“In Florida everything grows,” says Henk Morelisse. Indeed, in his yard, it certainly seems to. Henk and his wife, Jackie, purchased their Pine Ridge property in 1995. It was then a small home atop an acre and a half of land with a large lake to the south. The couple doubled the size of the home so they could comfortably raise their daughters, Micha and Femke, who are now adults.
In the surrounding yard, Henk left only a few pine trees and a couple of cement sculptures. Today, their two-story home and Jackie’s unattached art studio are hidden from the street by a wild forest of trees, plants, shrubs, and flowers. If Henk didn’t personally plant them, he certainly knows where they originated—even if it means from bird droppings. He can also identify the year he planted each, watching them sprout from seeds to mature glory.
Since childhood, Henk was drawn to nature and enjoyed being outdoors. He grew up in a small town in the northern part of the Netherlands and attended a university in the country’s agricultural region, where he studied to become a florist. From age 16 he has been a world traveler, having visited more than 75 countries spanning the globe to date. During his university studies (including in Boston where he and Jackie met), he worked in floral markets and greenhouses around the world.
“I like to grow stuff,” he explains, preferring a more natural growth pattern, allowing vines to creep up the trunks of a native pine tree, for example, or leaving felled trees to encourage alternate patterns of growth. In Henk’s garden, yard waste goes back under the trees for nutrition, spider webs do not fear removal, and bee colonies have taken up residence in at least two vacant birdhouses.
Throughout the years, he has counted more than 100 species of visiting birds. Now, there are over 100 species of orchids and more than 60 species of bromeliads thriving on the property. Also found are stalks of bamboo and fruit trees: jackfruit, noni, and carambola; an Amazonian boxwood tree; a money tree; a tamarind; and numerous pots of gnarled desert rose trees and cacti residing in harmony. Teak baskets hang from the branches of many of the trees, holding such delights as decorative pineapples and Staghorn ferns; bushes of beautyberry and crepe myrtle shrubs proliferate.
A dental hygienist by education, Jackie admits she has always loved medicine and art. Although she maintains her license as a dental hygienist, her years in Naples have focused on contributing her artistic talents to various philanthropic organizations.
“I’m always doing art,” she relays. In November, Jackie will be celebrated as a 2023 Women of Initiative honoree at the Women Rock Philanthropy luncheon. The Women’s Foundation of Collier County honors local women leaders who have helped change the community through their passion, leadership, time, innovation, and talent. Jackie seems a deserving candidate of this accolade, having donated an abundance of time to such organizations as The Naples Players (serving as a set and costume designer), the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, Artis—Naples (teaching art classes), the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, Empty Bowls Naples, the Baker Senior Center Naples (working most recently with sock puppets), and many others.
When Henk isn’t fabricating Zen platforms or tending to his garden and when Jackie isn’t volunteering her artistic talents, they delight in spending time with their grandchildren: Kaia (4) and Anneke (1); a third granddaughter will join them in early November. Daughter Micha and her husband, Eric, are parents of these grandchildren and live nearby in Bonita Springs, while daughter Femke and her husband, Patrick, live in a small town outside of Washington, D.C.
Although he considers his yard a hobby (albeit one that involves much work), Henk explains that it provides special places in which to sit, stand, dine, relax, or meditate, as well as visit with family and friends. “A yard should be a habitat first and a place of enjoyment for humans second,” explains Henk.