St Francis Inn’s Gardeness (Our Own Garden Elf!)

Those of you who have stayed at the St. Francis Inn in the past two years have probably seen our gardener, Jill Ziebell.  She can usually be spotted sitting somewhere on the property snipping, digging, and babying our various plants.  Jill has become yet another ambassador for the Inn:  helping passersby with directions and helping guests with questions not only about the gardens, but about the Inn. So who is this Jill?

Jill grew up in Milwaukee, WI  and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study Horticulture and Art Metals. Her adventurous spirit wanted to explore and learn through people, places and nature, rather than books, so she decided to fulfill a childhood dream:  to travel to Europe alone, and learn the ways of her ancestors. 
Everyone thought she was crazy to go alone  and bet she would only last a month.

Jill lived in Europe for 10 years.  She visited her relatives in Norway and also learned the ways of the German side of her family.  She worked as a Gymnastic Instructor and Recreation Specialist and learned the local folklore, arts, and crafts. Traveling around, she visited most of the famous and not so famous gardens, farmers’ markets and hardware stores.

When she returned to America she settled in Steamboat Springs, CO., working in tourism and
recreation, and going to college.  She eventually received a degree in Resort Management.  Jill started her own company in 1991 to take care of second-homes and gardens, and also got involved with the grassroots effort to create the principles of Xeriscaping with Denver Water.  In 1996 they published the Xeriscape Plant Guide (Fulcrum Publishing), and received national and international attention. Jill was one of the Research Volunteers mentioned in the book.

After about 10 years in Colorado, Jill’s adventure-seeking needs cropped up again, and she moved to St. Augustine, FL in 1998.  She continued her business and studies, becoming a Master Gardener and a Master Naturalist through the University of Florida.  In addition, she was the Founding President of the Sea Oats Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, serving St. Johns County, in 2008.

Also, she continues to create artwork and has received numerous recognitions.

Currently, she is the “Gardeness” for the St. Francis Inn in historic St. Augustine, maintaining and designing new gardens with Native and Florida Friendly plants using sustainable earth-friendly practices. Her Design Style is Artistic European with Historic Flavor. Since Jill has worked on our gardens the Inn has received a Certified Wildlife Habitat designation from the Sierra Club and the Civic Beautification Award from the Garden Club of St. Augustine!

Jill lives on Anastasia Island with her dog Sheva. Her evolving website is


Photos (from top to bottom)

1 Jill has brought the courtyard to life with a mixture of Natives and Florida-friendly tropical plants.

2 Jill working in front of the Wilson House

3 Jill’s staging area for the Wilson House – she is peeking around the well house.

4 Native plants are featured all over the St Francis Inn grounds, but we have a special “Natives Only” area by the parking lot.

5 Because of Jill’s efforts the Inn has received Certified Wildlife Habitat status from the Sierra Club.
6 The Garden Club of St. Augustine noticed all the improvements and awarded the Inn the Civic Beautification Award late last year.
7 Jill even got our camellia to bloom!
8 An old stump was put to good use. It now holds a bird bath and it is used frequently by our feathered friends!
9 Jill added not only all the colorful Mexican pots (these are in the pool area), but also the fun animal pottery hanging near the pool; for example, the tree frog and lizard. She also brought in the Fish pot which is featured near the fish pond.

10 Joe Finnegan (and Zeke!) were featured in our local newspaper (the St. Augustine Record) last winter about the St Francis Inn being awarded the Civic Beautification Award by the St. Augustine Garden Club.

2 Responses

  1. Beda Kantarjian

    The garden was pleasant before, but it is beautiful now. Kudos to Jill. Can't wait to see her work my next visit. I can dream, can't I?

  2. Max

    And dreams can come true!! Will let Jill know what you said. Thank you!