity, Matt Donham selected each specimen from nurseries and fallow fields in southern Florida, oversaw its pruning (to fit within a shipping container without losing its distinctive form) and directed its planting—placing and “facing” each tree to compose the garden. Matt limited species variation to produce a subtlety in keeping with the villa’s modern pavilions, designed by Charles Gwathmey. Native stone walls and adapted species root the garden in the character of the island.
The villa employs an innovative combination of stormwater, greywater, and blackwater treatment, storage, and reuse. Using these systems and a palette of native and adapted plant communities, we were able to create a lush, dense garden on this dry tropical hillside.