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”

Train from Paris to Chaumont-sur-Loire

France – from July 2 to August 26 there will be new direct inter-urban (Intercités) trains between Paris-Austerlitz station and Onzain-Chaumont-sur-Loire Station, making it easy for visitors to Paris to spend a day enjoying the International Garden Festival at Chateau Chaumont. Continue reading “Train from Paris to Chaumont-sur-Loire”

Festival des Architectures Vives

To face today’s economic mutations and technical, technological and societal changes, it is not enough to adapt – today we must innovate.

The Festival des Architectures Vives is an architectural path for the general public, who can discover or rediscover the historical landmarks of the city of Montpellier since 2006 and the city of La Grande Motte since 2013. The event invites visitors to go in contact this rich heritage by offering installations scattered around the city. In Montpellier, it takes place in the historic town and offers a path connecting mansions and courtyards, mostly private, that are usually not visible to visitors.

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”

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?”

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”

Book Review: ‘Lessons from Great Gardeners’

Lessons from Great Gardeners‘ is an inviting book. First, in terms of content. Forty ‘gardening icons’ – gardeners, garden designers and/or garden owners – are profiled, many with emphasis on one garden to which each has devoted a significant part of his or her life. You absorb their practical skills in terms of knowledge and experience. You respond to their creative ideas and their passion for gardens. You learn from them. Continue reading “Book Review: ‘Lessons from Great Gardeners’”

Promenade du Paillon in Nice, France: A Public Open Space that Works!

Why are public open spaces so often empty of public? Sometimes it’s obvious – my hometown Adelaide’s infamous Festival Centre Plaza’s concrete desert is blazing in summer and icy in winter, and images of the proposed AUD $90 million facelift suggest little to change that. Adelaide’s Torrens Linear Park and Parklands greenbelt girding the CBD are magnificent, but the latter is most full of the public when it’s fenced off for pay-per-visit events, Continue reading “Promenade du Paillon in Nice, France: A Public Open Space that Works!”

South African garden at Chaumont sur Loire

When I opened the email last year asking me to be part of the Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival (IGF), I just about fell off my chair. To be part of this show has been on the top of my bucket list for as long as I have been gardening. It’s a show that cannot be compared to any other by any stretch of the imagination and the best of all …it’s in the middle of France hidden away in a tiny town called Chaumont nestled on the banks of the huge La Loire river. Continue reading “South African garden at Chaumont sur Loire”

Garden travel to broaden your mind

I am about to jump on a plane and head off to France to lead a tour of gardens and châteaux of Normandy and the Loire Valley and if you haven’t booked it’s a bit late now! But the idea of travelling across the world to see gardens and gardening that I may well have little hope of emulating started me thinking. Is it just horticultural eye candy or is there more to it than that? Continue reading “Garden travel to broaden your mind”

Giverny, a ‘bucket list’ garden of flowers

The list of 1001 Gardens to See Before You Die includes the Giverny garden of Claude Monet and it is truly one for the bucket list. For gardeners who love a profusion of flowers, visiting artist Claude Monet’s garden outside Paris is like stepping straight into one of his own paintings.

Although when I went the famous water lilies were not in evidence, the abundance of autumn flowers made up for it. The first impression was of dazzling yellow rudbeckia reaching for the sky Continue reading “Giverny, a ‘bucket list’ garden of flowers”

A country house in France – and garden

I have a friend who lives in France and she and her husband owned a beautiful, old, stone house in the Lot in south west France which they have just sold. I visited twice and each time the house, the plants and the countryside left me enchanted. It is, of course, in a very good red wine area and the food and wine and general hospitality we were given were superb. Continue reading “A country house in France – and garden”

La Louve – a very special garden

I was very fortunate to visit La Louve in early June this year when taking a Ross Tour to Paris and Provence. How lucky we were with a glorious sunny day and just our group to be guided around this fascinating garden by the owner, Judith Pillsbury. La Louve meaning ‘she wolf’ was created by Nicole de Vesian, a fabric designer, stylist for Hermes and later in life a remarkable plantswoman. The garden clings to a rocky steeply terraced narrow plot on the southern edge of Bonnieux – one of the ‘chain’ of villages in the Luberon. Menerbes made famous by Peter Mayle of ‘A year in Provence’ fame is not far away. Continue reading “La Louve – a very special garden”

A garden in Provence

My partner and I decided to celebrate 35 years together by holidaying in Europe, mainly France. We had always wanted to see and smell the lavender fields of Provence during the heat of summer, so we rented a house in a hamlet near the village of Roussillon. The hamlet was not especially charming, but the pretty house had a lovely balance of creature comfort, French quirkiness, and stylish decor. However, what made the experience truly special, especially for me as a horticulturist, was the garden behind the house. Continue reading “A garden in Provence”

Louisa Jones fell in love with France

Louisa Jones fell in love with France and Provence as a student in the late 1960s and lives there to this day. English friends said there were no important gardens in Provence but she soon realised they were thinking of flower gardens and that vernacular gardens which had evolved over millennia were not appreciated. Continue reading “Louisa Jones fell in love with France”

War and Peace

On a day when all manner of people turned out to publicly and conspicuously commemorate ANZAC Day, marching, singing, praying, dressing up in uniform, waving flags, wearing medals, beating drums, playing trumpets, bagpipes and horns, then gathering noisily with family and regiment mates in watering-holes from Gallipoli to Goondiwindi to Greymouth, I dug deep to gather my thoughts of war and the fallen in my garden. Continue reading “War and Peace”

Plant promenade in Paris

At 10 metres above the ground, maybe 10 metres wide, nearly 5 kilometres long, and packed with trees, shrubs and views of Parisian streets, the Promenade plantée is a trend setter and worth a look next time you are in town. OK, so it’s ranked 180th in Lonely Planet’s list of 1524 things to do in Paris, but then this is about my fifth visit to Paris and I like plants. Continue reading “Plant promenade in Paris”

The Loire Valley

Back home again after two weeks in France’s beautiful Loire Valley, its sights and sounds are still singing in my mind. Most of all I remember the ducks quacking gleefully as they zoomed in to land on the still green waters of the River Cher, then the soft splashing as they sailed off to go about their daily business. Some mornings they were in groups of ten or twenty. Continue reading “The Loire Valley”

Ornamental vegies at Villandry

Well it seems vegetables are hot. And, if they are colourful and ornamental, well they’re even hotter. If you want to see vegetables used to ornamental perfection, then I recommend a quick trip to France. Failing that, enjoy some photographs instead. Continue reading “Ornamental vegies at Villandry”

A Mediterranean cottage garden

The British really do take their love of gardening with them when they move to other parts of the world. I’ve just come back from a short stay in the Haut-Languedoc region of southern France. It turned out that our self-catering apartment was half of a house, and that in the other half lived the owners, Tom and Frank, who moved there around 6 or 7 years ago when Tom was made redundant from his job in Manchester. Continue reading “A Mediterranean cottage garden”

Ancient Parisian acacia has a crise d’identité

Well at last I’m really ‘talking plants’. As regular readers know, Talking Plants ( is a blog devoted to plants and gardens, with an eye for the quirky or scientific, or both. Its first home was the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia, but early this year Talking Plants migrated with my wife Lynda (who adds expertise in French, botany and more) and me to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London, UK. Continue reading “Ancient Parisian acacia has a crise d’identité”

Loulou de la Falaise at Château de Chaumont

When I came across that familiar name in the obituary pages of the paper, Loulou de la Falaise I knew who she was. It’s not the sort of name that you could forget easily! It was quite a brief entry. It mentioned that in the 1960s she was a wild child and fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar and that she then became a model in New York where she got to know all the famous photographers and artists of that time. Continue reading “Loulou de la Falaise at Château de Chaumont”