By Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley
At the Sundy House in Delray Beach, you’ll find the Taru Gardens, home to 750 plant species including more than 100 medicinal and fruiting plants. Some of these are from as far away as Thailand and Singapore.
But the garden was not always this way.
When Tom Worrell bought the 1½-acre-property in the mid-1990s, he got not only the historic Sundy house but also an asphalt parking lot, a decrepit stable and a small apartment building that was being used as a crack house.
“There was a pit bull in just about every apartment, and the parking lot was covered with syringes,” Worrell recalls.
It took $1.6 million and the help of Richard Wilson, who owns Excalibur Fruit Trees in Lake Worth, to turn the property into a poster child for redevelopment.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
In 2004, Worrell left his restaurant as well as his gardens in the hands of a management company that did no pruning, mulching or fertilizing. “They just didn’t care,” Wilson says.
The 100-year-old royal poinciana
dwarfs the seating arrangement.
The magnificent royal poinciana just inside the front wrought iron gate really suffered. It already had a hollow trunk, but during this time a branch fell into the parking lot, breaking the tree nearly in half.
Now back in charge, Wilson and Worrell were able to save the tree by filling the center of its trunk with concrete and metal rebar. And yes, the almost 100-year-old poinciana survived although its 40-foot-wide canopy is partially supported by wooden columns and metal jacks.
As you enter the garden, look out over what Wilson describes as “berms and vistas.” There’s something new to see with every turn of the limestone rock path.
For example, you might spot something like the spiny silk floss tree in the distance. It certainly will draw your attention. But when you follow the winding path to reach it, you’ll come across a plant-covered hillock that hides the flowering tree from view.
You also may spot white-linen covered tables set among the foliage. Here you can enjoy the blooms as you eat lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch.
You also may find the garden represented on the Sundy House menu. The chef’s options for picking include jaboticaba with the dark, grape-like fruit growing on its trunk and black sapote that has fruit reminiscent of chocolate mousse. Just add sugar.
A wild ginger glows with a radiant magenta hue in the morning light.
“I looked for some of the strangest things I could find when gathering specimens to plant,” Wilson says.
The pool area has three naturally filtered water features surrounded by banana palms laden with green hands, varieties of ginger with pink to red torch-like flowers, and a mango tree with fruit that tastes like piña coladas, we are told.
On your way out, stop by the brick patio at the front of the restaurant. You don’t want to miss the bodhi tree with its heart-shaped leaves. It’s the same type of tree under which Buddha is said to have sat when he gained enlightenment.
Wilson gets it right when he says, “Walking through these gardens makes you feel like you’ve been away on a very long trip.”
f You Go
Sundy House, 106 S. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach; 561-272-5678.
Garden tours are available at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and Friday. Call for information and reservations.
Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley is a certified master gardener who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org when she’s not digging in her yard.