Miami's Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Sandy Schmidt

Trip report: Miami Gardens and the APGA Conference

Trip report: Miami Gardens and the APGA Conference

Jul 13, 2016|GardensHolbrook in the Field| by Holbrook Travel

Holbrook Travel's garden tours director and specialty travel consultant Sandy Schmidt recently returned from the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) annual conference, held this year in Miami, where she met with professionals from botanical gardens and arboretums, attended lectures, and learned what's new in the garden world.

The APGA conference is my absolute favorite conference of the year. The world of gardens is full of amazing people, all willing to lend a hand to any project that you might be working on, down to earth, and fun. This year we were in “sizzling” Miami, with cloud cover and ocean breezes that kept us cooler than we might have been otherwise (during the tours), but boy did we heat up the night at Vizcaya!

 Night view of downtown Miami

This is my chance to renew ties with longtime clients, meet new people that might one day wish to travel with us, and generally get a great dose of goodness from these wonderful people. Here are some highlights from a great conference:

My trip began Monday with the full day pre-conference tour, “Exclusive Private Gardens of Miami.”


 Patch of Heaven private garden

I always love to see private gardens in the cities we visit each year, and this pre-tour turned out to be very special. Little did I know (until a few weeks prior), one of the homes would be that of the Chesneys, who employed my dear friends Fred Hubbard and Robert Del Cid to design and implement a major revamp of their property, which began in 2008.

 Patch of Heaven private garden

What they have done is so over-the-top amazing. This was where we spent most of the morning, and I couldn’t have been prouder watching my friends (of 26 years!) show everyone around, answer questions, and smile a great deal.

 Fred Hubbard and Roberto Del Cid

The garden can be visited by appointment, so at this point it is considered a private garden, but it may become public in the future. It is always growing, always improving (if that is possible), and if you’d like to check out their Facebook page, please do:


 Patch of Heaven private garden

We went to three more properties, one of which is a private home, but they have a shop and nursery and sell orchids to the public.

 Fountain, private home garden tour


 Orchids, private home garden tour


 Miami skyline, private home garden tour

The following day was the official start of the conference, and Holbrook Travel was proud to sponsor one of the Professional Section Meetings, the International Gardens Meeting.

 Professional Section Meetings

Wednesday’s luncheon featured the annual awards presentation. A big shout-out goes to our long-time client Chipper Wichman, Director at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, who won an “Award of Merit.” He said it actually belonged to his wife, Hau’oli Wichman, also a lovely client, because she works diligently by his side in all of their projects.

Conference awards

Also, another shout-out to the Phipps Conservatory for their “Operational Sustainability Award” and two of the wonderful people with the conservatory that traveled to Cuba with me after the conference, Jordyn Melino and Emily Kalnicky. Additionally, with the Conservatory is the award-winning photographer and writer Paul Wiegman and his wife Pam Wiegman, who also were in Cuba with us. I was so proud of them all!

Wait for it, wait for it – on Thursday the big night at the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens finally arrived, and so did the looming daily thunderstorms! We arrived in the many buses it takes to get 600+ people through Miami at rush hour, and from the first step on the property, we knew the 30-minute, five-mile drive was worth it.

 Dinner at Vizcaya overlooking Biscayne Bay

The conference program promised a “uniquely and authentically ‘Miami’” experience amid the ambiance of Vizcaya’s Italianate, Gilded Age mansion, and it definitely delivered. Vizcaya boasts one of the nation’s best formal European-inspired gardens and collection of 18th century Veneto garden sculpture.

 Vizcaya gardens

It was indeed incredible, and though I had been there before, it was fabulous to be there with my APGA friends and enjoy the gardens, the mansion’s courtyard, the food, and the dancing.

 Miami drag legend Adora hosted the reception at Vizcaya

Even the short thunderstorm was welcomed, because watching Florida weather is so dramatic! After 5 or 6 hours there, we were all a sweaty mess on the ride back to the hotel, with great big grins on our faces, and chatting up a storm!

 Dancing at Vizcaya

It was a fantastic conference, and I’m definitely looking forward to next year, when we actually leave the US and head to Toronto!

Click here to read about Sandy's post-conference trip to Cuba with APGA members.