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Their garden is no secret

Published March 23, 2007


Amber Prida learned the spa business in the Provence region of France and carried the secrets back to her garden in Tampa.

Walk around the 1,900-square-foot cottage that she shares with her husband, Andres, and their 20-month-old daughter, Ella, and a distinctly European garden unfolds.

Terraced in salvaged Chicago brick, it meanders through an eclectic variety of plantings that include vanilla bean orchids, staghorn ferns, papyrus, lychee and citrus trees, bay laurel, herbs and variety of ginger.

There's a pond, a porte cochere decked out with a chandelier, a front porch with hardwood flooring, and a swing and bench accented with zebra-striped cushions. Two 1920s metal chaise lounges add a unique touch, as does the brass boat lamp that once belonged to Prida's late father, Tampa harbor pilot Cyrus Epler.

"We really love gardens, and we try to engage the senses both indoors and out," said Andres, 31. He, alongside Amber, did much of the work by hand, including installing the front-porch floors and redesigning the pond area. "It's fun. It's a work in progress."

The Pridas will open their garden to the public on April 1 as part of the Earthly Paradise XV garden tour. The annual event allows garden buffs a peek into some of Tampa's beautiful and tucked-away tropical Edens.

This year's tour - from noon to 5 p.m. April 1 - features five gardens and a traditional musical tea party at Fred Ball Park, 2625 Bayshore Blvd.

The tea party is a favorite among the hundreds of annual tourgoers for the finger sandwiches and homemade baked goods made by the women of Rose Circle. They also sell a cookbook, Rose Circle Tea Party Recipes.

Prida, who owns the soothing and hip day spa, Spa Jardin, on MacDill Avenue, said her garden "definitely ties into the spa." But the garden's most striking features are the details, like the herbs growing from the window box outside the sliding kitchen window.

The idea: the wafting scent, and the ease with which the cook can reach for a handful of herbs while cooking.

Amber's mom, Nancy Calfee, brought the essence of the garden indoors by installing a salvaged wooden fence on the walls of Ella's room and painting it with a backdrop of cheerful flowers. Ella even has her own window box and a view of the potting bench, terra-cotta pots and yard figurines.

Along with the couple's collection of paintings, prints and pottery by local artists, the house is filled with the bounties of nature, including driftwood, coral, and wind chimes made from Perrier bottles. "We love to go to art openings, art fairs and garden shows as well as bring things in from nature," Amber said.

The dcor is mid century modern combined with French chic and flavored with an outdoor twist. The master bedroom opens to the side orchid garden through French doors. The kitchen-family room area opens to the back garden, making entertaining a frequent and casual event.

"We love to open everything up and have friends over for a glass of wine," said Andres. He grew up in Tampa along the Hillsborough River, and his father's old sculling oars hang from ropes high above the kitchen work spaces.

The couple plan to keep the kitchen-family room area partially open on the garden tour so that visitors can get a peek at their indoor-outdoor lifestyle.

With help from Amber's mom - a good cook as well as an artist - garden-tour visitors will be treated to lavender lemonade and tea sandwiches.

If anything, Andres said, visitors will enjoy an oak-canopied neighborhood that's within walking distance of Bayshore Boulevard.

"This street is very neighbor friendly, a safe, Old Florida neighborhood," Amber said. "It's a great place to raise a family."

Not to mention garden.

The porte cochere, accented with the couple's beautiful orchids, serves another purpose.

Says Amber: "It's where the adults hang out while the kids have fun."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at



If you go

Paradise nearby

Tickets to the Earthly Paradise XV garden tour on April 1 are $15 or $20 the day of the event at the Tampa Federation Garden Club Center, 2629 Bayshore Blvd. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Garden Party, 2832 S MacDill Ave., and Bloom garden shop, 5025 Bayshore Blvd.


How does the Gauthiers' garden grow? From the minds of a mom and her 9-year-old triplets. Page 12


[Last modified March 22, 2007, 08:06:07]

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