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February/March 2008


FEATURES

After the Storm
By Jane Garmey
Photographs by Michael Price

FOLLOWING THREE HURRICANES IN TWO YEARS, A MAGNIFICENT GARDEN ON THE FORMER PHIPPS ESTATE BLOOMS BRIGHTER THAN EVER

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"Defiance is what makes gardeners," wrote Henry Mitchell, the revered American garden critic, in 1981. "They are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the defiance of nature herself." He could have been writing about Bob Eigelberger, whose garden, Casa Phippsberger, was virtually destroyed by three hurricanes within the space of two years but who, undeterred, has now restored it to its former magnificence.

Fifteen years ago, Eigelberger and his wife, Susie Phipps Cochran, sold 14 of the 20 acres surrounding their house in Palm Beach. In doing so they found themselves without the vast expanse of lawn that had formerly hidden their property from the outside world. In its place, they needed a garden to protect their privacy, and although Eigelberger had no training as a garden designer, he was determined to do the job himself. He had always been fascinated by gardens and as a former Midwesterner he was particularly drawn to Florida, finding its vegetation "tropical, lush, always alive and never dormant." Fragrant gardens are among his special passions. "I guess it's a compulsion," he explains. "I started collecting one tropical plant and found that led to another and another." He also loves palm trees and admits, "This may have started it all, because I can't resist adding to the collection."

Eigelberger began creating his garden section by section, doing what he modestly describes as "filling in the spots." A new winding entrance drive was created to open into what was formerly the car court. This was transformed into an elegant, brick-terraced front courtyard shaded by the overhanging branches of a ficus tree and rimmed with urns filled with begonias, elephant ears, pothos and cordalynes in a color scheme limited to pink, green and white.




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