KEY WEST — Forty years ago, a hippie artist named Nancy Forrester first saw a one-acre piece of land in the heart of Old Town Key West and glimpsed beauty amid the discarded beer bottles and trash piles.
She and two family members bought the property for $27,500, vowing it would never be paved: no bricks, no concrete. Instead, Forrester created a miniature rain forest of rare ferns, orchids and 150-year-old trees, tucked a block off the rowdy main tourist drag.
Nancy's Secret Garden, as it became known, has endured hurricanes, droughts and pot-smoking kids. But it may not survive its latest threat: tough economic times.
Forrester is exhausted. Her bank account drained. Her life's work perilously close to slipping away.
At 70, she no longer can do the physical labor to maintain the thousands of plants and 22 rescued exotic birds that thrive on the land. She also doesn't have the stamina anymore to raise money for the garden's escalating bills.
In a Pink Floyd T-shirt, her long grayish white hair pulled into a bun, Forrester recently told two tourists wandering through the lush greenery: "We are in danger of losing this garden.''
Read the complete story at miamiherald.com