Viera gardener’s exotic plants thrive in Florida


Claudia Estes, above, stands among some of her flowers at her home, below, in Indian River Colony Club.

Photo by Viera Voice Rae Botsford

Amid the hum of bumblebees and the fragrance of exotic flowers, Claudia Estes is most at home. 

The hobby gardener’s house in Indian River Colony Club is surrounded by a sea of flowers and trees that she has planted there, many of which ordinarily would never share space. Potted orchids line her screened-in front porch, and her back porch boasts a well-aged bonsai tree.

Estes grew up in a military family that traveled wherever her vice admiral father was called. 

“As a little girl, I got a penny for every 10 weeds I pulled out of the lawn and I got two cents for every flower I could remember the name of,” Estes said. “We’ve been gardening always. Every place we moved I put in a garden, whether it was in Europe, or Japan, or here in the U.S.”

Her first husband was in the Navy, and her current husband is in the Air Force, so she kept traveling and kept planting. She’s been at IRCC since 1997.

Gardening in Florida is not like gardening up North, she said. Her Virginia garden included hundreds of bulb plants, like daffodils and tulips, which need cold winters. 

“I love learning the different flowers that grow here and the ones that don’t, and the frustrations of hurricanes,” Estes said. “It’s an entirely different way of gardening.”

Estes has fun getting plants that are unfamiliar to her and seeing what grows. 

“I talk to my plants, and I’ll say ‘if you don’t like this spot, I’ll move you one time, and if you don’t like the second spot I’m gonna throw you away!’ ”

She takes care of all the flowers herself. Her husband used to grudgingly help dig holes, but now she hires someone to help with such backbreaking tasks.

“I don’t grow it for anyone else,” Estes said. “I grow it because I love every bloom on every plant.”