Matt and Tracy Smith decided to cancel all landscaping services at their beachfront residence on North Ocean Way in Palm Beach during the COVID-19 pandemic because they felt it was best that no one enter the property.
“We just gave up. I was raking the leaves,” said Matt Smith, president of Shoes for Crews, which makes and sells slip-resistant footwear. “We noticed that we weren’t seeing a lot of birds and bees.”
Soon the grass died and their plants looked ragged and overgrown. It was then that they decided to totally revamp their landscape using mostly native plants.
Their decision resulted in a dramatic overhaul, with more shade, less maintenance, a wider variety of plants, and a more eco-friendly landscape with a natural look reminiscent of old Florida.
The Smiths won the 2022 Lesly S. Smith Landscape Award
On May 3, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach presented the Smiths with the 2022 Lesly S. Smith Landscape Award for Excellence in Landscaping. The award, first presented in 2011, is named in honor of former Mayor Smith, who is one of the founding trustees of the foundation.
Lesly Smith, unrelated to Matt and Tracy Smith, presented the award at an event at the Peruvian Avenue foundation office. More than 100 people attended, including Smith’s daughter, Palm Beach Mayor Danielle Moore.
“I was home one of those windy days we’ve had here this winter,” Lesly Smith said. “Palms were bowing, but we were walking and looking in a beautiful, serene place. I’m not a swimmer, but I thought, “I would like to stay here. It’s really nice, peaceful and serene. It’s a feeling of old Palm Beach in a way that we hope you keep.”
Amanda Skier, CEO and President of the Preservation Foundation, said, “The award recognizes landscape that is at once consistent with the character and traditions of Palm Beach, but also original and avant-garde. Preserving the landscape quality of our city is at the heart of our mission and this award aims to recognize the impact of landscapes on our experience of the built environment.
The challenges to quality of life in Palm Beach are increasingly environmental, and decisions made about landscapes play a vital role, she said.
Susan Lerner, director of horticulture for the foundation, gave a presentation showing before and after photos of the three main areas of the property – the front, back and garden of the cabin. She highlighted native trees and shrubs such as silver buttonberry, sea plum, braceletwood, Simpson’s cork, white daisy, beach creeper and many more.
“It’s a garden to discover, to experience, to walk through and to discover,” Lerner said.
The 1-acre pebble-style house and beach cabana was completed in 2012 and furnished in the manicured style typical of many beachfront estates with expanses of lawn and coconut trees.
The Smiths were inspired by the Palm Beach Daily News columnist
The Smiths were inspired by Palm Beach Daily News columnist Kim Frisbie’s articles about native plants, the foundation’s all-indigenous Pan’s Garden and its winding paths, and interviews with City Councilman Bobbie Lindsay about plants. native.
They learned that non-native plants and trees require pesticides that harm the environment and enter the water system, and do not provide sufficient habitat and food for birds and butterflies.
The Smiths hired the Lake Worth Beach-based Yates Burle Studio, owned and operated by Debra Yates and her son, Benjamin Burle, to design the new landscape. The 80-year-old palm and coconut trees were retained, but much of the grass was removed, including the artificial turf on the beachfront, Yates and Burle said.
Yates Burle completed the first phase and Armstrong Landscape, led by Doug Allard, completed a second phase of additional plantings.
Burle said the Smith project is the only one his company has done in Palm Beach, although they have done others in the area. With over 45 types of mature native trees and plants, including rare and endangered coastal native species, the property probably contains the highest concentration of native species on any private oceanfront property in Palm Beach.
“It’s a good example to show that you can create native habitat in a sophisticated way,” Burle said.
Yates and Burle personally selected each tree, and all plants and trees in the project were locally sourced. The rarest trees incorporated are the Joewood Tree, Bay Cedar, Seven Year Apple, Lignum Vitae, Cinnamon Bark, and White Indigo Berry. Rare palms featured include buccaneer palm and Florida silver palm. Sea lavender and soft caper are rare plants that now bloom on the property.
Tracy Smith, owner of Gypsy Life Surf Shop in West Palm Beach, said planting sea oats and dune grasses on their beach has helped reduce erosion. The whole family, including son Ben and daughter Margot, loves to surf.
“It’s beautiful,” Tracy Smith said. “You can still look beautiful and help the environment. Our house looks better.
The Smiths, who have lived in Palm Beach for 27 years, hope more residents will decide to landscape with native plants.
“It was a big transformation. There’s more privacy and it’s more interesting,” Matt Smith said. “Depending on the time of day, you have more places where you can read and the sun don’t always hit you. My dogs haven’t complained.