Green Gables: In the Garden of Sallye Jude

The Gables’ Patron Saint of Historic Preservation 

The first thing you notice upon entering Sallye Jude’s Coral Gables’ garden are the bricks. They are well-worn, creviced, in varying hues of terra cotta. “These bricks were from the first high school in Miami – Miami Senior High,” says Jude. “They were just going to throw them away.” 

True to her historic preservation roots, Jude (who was instrumental in saving Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s house in Coconut Grove, restored and ran the 1910 Miami River Inn, and served on the Gables’ Historic Preservation Board) couldn’t bear to see such historic treasure relegated to trash. 

Green Gables - In the Garden of Sallye Jude
Sallye Jude, a preservationsist with a history of saving historic homes.

When Jude first moved to Coral Gables from Baltimore, Maryland, in 1964, she arrived with her husband, Dr. James Jude and their seven children. They purchased the stunning, Indonesian-inspired Java Head house, formerly owned by a jet-setting culinary author and his heiress wife. The sprawling Java Head grounds on the Coral Gables Waterway had three acres to landscape. Having inherited a love of gardening from her mother, Jude planted species she was familiar with, like zinnias and snapdragons and English roses, only to watch them die. 

To educate herself on the correct flora for our climate, Jude visited Fairchild Tropical Garden. This led her to join the Tropical Fern and Exotic Plant Society, the Palm Society, and the Tropical Flowering Tree Society. She traveled with these groups on field trips to places like Jamaica and Australia, studying the greenery of the islands. Jude first became interested in the environment by observing the effect landscaping had on her Java Head home. “If you plant trees on the west side, you avert the sun and keep the house cooler,” she explains. “Grass doesn’t give many benefits to the environment, but trees do. Today we would need to plant one trillion trees to avert Global Warming. That seems like a lot,” she admits, “but if everyone planted one tree, we could make a difference.” 

Never one to back down from impossible challenges, Jude put her money where her mouth was by donating $1,500 to the American Forests organization last year, in honor of her beloved Coral Gables Garden Club. In reciprocation for this donation, an acre of trees will be planted. 

In 2013, after 49 years at Java Head, Jude downsized to her present home in the charming Normandy Village (off Le Jeune Road between Alesio and Viscaya avenues). In keeping with her concern for the environment, her home has sustainable bamboo flooring and is equipped with solar panels 

Green Gables - In the Garden of Sallye Jude
Trellis covered patio with brick paving
Green Gables - In the Garden of Sallye Jude
Plants hung in containers and in the ground decorate the perimeter of the pool area.
Jade vine, a tropical plant that enjoys the warm humid conditions of South Florida. It is a
climbing plant that blooms in the early summer and produces vivid turquoise flowers.

The house is the only one in the village with a yard, but it was largely bare when she moved in. She transported dozens of plants from her collection at Java Head, mostly those in containers. “I have a fern I brought with me that’s 25 years old,” Jude says. Some plants were put in the ground (she brought in soil), others left in pots, and some hung in containers around the pool, forming a shower of greenery. All are watered by a sprinkler system Jude installed. 

Jude’s especially fond of variegated plants, with their contrasting hues creating whimsical eye candy for visitors. Look up and you’ll see a spectacular Jade Vine dripping over the trellis overhead. The almost luminescent, pale turquoise claw-like flowers hang down in a cluster. Considered an endangered species, it’s native to the Philippines. 

A black pebbled path leads further into the garden, revealing an abundance of unusual philodendrons, palms, crotons, ferns, bromeliads, heliconia, gingers, orchids, and flowering trees and bushes. “It’s not a garden that has a row of this and a row of that,” explains Jude. “It’s all individual.” Much like Sallye Jude herself.