We have a secret to share. The Fort Lauderdale Garden's Club's annual Secret Garden Tour is Saturday.
So put on your comfortable shoes and walk behind the gates at Fort Lauderdale's most-prestigious addresses to peer at spectacular waterfront gardens.
Maps to the $25 self-guided tour are handed out from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Church by the Sea. Proceeds fund the club's charitable work, which includes scholarships to Wekiva Youth Camp in Apopka.
"This year, we are featuring themed gardens with five homes on the tour," says organizer Sandra Lynch, of the Parkinsonia Garden Circle, one of several chapters of the club. "Each year, we like to present something for everyone to appreciate, something to inspire them."
Much inspiration can be found on the tour's highlight, a 7-acre oasis on the south fork of the New River. "Charlie's Palmarum" is brimming with native and exotic palms and tropical trees and plants heavy with brilliant blooms.
Palms of note include a native thatch, bismarcks, brown fuzzy, petticoat and a Coco de Mer, found only in the Seychelles.
A crowning jewel is the majestic, 100-year-old kapok tree towering 70 feet. Steps away, baby manatees occasionally lumber into the lagoon that narrows into a tidal creek running through the monster property.
Jade vine with long, trailing blooms seemingly kissed by leprechauns drip over a weathered wall on one side of the house. Up the path, giant orbs of orange flowers adorn the Panama flame tree. .
"I'm a caretaker of this place, and I love to share it," says Charles Slater, 53, who's owned the property since 1993. "This used to be a marshy 1940s fish camp. I added three feet of fill over five acres. I've planted over time to turn this place into a piece of living art. I think I've achieved my goal."
Other featured gardens include a welcoming entryway, a backyard garden perfect for entertaining and a 200-bush rose garden.
The tour is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and begins at Church by the Sea, 2700 Mayan Drive, in Fort Lauderdale. Limited tickets cost $25 and $30 on Saturday, 954-561-8475, FLGC.org.