Silvio and Estee Sperber have created many memories while on trips to California, Jamaica, Italy and Guatemala. When they return home, they keep those memories alive in their backyard by recreating some of what they’ve seen.
For example, on a trip to Chateau St. Jean winery in Napa Valley last year, they stumbled upon a wooden cart with wooden wheels set in a small garden near the tasting room.
“I took photos and brought them home to have it recreated here,” Silvio says. The cart now stands in a corner of their three-quarter acre garden in Hollywood. Its bed billows over with white and red allamandas as well as pink and red begonias.
Their house’s tile roof is covered with purple and pink bougainvilleas that remind the couple of a hotel they visited in Positano, Italy. The top of the three-story hotel was grown over with bougainvilleas that were probably 400 years old.
“The flowers were overflowing the roof line and it was just amazing,” Silvio says. When they returned home, they worked to achieve the same effect.
During certain times of year, these showy flowers tumble from the roof to carpet the surface of the swimming pool. But the Sperbers don’t mind. The flowers remind them of a restaurant they visited in Guatemala that brought in bougainvillea flowers to cover its pool.
“We’ve gotten trillions of ideas on our travels. Between each tree and bush in our garden, a story can be told,” says Estee.
Silvio grew up in Buenos Aires. His mother had a garden when he was a child and she had lots of house plants. “But I never got involved,” says Silvio, who admits he preferred to curl up with a book and study.
But in 1988, when he bought this house and two lots, things changed. “I always liked the outdoors and since I moved here, gardening has just come naturally to me,” he says.
Estee got her love of gardening from her grandmother, whom she’d visit in upstate New York during the summers when she was a child. “My grandmother tended her garden like it was her whole life,” Estee says.
But as Estee grew older, she was too busy raising her own children and working as a physician’s assistant to do much planting on her own. That’s until about four years ago, when she married Silvio.
The first plants Silvio remembers buying were Neoregelias, a group of bromeliads known for their colorful leaves often dressed in red, cream, pink and shades of green.
“I saw them growing on the trunks of a palm tree and I just fell in love with that,” he says, remembering a visit to Sunshine Bromeliads in Southwest Ranches. This is where he met owner Josefa Leon, who has guided his bromeliad purchases ever since.
To showcase these epiphytes that can grow without soil, he stripped the lower leaves and limbs off a euphorbia drupifera, a tree-like succulent that grows near his patio. Then he affixed the bromeliads with black plastic pull ties until they put out roots and attached themselves to the trunk.
On the shady side of the trunk he’s placed bromeliad varieties that don’t need much sun such as the Neoregelia morado, which has green and purple leaves, and the Neoregelia Picasso with its green-and-cream-striped leaves speckled with purple.
On the sunny side of the trunk, he’s cultivating Billbergia hallelujahs that have pink and green leaves with white spots. The Neoregelia Caroline has leaves that are red below and green on top.