A Valentine’s Day card to Libby Besse, a true IPS legend
The International Palm Society’s 2021 mid-term meeting in the greater Tampa/St. Petersburg area included a visit to Sarasota, Florida, and the home of Libby Besse. A true living legend, this remarkably spry nonagenarian and her son, Al, guided our group through her breathtaking garden, architectural home, and palm society lore. Needless to say, we were all smitten.
Libby and her family happily left the cold environs of the northern United States and settled in the greater Tampa area. Her beloved late husband, Byron, (affectionately called By), a radiologist, met International Palm Society President, Dr. U.A. Young, literally on the first day of work. Dr. Young encouraged the Besse’s, already avid gardeners (roses), to pursue tropical horticulture, of course focusing on palms and cycads.
The Besse’s, now with three young sons, began making day trips to Sarasota. In 1969, By stood in the street in front of an overgrown and impassable driveway and, literally to the shock of everyone present, exclaimed “we’ll take it!” He instantly knew that it would be an ideal site for their dream tropical garden. What he may not have initially known was the unseen boarded-up house was an architectural gem, designed in 1957 by acclaimed modernist and member of the Sarasota School of architecture, Victor Lundy (still alive today at age 98). Furthermore, the 2-acre lot provided endless bayside views and a boathouse.
Pictured: The boathouse surrounded by majestic Cuban palms.
Save the Date! IPS 2022 Biennial in Hawaii
The International Palm Society Hawaii Biennial will take place Sunday, October 9 through Saturday, October 15.
During the last Biennial in Hawaii, in 2004, the IPS visited the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, where Scott Zona photographed these massive (note the picnic table), but still young, talipot palms (Corypha umbraculifera). We wonder how much they’ve grown since then!