(Editor's Note:This article was originally published on December 5, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)

Image Enjoy the tranquility of the lush gardens at The Hemingway Home and Museum while you stroll, carefree as a child, through them. Take time to revel in the splendor of the day, as the scent of the tropics eases away your worries.

Plants to Look for in Key West Gardens

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red mangrove


saw palmetto

The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are truly filled with the scent of the tropics. And why not, they are a chain of islands located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean just beyond the peninsula of Florida. The Keys are an archipelago, which is an expanse of water with many scattered islands. The Keys contain around 1,700 islands. There are the upper keys, the middle keys and the outlying keys, which are only accessible by boat. The island in which Ernest Hemingway's former home and gardens is located is one of the lower key islands, called Key West. It is the southernmost city in the continental United States.

Key West
It was the cigar industry that put Key West on the map, so to speak. In the 19th century the industry virtually changed the island into a thriving seaport. Since then Key West has continued to thrive. It is more famous now for its skinks, conchs, free roaming chickens, the Hemingway cats, a few infamous pirates and its nightlife. And, of course, the writers that call Key West their home. Not only is Key West the place of Ernest Hemingway's former home and gardens, but there are several other beautiful gardens located in Key West.

A Few of Key West's Beautiful Gardens


Cygnus buccinator, trumpeter swan by John James Audubon
"The Birds of America",1838

Audubon House and Gardens
John James Audubon sketched birds and wrote in his journal during his time in Key West. His former house and gardens in Key West are a testament of beauty to his life's work.

Key West Botanical Gardens
The Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden is the only frost-free botanical garden in the continental United States. It is also a place to discover many endangered and threatened plants. You might also see a green anole or a lovely butterfly while there, so watch closely.

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
This is a tropical paradise filled with hundreds of beautiful birds and butterflies. Your neck will get a crick in it from all the gazing 'up' you will do. There are flowering plants, lovely waterfalls and trees to admire as well. The conservatory is a glass-enclosed habitat. And it is climate controlled. What a spectacular adventure this place would be for the children!

The Fort East Martello Museum & Gardens
The exhibits you will see here are a wonderful way to discover the history of the Florida Keys. There is an 80-year-old playhouse which shows children how kids lived in Key West many years ago. The swaying palms above your head are an added benefit.

Heritage House Museum and Robert Frost Cottage
Seven generations of a Key West family have collected treasures such as rare antiques, original furnishings, and artifacts related to the sea. The cottage is a Caribbean Colonial style house. The garden is flowering, not only with beautiful blooms, but with recordings of Robert Frost's poetry. This is truly a romantic place to behold.

Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden
Nancy's hope was to preserve endangered species of rain forest plants and keep a part of Key West green. She has done this, with the help of her friends, in her beautiful corner of Key West.

There are far too many attractions to list them all in this article. Find more here.

Critters to Look for in Key West Gardens

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green anole

indigo bunting

spiny-backed weaver

Of all the gardens in Key West, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum draw the most visitors each year. And, if you are a lover of Hemingway, a student or a writer, then his home and gardens must surely appeal to you as well. You may want to join one of the writer's walks, held in the winter months. You will pass by the homes of writers such as Tennessee Williams and John Hersey. I want to walk you through Ernest Hemingway's gardens. But before I do, let's learn a bit about Ernest Hemingway, the man.

Who Was Ernest Hemingway?

Ernest Miller Hemingway, circa December 1899 Oak Park, Illinois
Copyright: Public Domain
Photograph by Arnold Studios, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection,
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Ernest Hemingway, Milan 1918.
Milan, Italy
Copyright: Public Domain
Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Ernest Hemingway,
Copyright: Public Domain
Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Ernest Miller Hemingway [1]
Ernest Hemingway was born July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois and lived for 62 years. His literary reputation is unparalleled, but to many he was more than a writer; he was an icon. Even today he is remembered and esteemed. He began his writing career in high school where he wrote his first articles for the school paper called Trapeze. He attained fame and riches through his writing, winning the
Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea in 1953, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature.

A defining moment in Hemingway's life came in January 1954. He and his fourth wife, Mary, were traveling abroad. They were touring East Africa's lakes and waterfalls from a plane. To avoid hitting a flock of birds the pilot, Roy Marsh, dove and hit a telegraph wire. The plane was damaged and Roy Marsh had to make a crash landing. Mary suffered fractured ribs, but the others came away with minor injuries. They crossed Lake Victoria in a boat, and boarded a de Haviland Rapide. This plane was piloted by Reginald Cartwright. Just after takeoff the plane crashed and caught fire. Reginald Cartwright, Mary and Roy Marsh, the pilot from the first plane, managed to escape through an exit in the front of the plane. But Hemingway was forced to use his head to break through the main door. He had suffered serious injuries in the crash.

In his biography of Hemingway Jeffrey Meyer listed the injuries Hemingway suffered in the de Haviland Rapide plane crash. "His skull was fractured, two discs of his spine were cracked, his right arm and shoulder were dislocated, his liver, right kidney and spleen were ruptured, his sphincter muscle was paralyzed by compressed vertebrae on the iliac nerve, his arms, face and head were burned by the flames of the plane, his vision and hearing were impaired..." Jeffrey Meyer's own words could not have expressed what occurred afterward in truer form. He said, "Though he survived the crashes and lived to read his own premature obituaries, his injuries cut short his life in a slow and painful way."

When Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature on October 28, 1954 his injuries kept him from traveling to the ceremonies in Sweden. He sent a written acceptance. John Cabot, the US Ambassador to Sweden, read the acceptance to the Nobel Committee.

Hemingway's health continued to deteriorate after the 1954 plane crashes. And his ability to write was affected. By 1961 Hemingway had spiraled down into a deep state of depression. On the morning of July 2, only two weeks before he was to turn 62, Hemingway took his own life.

Hemingway Bibliography [2]
In the following years Hemingway published these books:
Three Stories & Ten Poems
in our time [sic]
In Our Time
Torrents of Spring and The Sun Also Rises
Men Without Women
A Farewell to Arms
Death in the Afternoon
Winner Take Nothing
Green Hills of Africa
To Have and Have Not
The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Men at War: The Best War Stories of All Time (edited, with an introduction by Hemingway)
Across the River and Into the Trees
The Old Man and the Sea
In the years after Hemingway's death, these books were published from his manuscripts:
A Moveable Feast
By-Line: Ernest Hemingway
Islands in the Stream
The Dangerous Summer
The Garden of Eden
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway and sons Patrick and Gregory, 1946
Finca Vigia (Hemingway home), San Francisco de Paula, Cuba.
Copyright: Public Domain
Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection,
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Notice the cats.

Not only did Ernest Hemingway have a passion for
writing, but he did so while gazing at his beautiful
gardens in his Key West home.

Part Two of this article will discuss cats with six toes! And it will walk you through Hemingway's Key West Gardens.

[1] Ernest Hemingway Biography
[2] Hemingway Bibliography

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park
Ernest Hemingway from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Photographs of the Grounds of the Hemingway home
Dave's Members Garden Blogs

Words Defined
Skink - Any of a family (Scincidae) of pleurodont lizards mostly small and with small scales. Taken from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, Copyright 1970
Conchs- People born in Key West.

Photo Credits
The Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain photos

Pleasant gardening