Latin phrases fall effortlessly from Andre Joris' mouth as he meanders through his backyard, identifying plants and trees by both their Latin classifications and common names without a trace of condescension or showmanship.
The sun-dappled space is one of those "you'd-never-know-it's-there," outdoor sanctuaries, thriving behind an aging wooden fence and alongside an unremarkable vacant lot in Bahama Village.
But then, what would you expect from a landscape designer who picked his profession at age 12 when a book about palm trees and plants caught his eye and ignited a passion that would last a lifetime.
Joris turned his passion into his profession by launching Andre Joris Landscape Design and Maintenance in 2000, when the sky was the limit for Key West real estate. Properties flipped every six months and old houses became new after careful restoration.
When the market tanked years later and people couldn't afford their mortgage, much less new landscaping, Joris, who was born and raised on the island, worked for a construction contractor to pay the bills.
The real estate recovery signaled the return of Andre Joris Landscape Design & Maintenance, and the proud owner couldn't be happier.
Joris's yard holds more than 90 species of palms, 30 varieties of orchids and handmade limestone benches.
He gets seeds from Borneo, Thailand, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Central America, and coaxes each out of the dirt and toward the sun.
Joris specializes in native plants that tolerate the Keys climate, rainy season and heat.
He'll install new trees and plants, design irrigation systems and then maintain the whole shebang.
"Everyone likes different things, and I'll work with them to design the precise look they want within their budget," Joris said. "I also do a lot of landscape corrections for new property owners faced with a former owner's mistakes."
Joris can install irrigation systems, planters, benches and water features, all with an eye toward protecting Key West's natural resources.