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”

Rudyard Kipling and his garden

The first plants that Rudyard Kipling ever knew were exotic ones. He was born in India in 1865 and spent his first years surrounded by palms, mango and banana trees, and lush growth everywhere he looked. But all that changed very dramatically! When Rudyard was five years old, his parents took him to England. Continue reading “Rudyard Kipling and his garden”

Tasmanian garden shopping

We’ve long harboured a desire to live in a beautiful house and garden in Tasmania. It seemed like a dream – not something that would actually ever happen – but recently several things changed in our lives and we realised a big move could be a reality. Continue reading “Tasmanian garden shopping”

The romantic Garden of Ninfa, Italy

It was May and I was travelling through Italy enjoying a feast of gardens from Sorrento in the south to Lake Como on the north. That’s late spring in the Northern Hemisphere, but the weather was still chilly and, surprisingly for that time of the year in the Mediterranean, it was also wet. But rain didn’t dampen my visit to a garden billed as the most romantic in the world – the Garden of Ninfa south of Rome. Continue reading “The romantic Garden of Ninfa, Italy”

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”

Gardens & volcanoes in Costa Rica

It’s been a very, very wet and grey winter in the UK and we felt the need for some warmth and light, so in the first half of February we stole a couple of weeks in Costa Rica, in Central America. It is a country I have always wanted to visit, not just for its spectacular landscapes and wildlife, but because it has managed to buck the political trend that prevails in most of that part of the world: it abolished its army in 1949, Continue reading “Gardens & volcanoes in Costa Rica”

A South American plant curiosity

Whilst travelling in South America, we came across this intriguing plant by the name of Llareta – the Spanish name for the Yareta – Azorella compacta. It was highly conspicuous on the rocky and seemingly infertile mountainsides in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Only growing at high altitudes between 3200 m and 4500 m., the plants are in some cases reputed to be as much as 3000 years old! Continue reading “A South American plant curiosity”

Patagonian paradise

We recently returned from an eight-week odyssey to South America – it was one of those ‘bucket list’ things that had been gestating for quite a while. Once the ‘retired’ flag went up, we were off. It’s a sign of satisfaction putting that ‘R’ word in occupation on immigration forms! Concentrating mainly on the west coast, we travelled from Cusco/Machu Picchu as far south as Cape Horn – and this is where the exquisite little plants come in to the story. Continue reading “Patagonian paradise”

Bronze medallists

Coloured foliage can certainly make a statement but like anything in the garden that isn’t green it can be overdone. Too many gold leaves can be glaring in strong sun light and could even create the look of a bed full of sick underfed plants. Variegated foliage overused can create a hectic look that has the eye flitting disconcertedly all over the place. Large swathes of silver foliage may well glitter in the English light but for me it can look dry and Mallee scrubbish in our hot weather and harsh sunlight, a look I’m not usually in favour of! Continue reading “Bronze medallists”

Water lily GIANTS at Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, USA is a sheer delight to visit. It’s one of those places that’s so good that it’s hard to pick a highlight. However, one of my favourite displays was the water lily feature. Once you’ve wound your way through the amazing conservatory and caught your breath again (yes, it’s that good), head out the back to find these amazing giants floating silently in their dark pools. Continue reading “Water lily GIANTS at Longwood Gardens”

Morocco’s ‘Majorelle’ & Hotel La Mamounia

As I mentioned in my last post there were only two gardens that I really wanted to visit in Morocco, Jardin Majorelle and Hotel La Mamounia, both of which are located in Marrakech. Due to a bout of traveller’s tummy I nearly missed them both which would have been a great disappointment. However, after 36hrs confined to our room and some shuffling of the itinerary Craig and I finally set off for the Jardin Majorelle. Continue reading “Morocco’s ‘Majorelle’ & Hotel La Mamounia”

Getty’s Roman villa and garden, LA

The ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, buried when Mt Vesuvius erupted in AD79, clearly made an impression on 19-year-old American J Paul Getty, soon to become an oil tycoon, when he visited Italy in 1912. Almost 60 years later he built a museum at Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles to display his collection of antiquities – a replica Roman villa, right down to the gardens. Continue reading “Getty’s Roman villa and garden, LA”

Captain Cook’s ivy a worthy sailor

“Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.” A quote by Captain James Cook in reference to him digging for potatoes in his garden? Perhaps unlikely, but the great explorer may have had a greener upbringing than his sea blue finale. It wasn’t my sole reason for heading to Melbourne, but along with the restful Fitzroy Gardens, the ever changing observatory and the house and gardens of the Cook family, the area remains a focal point of horticultural attraction in the heart of the Victorian capital. Continue reading “Captain Cook’s ivy a worthy sailor”

Gardening World Cup Japan 2013

Once again the USA, New Zealand, France, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the UK and Malaysia were all represented this year at the prestigious Gardening World Cup held annually in Nagasaki, Japan. It’s a careful selection of the world’s best and most ‘out of the box’ designers, coming together to show what magic they can create given a strict budget and a theme, which was to display ‘World Peace’. Continue reading “Gardening World Cup Japan 2013”

Longwood Gardens a garden Disneyworld

The state of Pennsylvania in the USA is a treasure trove for horticulturists. With 30 public gardens within about an hour of the capital Philadelphia, it’s hard to know which one to visit first. Its claim of “more gardens than anywhere on the continent” seemed pretty apt as I travelled around enjoying the lush beauty of America’s garden state. Continue reading “Longwood Gardens a garden Disneyworld”

Wildflowers of the Dolomites Part 2

Like any good narrative, the best walks also have a certain rhythm and structure. There’s a gradual introduction, rising to a climax, followed by a resolution. This is obvious when hiking in mountains or high country, where you ascend to a breathtaking lookout at the summit, before descending back to more gentle landscapes. For this reason, hiking purists may shun chairlifts or roads but, for me and Geoff, Continue reading “Wildflowers of the Dolomites Part 2”

Green is the new black in Melbourne

A few months ago I took one of my regular trips down to Melbourne to visit a close girlfriend who lives there. Over the three days I was there, I was struck by how green Melbourne was. Not that it has more parkland that I remembered or that it was mindblowingly sustainable – but that at the moment green seems to be the new black. Terrariums in cafes, rooftop veggie gardens in the city, living cacti necklaces…you name it, it’s there, and accessible for the average tourist. Continue reading “Green is the new black in Melbourne”

Escape summer heat in New York’s parks

July in New York City. Extreme heat and humidity, heavy traffic, surging crowds. What to do? Where to go? Art galleries seemed a good choice, being air-conditioned. But I could only take so many! So I headed out, and around. First, to Central Park. Spacious, green and shady. And hot, hot, hot. Continue reading “Escape summer heat in New York’s parks”

Wildflowers of the Dolomites

Geoff and I recently returned from a month in Italy, including two weeks hiking in the Dolomites, the uniquely spectacular mountains along the Austrian border. It was our first time in the Northern Hemisphere and we were both captivated by Italy’s people, food, history and, especially, natural landscapes (albeit re ‘landscape’, our knees were not quite as captivated as our minds!). Continue reading “Wildflowers of the Dolomites”

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”

Orchid fever

As a first time visitor to the Chelsea Flower Show in late May, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. So much to see in such a short time. The standard of horticulture, the level of presentation of plants and the sheer variety was even better than I had expected. With so much to marvel at, one thing stood out in my memory of that day and it was the exhibition and display of the Phalaenopsis, or moth orchids, set up as an overhanging ‘tree’. Continue reading “Orchid fever”

The floating gardens of London

Twice a year, a unique barge community of barge gardens floating on the Thames is opened to the public to raise money for charity. Known as the Downings Road Moorings or Garden Barge Square, the gardens can be viewed from the shore or river anytime but for a close-up view, you’ll need to visit on an open day. These occur annually in May and June, once for the National Garden Scheme (during the Chelsea weekend in May) and again in June for the London Open Squares weekend. Continue reading “The floating gardens of London”

Fountains, flowers (& storks) of Morocco

There were only two gardens that I wanted to visit when we went to Morocco, Jardin Marjorelle and the gardens of the hotel La Mamounia, both in Marrakesh. I’ll do a separate post about them in the near future but in the meantime I’d like to share some observations about some of the plants and gardens we saw along the way. Continue reading “Fountains, flowers (& storks) of Morocco”

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”

Flowers on Crete

The reason you haven’t heard from me for a while is that I’ve been travelling around the island of Crete for four weeks! (Well someone has to do it!) and what a fabulous place it was to visit.
The scenery was breath taking (particularly at the top of the tallest Mountain on the island, Mt. Psiloritis at 2456m), the people were friendly, the food delicious and the plant life to die for. Continue reading “Flowers on Crete”

The succulent Karoo

Flying over the white snowy mountains of the western cape and looking down at one of the 7 new natural wonders of the world – Table Mountain, towering above Cape Town, easily one of the most beautiful cities on earth, you know you are in a special place. I always feel like I have arrived home when touching down in Cape Town, although I live on the opposite and much wilder end of the African continent, but the cape is where my heart lies and always will be, and no, it is not just because of the excellent wine. Continue reading “The succulent Karoo”

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”

Juan Grimm in harmony with nature

Everyone responds to the gardens of Juan Grimm – leading South American designer – and I often wonder at their beauty and the reasons for their success. It is in his plantings and landscaping that we see how he harmonises with nature. In the garden at Melipilla, about an hour south of Santiago in Chile, he has created layers of horizontal planes, which echo the natural landscape and culminate in the house which in this picture, is barely visible within the landscape. Continue reading “Juan Grimm in harmony with nature”

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”

Burle Marx’s other gardens

Many of the gardens designed by Burle Marx have been demolished or languish under neglect but many are lovingly maintained. A few we can visit quite easily, more though are hard to see unless on an organised tour. Of the four I mention here, only the first is freely open to the public.

[See also the comprehensive Garden Travel Guide to Brazil] Continue reading “Burle Marx’s other gardens”

Roberto Burle Marx’s private Sitio

Roberto Burle Marx single-handedly changed the face of tropical garden design while introducing to the world a host of amazing indigenous Brazilian plants hitherto ignored by Brazilians. In the process became an international figure. It’s intriguing to delve into his soul as an artist and plantsman to find out why his impact was so gargantuan. Continue reading “Roberto Burle Marx’s private Sitio”

Of spice and tea

As someone who came to the study of landscape history from a love of flowers and gardening, I write surprisingly little about horticulture. So, to make amends, this whole post is about some of the plants we saw on our recent trip to the southern Indian state of Kerala. Continue reading “Of spice and tea”

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”

The ugliest plant in the world

As you all probably know I’m a mad keen plant collector and within the constraints of climate and the size of my garden I want to grow as many different plants as I can manage. Having said this I also wish to make my garden an attractive landscape (at least to my eyes) and not just a collection. Continue reading “The ugliest plant in the world”

The Rock Garden at Chandigarh

It started in 1965 as an illegal development on protected forest land. Its creator was inspired by Le Corbusier’s use of concrete in the city of Chandigarh, yet what he produced is folk art that stands in extraordinary contrast to Corbusier’s modernist city. For the first ten years of its life, it was entirely secret, its existence known only to the lowly government worker who was behind its painstaking creation. Today it hosts thousands of paying visitors every day, and the site and its creator receive countless awards and regular international press coverage. Continue reading “The Rock Garden at Chandigarh”

Xylothek – a touching, reading adventure

As we can read in this forum or elsewhere, gardening from a distance is far from easy, if not mad; awkward to plan and yet full of surprises. Last week I travelled to Germany for not entirely gardening related reasons but thought I might as well take some rare English bare-rooted fruit trees with me to incorporate into our orchard project there, which we have called our English corner or English fruit circle already. Over Christmas there were spring-like temperatures and I was hoping for a similar winter gap in February. Continue reading “Xylothek – a touching, reading adventure”

The last place you’d look for passionfruit

My neighbour, artist Ros Goody, has the best crop of passionfruit ever this year, which is odd as her vine, possibly self-sown, grows under and around a jacaranda. It is very shaded and never watered. It is only fertilised if its roots have roamed into a near by garden bed, although there is plenty of mulch around and the soil is good. Continue reading “The last place you’d look for passionfruit”