Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bonnet House

Whilst in Florida, we visited the historic Bonnet House and Gardens, a bit like a National Trust property in the UK. Amazingly we had walked past this property many times when we used to regularly holiday in Fort Lauderdale back in the 1990's but had never visited. 

Bonnet House was designed and built by the artist Frederic Clay Bartlett and construction started in 1920. His first wife Helen died in 1925 but it was very much in the 1930's and 1940's with his second wife Evelyn that the estate developed.  The house is situated on a coastal barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercostal Waterway. It is said that in the early days, the land had to be cleared of alligators, snakes and other animals to make it habitable. On the day of our visit we saw some huge iguanas but fortunately that is all! Frederic died in 1953 but Evelyn returned each winter until 1983, when the property was given to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation and is now open to the public.

House main entrance


The house is quite whimsical and painted in strong primary colours with an excess of yellow! Architecturally it is quite bizarre with rough construction and quirky details often using reclaimed materials. It is said to have been designed in the style of a plantation house and is certainly unique! Indoors one can see Bartlett's studio and a selection of his paintings. All the rooms are arranged around a central courtyard with lush planting and fountains. We were not allowed to take interior pictures, so just pictures of the courtyard and gardens.

The courtyard garden

The property extends to 35 acres and includes many mature trees and various features, although much of the land demonstrates the local natural ecosystems with mangrove swamps and a maritime forest. Strangely the area immediately around the house is planted as a desert garden containing Agaves and other arid plantings which do not seem to like the wet climate. By contrast there are orchids everywhere, some tied to trees or just hanging with their roots exposed to the humid atmosphere.

Visitor entrance to gardens

Desert garden

Orchid house - not allowed to go in - the guide shouted quite abusively at one man who attempted to look closely!

Bonnet House slough

Slough and Chickee Bridge

Stags horn fern

Is this a mangrove? Answer - no! Probably a banyan - Species of Ficus! Thanks to College gardener for the correction.

This variegated Monstera seems to grow almost wild in places - apologies - correction - this is Epipremnum aureum, which used to be sold as a houseplant in the UK as Scindapsus aureus

Fountain - reclaimed from a local demolished property but the setting not inspiring

Lily pond and pavilion

Loved the way the light caught these but not sure what they are. Not chlorophyttums and not yucca but what?


  1. Looks like an interesting place. I had no idea it was there; maybe we should check it out next time we are in southern Florida. Also, not a mangrove but definitely some banyan-y species of Ficus, and I think that Monstera might actually be a really overgrown/fully mature pothos (Epipremnum aureum). They get like that when they are allowed to grow outside in a climate that is wet and warm enough.

  2. It's easy to miss--we've vacationed in Ft. Lauderdale every winter for the past 10 years but only about 3 years ago finally made it to Bonnet House. We loved it! I would love to have a house with a central courtyard garden like that.