Tiny Tropical Paradise

Tropical blue, lime green, sunny yellow, sizzling orange, hot pink, bright red, and vivid purple are all colors found in my tiny corner of a tropical paradise. Florida can give you a feeling that you are living in a bright, Technicolor movie. It is all about bold colors along with various shades and textures of green everywhere you look.

My little corner of paradise has evolved over the last year and a half so let me start at the beginning of this story.  My husband and I decided to sell our thirteen acre farm with three hundred apple trees and a large antique colonial home and retire to Florida where there would be no more snow to shovel, no trees to prune, apples to pick, or mowing for days on end…I think you can get the picture.

We flew down to Florida and after much looking found the last lot available in a gated community in Vero Beach on which to build our new home and we were delighted. Looking at it from the street, it looked perfect. The builder gave us the option of several models that could be built on the lot, just not the one we loved as it was too wide and too long. We were downsizing, after all, so we picked a new model, signed a contract and things were put in motion.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

Once the surveyors sited where our house would sit on the property, the lot didn’t look nearly as big. After the house was under construction we found that we would have almost no backyard at all. The Areca palms that lined the back of the property were now almost touching the house so they had to be removed. This made the area behind the house look a little bigger but there still wouldn’t be much of a yard. After the removal of the back row of palms, a drainage swale became visible so as the saying goes, “you win some, you lose some.” The builder would be doing some landscaping and that should help or so we thought. Actually he only planted grass in the tiny backyard.

We bought furniture, moved in and started our new life in sunny, warm Florida. Perfect or so you would think. No more snow and cold and someone else was taking care of our yard but when you walked into our open concept home, the first thing you noticed was the large sliding glass doors in our great room and the ugly view of our backyard.

Click on  any photo to enlarge.

It has been a challenge trying to make the most of the little outdoor space but with the help of landscaper Jennifer Bevins of Construction Landscape we have created a tiny backyard oasis. Over the course of eight months since we started our landscaping project, the plantings have had to handle hurricane Matthew and a very dry and warmer than normal winter. Some of the plants struggled from wind damage and some didn’t do well because of too much or not enough sun, so plantings were moved and new ones have been recently added.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

While Vero Beach is considered the beginning of the tropics in Florida, we still get winters where temperatures go down into the low thirties with an occasional threat of frost so the tropical plants that we decided on had to be hardy. The gardens are now filled with beautiful tropical plantings in a wide range of colors and texture.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Varying shades of lush greens and unique foliage are punctuated with bold pops of color from bougainvillea and hibiscus blossoms. With the coming summer rains and another mild winter, by next year we should soon have a beautiful but tiny tropical oasis.

A Large Triangle Palm Is Now The Focal Point From The Great Room And Lanai

Have you ever taken on a landscape project that transformed your yard? If you are thinking of creating a backyard oasis, I hope this will give you some ideas.

View Of The Gardens From The Lanai

Just remember to plant lush layers of interesting green foliage and bright colors that you enjoy. I know our gardens will continue to evolve over the years and I’ll be sure to share any updates. We are very  happy that we did this major landscaping project and we now love the view from both the great room and from out on the lanai.

Happy Gardening

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103 thoughts on “Tiny Tropical Paradise

  1. Wow Karen that is beautiful,you have a great landscaper. So many of those plants I know from our home in South Africa and I miss them as it is too cold for them here in France. Climate wise I would love to move back to Zimbabwe, but politically it is definitely not the answer!! Enjoy your home and no snow is a huge bonus 🙂 Take care Diane

  2. Your garden looks fabulous! You now have a wonderful view. We also love the brilliant colours here in Spain. We are doing container gardening as our yard is all tiled, a typical Spanish yard but we love it. Still working on it of course. I think we moved locations around the same time so fun to follow along.

  3. All the beauties from our beloved St. Martin except for plumbago, which I can actually grow here in PA during the summer. Enjoy in good health!

  4. We are also looking to spend more time in a climate warmer than Toronto, although not ready to sell our city home yet. We love winters in Arizona and have friends already there. The house would be a smaller mode (our home is about 1,600 sq. ft. and the one in Arizona would be around 1,400!). Properties are not huge in the resort-style community either, but we don’t want yard work since we’ll only be there about a month every year. They don’t plant much grass in Arizona because it just wouldn’t survive the heat of summer. The golf course in the community has two types of grass, in November, they completely tear up the summer grass and plant a combination seed of winter and summer grass so when the winter grass dies and the summer grass flourishes, it’s really quite excessive. We landscaped our city home and had all the grass removed (it never grew nicely anyway). It was such a transformation! To this day, people stop to look at the landscaping and often compliment us when we are out there.

  5. Karen-your yard is stunning. I think downsizing is a good idea. Hubby and I are considering it as well. We have 20 acres—nice space, but oh, the work. I’d like a 1/2 acre-intensely planted.
    The colors down there are amazing-so bright and cheery. Still brown up here (you don’t miss THAT , do you?!?!)
    Well, hope all is well. Nice to see this post.

  6. You have such a formidable ‘way’ with houses and gardens and plants. I still remember some of the photos from your previous more northerly home. Despite the differences in weather and landscape, both residences are real ‘homes’, and attractive, without being just show pieces.

  7. Wow! What a transformation a good landscape designer can give a place. That said, I know your design eye so you would have had immense input on this design. it’s beautiful!

  8. Oh Karen it looks wonderful, a true tropical paradise & much easier to manage.
    We think we have found our downsized home , with a small garden. Not signed yet, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that all goes with the Notaire.

  9. Dear Karen, congratulations on your gorgeous backyard oasis! I love what you’ve done, and it sounds like a long road but you’re figuring it out. The colors are beautiful and I especially like the curvy lines I see where the mulch is. That may sound strange, but esp. when you have small spaces to work with, curvy lines add so much. When we lived in SC for a long while we were friends with a landscape designer who very kindly helped us design our small yard with lots of curvy lines. It was so pretty and our house sold in just a few days when we moved back north – I know it was because of the beautiful landscaping. Enjoy the beauty, your new home and view is stunning!

  10. we love to transform our landscape! Redoing our backyard currently (it’ll be all garden — it works, because it’s a small yard). And when we lived in Florida we had mainly a tropical xeriscape garden (some tropicals, but all sorts of plants I had never heard of before — really pretty!). Your garden looks gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!

  11. A stunning transformation! How fortunate that you now have gorgeous views of your tropical paradise. As you know, most of these are house plants in the north so the exotic feel of your garden has extra impact. A sight for sore eyes weary of cold and rain!

  12. Beautiful job tackling that back view, Karen! What a difference a few plants and some forethought make!

  13. Lovely colors and textures. It reminds me of the allure of Florida, or California, or the desert, or “The Islands” (as Yankees call the Caribbean). In my New England years, winter was colorless, a world of black, white, and grey, with brown dead grass showing at intervals, sometimes blue sky (usually on days too bitter to notice, as one struggled to keep one’s footing in the shrieking wind). After traveling to any of these places in winter, we may have talked about the warmth, but it was the sun and full vibrant spectrum of color that really made the emotional difference. So glad you get to enjoy it all year round now.

  14. Hi Karen, you’ve done an amazing job – very Zen🙃 We still have that last patch of snow behind the back deck but hopefully it’ll be gone by this weekend. I love looking at your colorful flowers and think…soon, very soon we’ll have a little color here.

  15. Karen, you are living in a technicolor world, one very sensitively designed. While quite a change from winters in New Hampshire and summers in Maine, you have found a new place to enjoy life.

  16. Wow, you certainly did make lemonade out of lemons with that backyard space! It’s actually good it was a small space, I can only imagine the cost of doing a much larger one. I can just envision myself sitting in that windowed room, enjoying the tropical flowers and sunshine. What an amazing transformation!

  17. Your home is looking really beautiful and lush, Karen. You have a great eye for colour combination and your hard work and perseverence has really paid off. All that remains now is to enjoy the fruits of your labour! 👍

  18. What a transformation, seeing those before and after photos! Your garden looks wonderful. I love the bougainvillea especially. It reminds me of childhood summers in Greece.

    I imagine it must be a lovely place to sit and read, perhaps with a glass of ice tea. 🙂

  19. What a big change! Your landscaping made all the difference and the colors are magnificent. So happy you are enjoying your new home. I can’t imagine what a dramatic transition this was. My parents used to vacation in Vero Beach. They loved it there and it was a quick trip from Chattanooga. Our favorite spot in Florida is Sanibel Island. Shelling everyday for me!

  20. What a beautiful home and garden you have created, love the different colors of green and beautiful flowers, looks like paradise to me.

  21. It’s absolutely perfect Karen..an oasis is right..a beautiful technicolor world..I love the vegetation in Fl..so colorful and tropical..the bright blue sky is such a gorgeous add on~I already find..and I don’t have acres..that less would have been best..gardens wise..you don’t think or feel the same way.. 48 and 63..time changes a few things..Happy Easter..take care..hope all is well!

  22. Those tropical flowers are simply gorgeous. It must have been interesting to suddenly face completely different growing conditions. I wonder if you can grow any herbs still? But I remember you posting about the wonderful markets near your new home. That palm is fabulous and makes the view from your window and patio look amazing. It is lovely to see images of your new surroundings Karen and I hope it feels like home now!

  23. How lovely your Oasis is!! Love all the beautiful plantings Karen! And Congrats on your move to Vera Beach is so lovely, we have visited so many times there. We enjoy living in the South and know you will too! All the best of luck!
    Anna and Liz

  24. Love what you’ve done with the backyard! Our lives have done a flip-flop because I’m from Florida and now living in New England area (going on 4 years). I’m used to small backyards and here in NH, I’m on 2 acres, which seems so big! Can’t believe you guys downsized from 13 acres!! Well, I love everything about your new landscaped yard and I’m also insanely jealous of your winters vs mine 🙂

  25. Karen, your backyard transformation is magnificent! It has improved the views from your beautiful floor to ceiling wondows so gorgeous. We have many gardening challenges at our home in Colorado. We have a narrow yard backed by a large wooden retaining wall that is in three narrow “steps” Ovee the four years we have lived here we’ve placed aspen trees and tall shrubs in the wall and I’ve also planted many perennial flowers in the wall. Last summer many hummingbirds visited us!. We also have many deer and rabbits and other critters that visit our yard, and nibble the plants, but I enjoyed seeing them so take it in stride.

  26. Packing up & moving is a big deal. I am glad you were able to make your yard into such a beautiful oasis.

  27. Wow, your landscaping is wonderful. The view from your house to the gardens is so peaceful and serene. It’s hard to believe that the landscaping has been in place for only a few month. Your landscaper did a wonderful job.

  28. Karen, congratulations on your new home and stunning landscaping! What an exciting move. I’m envious of your lush color right now…we still have sleet and snow and I’m craving spring. Thank you for sharing a peek into your new life!

  29. A bit different from New England! But what a beautiful space you’ve created. Very impressive, I’m envious of you having no more snow to weather. I’m afraid Mr. Rosemary and I are mired in inertia. One of these days . . . .

  30. It sure looks like a paradise…everything is so pretty Karen…thanks for sharing the pictures…I enjoy them all.
    I hope you are having a fabulous week 🙂

  31. I don’t have a house nor have I ever landscaped but if I could I would love it to look like your. Perfect

  32. Love reading your story Karen!! Seems brave to pick up and make a home in a whole new place! And– loved the brilliant plantings you ended up with in your yard– not a grove of apple trees– but so lush and bright and beautiful! thanks for sharing it all with us… Hope you have a blessed Easter tomorrow. hugs!

  33. Your home is beautiful! I’m happy that you found your way to Florida. Isn’t this the most beautiful state! I love it here. Greetings.

  34. What a fantastic transformation!!!!! Bougainvillea and hibiscus blossoms are 2 of my most favorites. But honestly, Karen, don’t you miss the snow and the apple blossoms in the spring 🙂 ?

  35. Welcome to Florida! As a life long native Florida can present its own challenges. Landscaping can be a unique experience as weather can unpredictable at times. Looks like your partnership with the landscaper was a success. Your lawn is really coming together. You tackled the challenges.

    Velva-Tomatoes on the Vine

  36. Karen, you live in such an amazing place…. I envy you both the climate and the flora! And all the changes you have achieved must make you both so happy. Will you still be so willing to go for long German holidays and leave such an extraordinary house? (Just joking!).

  37. Oh my God, imagine living in a place where palm trees grow!!! How beautiful! Want to swap places for the holiday? You can enjoy a thoroughly German summer here, probably like winter in Florida 🙂 🙂

  38. Hi Karen, I enjoyed reading this post, as we have, at long last, moved into our new home. And, our backyard is a bit of a blank slate—we will, over time, change its look. Already we’ve planted some fruit trees and a vegetable patch is soon to come. Thanks for sharing your landscaping journey!

  39. Oh my, Karen! What an amazing transformation! Your tropical garden paradise is just gorgeous. Now the view from your windows is truly breathtaking. Enjoy every colorful moment! Hope you will share garden photos throughout the year ahead. Happy gardening, Karen! ♡

  40. thanks, I’ve really enjoyed seeing your transformation, I know how satisfying it is to see the changes and then one day be looking up at at large tree you remember planting as a baby . Your garden is looking so beautiful

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