Marlies has won herself a fantastic husband, fashioned a joyful life and created a glorious garden.  This is a great love story of Marlies and husband, Richard Benedict, of Kelly Plantation in Destin. 

When Richard was a younger man, he swam for the military Air Force team, gathering a foot locker full of trophies.  While in Wiesbaden, Germany, he made friends with Dieter who swam for the German team.  Dieter and Richard used to visit in the home of Marlies and her sister, Carola. Marlies says, “I was only twelve at the time and when Richard would visit, I didn’t look at him, he didn’t look at me.”

I think Richard must have at least ventured a glance or two because when Marlies was 19, Richard returned to Wiesbaden, they fell in love and the two married when Marlies turned 21.  They now have been married for 50 years. 

Marlies states, “My husband and I moved to Destin in 1998.  After a life of travelling, 20 moves with the military, and raising two beautiful daughters, we built our first house in Kelly Plantation and we are finally ‘home.'  Richard designed this house, I designed the garden. Richard is truly the wind beneath my wings.  He does all the hard work and he loves to cut.  I say, ‘cut’ and Richard is out of the chair ready to go.  He does all the digging.  I just couldn’t do it without him.” 

Sounds like a joyful life to me!

Marlies says, “My parents were always gardening. The balconies on my home in Germany had flower boxes and we raised vegetables. Wherever Richard and I have lived, gardening was my hobby. Here it is so much more. Florida dictates her own rules in gardening, and I am always newly surprised and learning about growing a garden here.”

Two years ago Marlies fell and crushed her femur and spent nine months in a wheel chair.  She was working hard on walking again and says, “My garden was calling me – so much needed to be done! The challenge and joy of my garden became a life-link.  The weeds were taking over, the garden had been neglected and I wanted to bring all the beauty of our garden back to life!” 

She had to learn to bend, stretch and walk again, and it needed to be soon. Her garden needed her.

The entire front of the house is covered by red knockout roses and one side of the front yard is covered with the fast moving, bright orange clerodendrum. This blooms all summer but will take over everything if you are not careful.  One spot is an absolute favorite with Marlies. 

“I love it all but this one palm tree has seeds fall into the spent branches close to the trunk and I get flowers and plants I never knew I had.”  The shadowy ground under here is covered with every color of coleus which voluntarily came back after a mild winter. 

The Benedicts have plum, tangelo, lemon, lime and grapefruit trees. In the peach tree, Marlies hangs shiny CDs in an effort to keep birds away and distract the squirrels.  Not much luck deterring either. 

Marlies and Richard live on Rangia Lake and they experience an abundance of wildlife. With a smile, Marlies lets me know she is a nature and wildlife lover. 

“I have met a lot of snakes. I have discovered that when we meet, they are just as surprised as I am. I have never killed one; I just look them in the eye and tell them it’s OK and they slitter away.”  I, your writer, stepped on a black snake in my yard last week. I jumped high enough to make the Olympic pole vaulting team without the pole. 

Marlies tells me, “We have a lot of blue herons and I have seen them catch fish from the lake and snakes from the yard. Five times, I have watched a heron grab a snake, shake it and then use its beak to chop it into little pieces.  Watching is really bizarre because it takes a bit of a while for this entire process.” 

Marlies says they have had raccoons as well as opossums with their babies frolicking around in the attic.  They were able to trap them and transport them safely over to the wilderness of Eglin. 

“We hear an owl at night and we have a hawk that occasionally comes by for a perch and a lookout over the lake.  Once the owl spotted a dove below, and it fell on top of it like a stone had dropped.”

Interesting wildlife stories but back to gardening.  Marlies says, “Our garden has been magic for me.  How grateful I am to have this gift to cherish and to take care of while I’m here. It has been a labor of love and the abundance of color in all the plants is the reward!”   

Laura Hall is a longtime gardener and Destin resident.  She explores area gardens and other topics with her cavalier spaniel Annie.  She would like to show off your garden.  Contact her at