Darwin Botanic Gardens in spring

Tropical George Brown Botanic Gardens in Darwin sits close to the centre of this vibrant city in the ‘Top End’ of northern Australia. The town itself has wonderful gardens established since the devastating Cyclone Tracy hit the Northern Territory in 1974. The gardens are easily accessible and extend over many acres. Continue reading “Darwin Botanic Gardens in spring”

High intensity and demanding New York still has places of peace

New York. The swathes of concrete and glass; the vast canyons formed by major streets cutting through the highest of tall towers. This is where dogs and cats are declawed to deal with life inside apartments and population density is amongst the highest in the world, yet there are still pockets of green delight scattered throughout the neighbourhoods of Manhattan. A place where the concept of community gardens took hold decades ago and where small green spaces deliver maximum clout. On our recent trip we revisited favourite places and discovered others. Continue reading “High intensity and demanding New York still has places of peace”

The Garden of Ninfa – is it worth all the superlatives?

It was at a meeting of heritage rose lovers that I first heard about Ninfa, a romantic, rambling, Italian garden built in the ruins of a medieval town. People spoke of it in reverential terms and my interest was piqued by their idyllic description – old roses and vines cascading from ruined towers and trees, scrambling along crumbling archways and overhanging crystal clear streams. Continue reading “The Garden of Ninfa – is it worth all the superlatives?”

Classical gardens and contemporary art in China

Western thinking on garden history tends to be almost unconsciously European in focus – we might evoke the eighteenth century, and think of ha-has and arboreta, or perhaps a Renaissance Italian stroll garden, ornamented with classical statuary. But when mediaeval apothecaries were busy enclosing medicinal herbs in box compartments, one of our greatest cultures was quite literally moving mountains. In China, where the most exciting contemporary art is also to be found, gardens and art have been inextricably linked for almost two thousand years. Continue reading “Classical gardens and contemporary art in China”

Designer gardens at Garden World’s Spring festival 2016

Each year Garden World in Gauteng, to the west of Johannesburg, has its Spring Festival. This year there are more than 20 designer gardens on display until 4 September 2016. Many of these designer gardens are different from your usual show garden as some of them are revamps of the previous year’s garden and some are makeovers of a much older garden. This is good because it makes the designer see the show garden more like designing for a residential client where there are always things to keep as well as places for new ideas. Continue reading “Designer gardens at Garden World’s Spring festival 2016”

Review: A tale of two Normandy gardens

A broad lawn sweeps downhill to a lily pond at lowest point, rather than being interrupted by the usual terracing of Continental gardens. On two sides of this lawn, woodland gardens of rhododendrons, herbaceous perennials and bulbs transition from humanised landscape to natural forest. On the far side, a series of themed garden rooms surround the country house and assorted farm buildings, leading to further woodlands beyond. Continue reading “Review: A tale of two Normandy gardens”

Cloud forests and other wonders of Peru

Escaping from Sydney a few days before New Year’s Eve, a motley group of friends and family headed to South America for a month of adventuring. First Peru and Machu Picchu, then cycling in Cuba for 2 weeks, followed by 10 days sailing the Galapagos. A triple bucket-list trip!

Continue reading “Cloud forests and other wonders of Peru”

See Madagascar’s palms before they’re gone

The extinction of Madagascar’s palms are “truly terrifying…the situation cannot be ignored”. For 192 palm species, Madagascar is the only place on Earth – and most probably in the Universe – where you can see them growing in the wild. If we don’t get our act together, the remote possibility of parallel evolution occurring on another planet may be your only option. Continue reading “See Madagascar’s palms before they’re gone”

Review: The Calyx reveals its Sweet Addiction at Sydney RBG

Newly opened at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, The Calyx is the purpose-built exhibition space that the Gardens has needed and wanted for some years. On the outside it’s an architectural and very beautiful structure occupying the site of the old glass square pyramid Tropical Centre and built on to the Ken Woolley-designed quarter-circle ‘Arc’ glasshouse which survived demolition. I like the way its stark and severe white ribs around the circular open courtyard area contrast with its green and leafy garden background, and also the wonderful shadow patterns they throw on the internal courtyard space. But what’s inside? Continue reading “Review: The Calyx reveals its Sweet Addiction at Sydney RBG”

Amsterdam’s secret: an enchanted forest and gardens

For a lifelong cyclist Amsterdam is heaven – once you get your bearings that is. That skew-whiff grid of canals is totally bamboozling at first. The initial 24 hours completely did my head in. Utterly lost. Embarrassing for someone who prides himself on being able to find his way around. Since then however, the cycling has been sublime.

Continue reading “Amsterdam’s secret: an enchanted forest and gardens”

The remarkable genus Camellia

For many gardeners around the world, the word camellia conjures up images of a reliable shrub that produces gorgeous autumn and winter displays of pink, red and white flowers or sometimes combinations thereof. These flowers come in a range of interesting flower types from the simple ‘wild’ types to the multi-petalled  ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ double types. The glossy dark green foliage also makes a wonderful backdrop in the garden as a stage for displays of other flowering plants. Continue reading “The remarkable genus Camellia”

Autumn leaves and private gardens: AGHS garden tour April 2016

As the coach left the Melbourne Arts Centre the clouds darkened and raindrops spattered on the windscreen, increasing to a deluge as we progressed towards north east Victoria. But we are intrepid gardeners and obsessive garden visitors so we refused to be daunted! Continue reading “Autumn leaves and private gardens: AGHS garden tour April 2016”

Mango tree of Fort Cochin

Checking in to our Fort Cochin Hotel, the friendly staff invited us to relax in the garden while waiting for our room. We didn’t need an invitation – I was already out there craning my neck to see what caused the dappling in the courtyard. It was an enormous mango tree, and as I looked up something caught my eye. There was someone sitting on a branch, a very long way up. Continue reading “Mango tree of Fort Cochin”

Walking in Victoria’s High Country

Garden lovers are nature lovers and one of my favourite pastimes is packing my rucksack and saying goodbye to reality before taking off into the Australian bush on my own for a few days of walking. Midsummer is not a typically popular time for bushwalking in Australia. Summers regularly reach a windy 40 degrees celsius, and avoiding remote bushland on such days is as much about avoiding chafing thighs as it is an act of self preservation. Continue reading “Walking in Victoria’s High Country”

Leura Harvest Festival, Blue Mountains, NSW

Scarecrows, chooks, chocolate cake and jam – they’re all part of the fun and festivities of the Leura Harvest Festival held recently in the Blue Mountains. The festival ads said there would be outstanding produce, fine fare and innovative sustainability initiatives, and its tireless creator Barry Jarrott just happens to be a professional gardener. It all boded well for an interesting and feast-filled time. Continue reading “Leura Harvest Festival, Blue Mountains, NSW”

A designer’s path to the Singapore Garden Festival

In July 2016 I will have my show garden ‘The Butterfly Effect‘ on display in the Landscape Garden category at the prestigious Singapore Garden Festival. For any garden designer it’s a huge and daunting honour but for a relative newcomer to the landscape industry like me, developing a new career and managing a young family too…Just how did it happen that I’m now designing and building a show garden for one of the world’s biggest garden shows? Continue reading “A designer’s path to the Singapore Garden Festival”

Tasmania’s Koonya Garlic Festival is a pungent delight

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Koonya Garlic Festival. Where is Koonya I hear some of you asking? Set in Tasmania alongside a picturesque inlet of Norfolk Bay on the Tasman Peninsula, this small settlement hosts a thriving horticultural festival in February each year. 2016 was its third year, and it has grown steadily over that period. Continue reading “Tasmania’s Koonya Garlic Festival is a pungent delight”

Ready, aim fire! The amazing cannonball tree

Whilst on holiday in Sri Lanka in March 2016 I visited the very impressive Royal Botanic Gardens at Peradeniya, not far from Kandy. The history of the gardens dates back to 1371 however the existing site was chosen in 1821 and it has since undergone several transformations over the decades to now be considered amongst the best botanic gardens in the sub-continental region. Continue reading “Ready, aim fire! The amazing cannonball tree”

Estufa Fria – Lisbon’s greenhouse (serra fredda Lisbona)

[Scorri in basso per leggere l’articolo in Italiano – scroll down to read in Italian]

This enchanting “cold greenhouse” is located at the end of the Parque Eduardo VII in Lisbon, Portugal, in a protected and sheltered area of an abandoned former quarry. It occupies the surface of one hectare and a half and was inaugurated in 1933 on the project of the painter and architect Raul Carapinha, then renovated in the 1940s and 1970s with new facilities and a new pond. It is now divided into three different areas: Estufa Fria, Estufa Quente and Estufa Doce.

Continue reading “Estufa Fria – Lisbon’s greenhouse (serra fredda Lisbona)”

Hidden Design Festival comes to Brisbane

Hidden all around Australia are stunning gardens, designed, constructed and maintained by landscape professionals – gardens which are rarely seen, other than by their owners and friends. The Hidden Design Festival, Queensland showcases these gardens to the public. After two years of sell-out success in Sydney, Hidden is set to open here in Brisbane on Saturday 5 March 2016. If you love seeing high quality gardens and want to see the work of some of our top garden designers, you will not want to miss this event. Continue reading “Hidden Design Festival comes to Brisbane”

Yunnan, China, treasure trove of plants and ethnic cultures

I am excited to tell you, dear reader, that I have been invited to lead a tour ‘In the Footsteps of the Plant Collectors’ to one of the most botanically diverse areas on earth, Yunnan Province in China. A number of our most treasured garden plants such as roses, magnolias, rhododendrons, poppies and many others come from this floral treasure trove. Continue reading “Yunnan, China, treasure trove of plants and ethnic cultures”

Where to see the world’s best autumn/fall foliage

If you love the crisp nights and foliage blaze of autumn in Australia you will be completely wowed by autumn in a cold climate. Autumn in the northern hemisphere is a dramatic burst of foliage beauty as nature puts on a grand finale show. Continue reading “Where to see the world’s best autumn/fall foliage”

Review: Why I don’t like Mayfield Water Garden

Mayfield, a huge, private, cool-climate garden near Oberon in the NSW Central Tablelands has been described as “marvellous” and its public Water Garden a “masterpiece” and “magical“. I first saw greater Mayfield in 2010 and wasn’t that keen but thought it just needed maturation time. Continue reading “Review: Why I don’t like Mayfield Water Garden”

The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna

Join me and Craig Lidgerwood on this garden tour to explore Madagascar’s unique flora and fauna, exploring Madagascar’s rich and unique wildlife habitats, venturing into exquisite national parks and reserves ranging from semi-tropical rainforests, succulent and spiny thicket, rocky landscapes of the central west and marvelling at the spectacular mineral forest (karst spires) of the Tsingy de Bemaraha. Continue reading “The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna”

When your lawn is all at sea

Growing lawn in coastal gardens can be a struggle due to salty winds and sea spray, but consider the challenges of sustaining a healthy lawn on a ship in the middle of the ocean! I’ve just returned from a cruise and am slightly embarrassed to admit that one of the aspects of ship life I found most fascinating was learning how the green keepers tended the 2,130 sqm swathe of lawn! Continue reading “When your lawn is all at sea”

Ludwigsburg: one of the world’s best pumpkin festivals

When I was growing up the only pumpkin we ate was the Ironbark, which required the strength of an iron woman (or man) and a sharp axe to cut it up. Usually it was baked with meat and potatoes, until tender and delicious but sometimes it was boiled then mashed with butter and a dash of nutmeg. The shape and toughness of the Ironbark made it difficult and time consuming to peel so it was often baked with the skin on. The cooked flesh could then be scraped away from the skin but to be honest I liked the nutty taste of the skin and happily devoured it all. Continue reading “Ludwigsburg: one of the world’s best pumpkin festivals”

The High Line changes, and is changed by, New York

I recently visited the High Line in New York for the first time. I have been referencing this urban regeneration project for years, have seen many photos, but had never experienced it myself. Living in New York in the late 1990s, my building was located only a block away from the old elevated freight railway line, but in those days it did not register for me at all. Continue reading “The High Line changes, and is changed by, New York”

My challenge, the acceptance, and the Jardin du Bois du Puits

In May this year I contacted my friend and colleague Catherine Stewart with a challenge: find me a garden to visit in the middle of France I said. Or, more precisely…
‘We are catching ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. Then drive to a rented house near St Malo. Then cross country heading for brother’s place in Monceaux-au-Perch. Via probably Domfront, Alençon that sort of direction.
It’s worth a good red!! I will owe you one’ Continue reading “My challenge, the acceptance, and the Jardin du Bois du Puits”

I kept my promise: garden skills to give independence in Vietnam

It was almost a month later when I arrived back in Melbourne, and well into September although the icy fingers of winter still hung on. Only 24 hours earlier I was travelling to DaNang airport in Vietnam with a tropical storm brewing in the South China Sea. A fierce wind bent over trees along the roadside and a warm rain slammed horizontally against the taxi windscreen. My flight was delayed a few hours while the storm past to the east. Continue reading “I kept my promise: garden skills to give independence in Vietnam”

Garden travel – how do you temper your desire?

Garden travel starts with desire…you want all the beautiful gardens and exotic locations, delicious new foods and intriguing local culture. But after 10 years of leading garden tours, I know that this desire will be best satisfied when its balanced by restraint, as that’s what will give you the most holiday pleasure. Continue reading “Garden travel – how do you temper your desire?”

Wildflowers of the Dolomites, Italy – Part 3

During our 2013 trip to the Dolomites in northern Italy (Wildflowers of the Dolomites Part 1 and Part 2), we were captivated by the mountains and scenery, and were lucky enough to revisit them in 2015. Carrying less gear in our packs (but still too much – next time we’ll be going ultralight!) – we once again used several of Gillian Prices’ Walking in the Dolomites Cicerone Guide books, plus topographical maps. Continue reading “Wildflowers of the Dolomites, Italy – Part 3”

Wonder, delight & mystery: Australian Landscape Conference in review

The 2015 Australian Landscape Conference – held in Melbourne in late September – was a memorable two-day session. More than 600 local and international attendees followed the thought-provoking input of landscape designers drawn from overseas and Australia. Continue reading “Wonder, delight & mystery: Australian Landscape Conference in review”

River cruising and garden visiting in North America with Botanica

When it comes to river cruising combined with garden visiting, most keen gardeners think of Europe. But in September 2016 I will be hosting my second trip for Botanica up the rivers, lakes and canals that connect the US and Canada.
Continue reading “River cruising and garden visiting in North America with Botanica”

Holiday with heliconias and hospitality in Colombia

For the last 20 years I’ve loved tramping Panamanian forests, looking for heliconias and marveling at the incredible diversity of humid tropical forests. Recently it’s become possible to get to know Colombian jungles, too. Continue reading “Holiday with heliconias and hospitality in Colombia”

Stunning designer gardens at Auckland Garden DesignFest 2015

If you have been thinking of visiting New Zealand, don’t miss this one-off opportunity to see the work of some of our top designers in private gardens that bring out the best of Auckland’s iconic landscape. From the famous volcanic cones throughout the city to the backdrop of sea and harbour in the spectacular Hauraki Gulf, you will come away entranced. Continue reading “Stunning designer gardens at Auckland Garden DesignFest 2015”

The Kiss: Gardening with Gustav

Have you ever seen a piece of art and imagined it as a garden? I am not a horticulturalist, garden designer or landscape architect. My only design experience comes from moving seventeen times in thirty four years and always having to cram my stuff into a new house and find a way to make it look appealing. But I am an art lover. Continue reading “The Kiss: Gardening with Gustav”