The Ortega Estate

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Regal century-old cedar trees line the brick drive that leads from the front gates of Jack and Mary Jane Uible’s Ortega estate to their Mediterranean-style home overlooking the St. Johns River.

A sweeping sun-dappled lawn lies on either side of the drive, and flower-filled gardens in full bloom graced with antique statuaries circle the historic mansion.

The magnificent grounds of the Uible’s 4.5-acre estate reflect Mary Jane’s passion for gardening. Meticulously planned and maintained, the gorgeous gardens allow for flowers to bloom year-round.

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The Uible family estate, Los Cedros, was purchased by Jack and Mary Jane in 1986. The two were high school sweethearts and Jacksonville natives.

It takes a team to make it happen. “This is a well-oiled machine here,” says the Uible’s private gardener, Lynda Turko, who has been with the family for 25 years. But it all starts with the Uibles, she says. “It looks like this because of their dedication to the property. It’s because of their love for their home,” she says.

After the Uibles purchased their historic estate, Los Cedros, which is Spanish for “cedars,” in 1986, they hired a series of landscape architects to design the gardens. Mary Jane travels frequently to Europe, where she finds inspiration, and is especially fond of English gardens. The centerpiece of her large English garden overlooking the river is a bronze 1863 “Boy and Duck” statue by Frederick MacMonnies. Her Temple Garden, on the front lawn, is designed around an 1800s stone pavilion from Italy, with flower beds that in the spring are filled with Lily of the Nile, snap dragons and delphinium.

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The Temple Garden is designed around a stone pavilion from Italy dating to the 1800s.

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Flowers for cutting are essential for bringing the outside in.

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The large pool house was converted to a “garden house” with a kitchen, bathroom and spectacular river view.

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The English garden replaced a swimming pool.

Today, Turko supervises a landscape maintenance company there two days a week, which mows, trims and blows, while she does “the fun stuff,” including planning, purchasing, planting and pruning. In addition, the Uibles have a full time property manager, while Mary Jane herself is very involved in the planning. Her newest formal bed, the Cutting Garden, is filled with foxglove and other flowers that Turko can clip to bring inside the home.

 

“We have something blooming all the time,” Mary Jane says. “I really love my gardens.”

The San Marco Estate

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A hanging bed on the St. Johns perfect for taking time out to relax.

Kim Rutkowski loves to fill her home with bowls of roses. Deep yellow roses, creamy white roses, roses with peachy pink petals and a light myrrh fragrance. She cuts them from the large formal rose garden on her family’s San Marco estate situated on the St. Johns River. Roses, which thrive in cool, dry climates, require a great deal of loving care in Florida’s hot and humid environment. So she spends a lot of time in her garden, as does Lynda Turko, who also tends various beds and grounds of the approximately 1-acre estate.

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Kim Rutkowski’s San Marco home was built in 1929.

“In the South, we have to work really hard to maintain a rose garden, because it’s like the War of the Roses,” says Turko, who calls herself an old-fashioned gardener, one who never uses power tools. “You must dedicate a scheduled routine type of care,” she says, one that includes intricate fertilization, strategic spraying, constant pruning and drip irrigation.

But Rutkowski says it’s worth it.

“I always think I have a favorite rose, until I see another one,” she says.

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Roses require extra care in the humidity of Florida, while the rest of Rutkowskis garden is filled with low maintenance plants for easy care.

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Rutkowski inherited the rose garden, when her family bought their 1929 red brick colonial-style home several years ago. She had grown roses while living in Maryland, and even though she knew they’d be a lot more work in Florida, she enthusiastically teamed with Turko to redesign her new Jacksonville garden and make it her own.

It is the only flower bed on the property that requires pampering. Since Rutkowski is a working mother with young children, the family hired a landscape architect to redesign the rest of the grounds to have a feeling of strategic beauty — to be as attractive as possible with minor upkeep.

Throughout the rest of the property, ancient Spanish moss-draped live oaks shade camellias, hydrangeas, ginger, ferns, gardenias and other blooming plants.

“I like things to look peaceful and   engaging,” Rutkowski says. “Natural.”