Keyword Site Search

Tara Revisited Florida Style

Stephen Kelly, editor

Custom wrought-iron fencing and gates enclose the property. These traditional elements, plus brick in a herringbone pattern for the walkways and driveway add further to the historic look. Eight 50-watt well lights (B-K Lighting) are positioned at the base of the home's architectural columns and pillars. A combination of small and large spot lights, both ground and tree-mounted, provide the lighting for the trees and shrubbery.

teak warehouse blank

This stately 13,500 square foot southern-plantation style home sits high on a three-acre bluff on Florida's Gulf side. Any elevation in this swampy state is quite unusual. From the vantage point of the bluff the homeowners enjoy great views of the sunset.

The homeowners appreciate all things Southern. This nouveau Tara is exquisitely detailed to recall the spirit of the grand ol' days of the South.

Right of the pool house (above) the large oak tree is lit by tree-mounted 175W metal halide (MH) spotlights (Greenlee). Some of the fixtures are mounted 40 feet above ground for a dramatic, broad-stroke lighting effect. Small ground-mounted MH bullet lights accent the slender palms in front of the pool house and guesthouse (left). MH spotlights, 175W, flood the larger palms bordering the pool deck. The path lighting fixtures are cast aluminum with stainless steel stems (Nightscaping, McKayliter brand) and use two 16.5W bulbs. Landscape architect Phil Graham notes he would use LED lamps now for the path lighting and to uplight the trees. LED lamps, he explains, do not require tree-mounted or remotely-located ballasts.

A Magnificent Overlook

The landscape architects sited the home to create a magnificent overlook, saving 100-year-old oaks and increasing the ground elevation to rise above and hide a neighborhood street at the foot of the bluff. The resulting unfettered view of the water and the coastal skyline is thus undisturbed by the sounds and sights of the roadway. A rolling green lawn offers an elegant backdrop for views from the porch. The main house is laid out with the 60-inch caliper oak as the centerline bisecting the symmetrical, antebellum-style residence.

Pool as Focus

The pool is the center point of the backyard, directly behind the house and bordered by the guesthouse and poolhouse. The pool deck is finished with elegant marble pavers and matching bullnose coping. A formal, raised spa anchors one end of the pool while grand steps grace the other.


The owner, in keeping with the plantation style, selected a wonderful bronze of a southern belle to the likeness of her daughter and because of ties to the University of Florida, a bronze gator whimsically roams the pool deck.

The pool deck is finished with elegant marble pavers and matching bullnose coping. A formal, raised spa anchors one end of the pool, while grand steps grace the other. Recessed can lights in the outdoor ceiling illuminate the porch. Five 50-watt well lights accent the columns, along with two small 100W spot lights.

Exterior Lighting

High-quality, single-cored, aluminum fixtures, powder-coated in a bronze patina were used both as ground-mounted, bullet accent up-lights on the ornamental trees, and for well lighting at the base of the home's architectural columns and pillars. Aluminum materials and stainless steel hardware provide the durability to weather the transient salt-spray of Florida's northwesterly, winter winds.

Tree-mounted "moonlighting" provides dramatic, night-time effects with some of the fixtures mounted 40 feet above the ground for a broad-stroke lighting effect across the expanses of manicured lawn.

Uplighting of the columns and pillars of the home provides a wash of light that complements the punctuated, architectural lighting illuminating the front porch below from recessed can lights in the outdoor ceiling.

The entire lighting system is choreographed and computer-operated for maximum control and efficiency with a series of lighting programs which add or subtract light where it is needed for special effect lighting, such as at the pool deck, the porches or the expansive landscaped grounds.

B-K Lighting was used for the uplighting, Greenlee Lighting for the moon lighting, and Nightscaping for the path lights. This provided a complete residential lighting package, which at the time of the project was considered cutting-edge lighting.

Advancements in Lighting

Current advancements in high efficiency, long-lasting landscape light sources from LED (light emitting diode) technology is today leading landscape lighting design. This shift is geared toward greater sustainability, savings and less maintenance through best management practices.

While the HID lights used for the moon lighting and pillar-effects lighting of the plantation residence would generally remain the same if the project was done today, due to the quality of the bright, white light and the punch of light over the long distance, efficient LED lamps would be the tree uplights and path lights. LED lamps offer a clear advantage, as they do not require tree-mounted or remotely-located ballasts.

The landscape architects of Phil Graham Studio say that companies coming to the forefront in LED technologies include Kim and Bronzelite, in addition to B-K Lighting and Nightscaping.

Environmental Sensitivity

The home was built on a site occupied for many years with another residence, mature trees and plant materials had been neglected and needed attention. An arborist was called in to properly treat and prune the grand oak in the frontyard. All major canopy trees were protected and saved during construction.


Water-wise plants were selected as the backbone of the landscape to respond to the good stewardship of limited water resources.


The design is based on a formal, but relaxed, plantation atmosphere with the utilization of characteristically southern plants, such as holly, magnolia, ligustrum, azaleas and daylilies.

Design Intent

The owner wished to celebrate the plantation feel of the house and grounds, so brick was chosen for the driveway and walk surfaces. The large arched entry drive is lined with magnolia trees, complementing the rest of the heavily foliaged site. Custom wrought iron fencing and gates enclose the property and add to the traditional, plantation style of the site.

Fleischman Garcia Architecture, Tampa

Landscape Architecture:
ValleyCrest Design Group
Phil Graham Studio, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Project Manager:
Hunter Booth
Vice President, Managing Principal:
Philip Graham Jr., FASLA, AICP, LEED(R)AP

General Contractor:
Monogram Builders, Clearwater, Fla.

William Garrow Photography

Related Stories

November 20, 2019, 3:09 pm PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.
Privacy Policy