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Showing posts from July, 2009

Udaipur - city of grandeur and gardens!

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I'm now in Udaipur - one of the most beautiful cities in the world - and at this time of year, in monsoon season - it is filled with flowers everywhere you look. It has been made famous by the scenes in the James Bond film "Octopussy", which was filmed here, and most of us have seen pictures of the iconic Lake Palace (above), on Lake Pichola, which is now one of the world's top hotels.
Everywhere you look there is greenery at this time of year and yesterday, I went to visit one of the most famous gardens here - the Saheliyon Ki Bari - which is in bloom, following the rains. This wonderful garden was built by the ruling Maharana Sangram Singh in the 18th century and he presented it to his Queen after their marriage.

Translated it means, the Garden of Maids and takes its name from the 48 ladies who attended to her at her wedding.
Saheliyon ki Bari is quite majestic - it has long walkways (right) edged with magnificent palms; lush green lawns, fringed with banks of irise…

Marvellous Serre de la Madone in Menton

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The last garden that we visited on our tour of France last week - Serre de la Madone in Menton - was perhaps the most interesting, not just because it's the former home of Lawrence Johnston, who also owned Hidcote in the UK, but because it is undergoing restoration, after some 40 years of neglect so it's very much a garden in progress.
Although in the same town as Jardin Val Rahmeh, it could not be more different - this garden is reminiscent of England, both in its planting style and placing of statues, pergolas and water features, whereas Val Rahmeh is like a tropical feast! In Southern France the word "serre" refers to mountains and this garden lies in the hills to the west of Menton, so it has a different soil structure to Sir Percy Radcliffe's creation in the east of the town. If you're going to be in the area - do visit both on the same day, but not on Monday or Tuesday, because both have different closing days!
Johnston, who had spent much of his ear…

A hillside dream in Ventimiglia!

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Our last few days in France ... and Italy ... were filled with wonderful garden visits, and now I'm home again, I shall try and catch up with my blog! I cannot believe the wonderful vistas we saw last week; the incredible plants; the extraordinary locations of the gardens we visited; and the magical floral displays everywhere we looked. The whole of southern France is in bloom at this time of year and every town and city has flowers everywhere!
We were so taken with our visit to Menton that we returned the next day to look at more gardens, starting at the Giardini Botanici Hanbury, and also known as La Mortola, just over the border in Italy. Of course, there is no border of note any more and you only realise you're in Italy when you see the signs at the edge of the road. This amazing botanical garden covers some 45 acres (18 hectares) of Cape Mortola, perched on the edge of the Mediterranean beyond Menton.
The land was purchased by Thomas Hanbury, who had made his fortune…

OMG - look at these lilies - you could sleep on them!

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Thank you all for your wonderful comments about yesterday's entry! I was just so disappointed by Gourdon and my failure to find the garden in Grasse that I forgot to appreciate the beauty of this part of the world!
But today was fantastic and I visited a garden that more than measured up to Majorelle in Marrakech. In fact, it took my breath away and if you look at the lilies above, you'll understand why! These lovely green waterbeds were just one of the many striking features at Val Rahmeh - Menton's exotic botanical garden. They are called Victoria lilies; they come from the River Amazon; they were discovered in 1801 by the German botanist, Thaddeus Haenke; and they were first introduced to Kew Gardens in 1846 and named after Queen Victoria. They can grow up to two metres (approx 6 feet) in diameter, and they are quite spectacular. All I wanted to do when I saw them was lie on them!
This garden was created at the beginning of the 20th century by General Sir Percy Radc…

Spectacular mountain scenery and sea views, but not much garden!

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Well, I did try and visit gardens today, but have to say that not all went to plan! My husband and I set off this morning, filled with optimism and a determined aim to visit more gardens on my list. We had a lovely day out and saw some delightful sights; but sadly, these did not include gardens because we were shouted at in the first ... and failed to find the second one!
The sky was blue (above) and we also understood why this area is called the Cote d'Azur (see the colour of the ocean below). But our endeavours were considerably hampered by the fact that the French don't really believe in signposts; and my satellite navigation system doesn't seem to be able to cope with the hairpin bends that are part of life in the mountains here; so combine that with the tourist traffic at this time of year; the French view that if it's medieval, you can put it on the tourist map and charge what you like for food, souvenirs and parking, and you've got an interesting culture g…

Musical fountains & sailor-suited gardeners!

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I've been planning this trip for a few weeks now as I'm due at a wedding in Nice tomorrow! But I couldn't possibly visit this part of France without dropping in on a few of the magnificent gardens that I'll be sharing with you in the next couple of days. The climate here in the south of France means that there are plants and vistas that you wouldn't find back home and combine that with the opulence of the area and you've got some pretty exotic gardens.
My first stop today was the world-famous Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at Cap Ferrat, just outside Nice. My initial response was "Wow"! The villa was built for the Baroness Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild in 1912 and she had an entire hill removed so that the gardens could be laid out on flat ground; she named the villa after an ocean liner and insisted that all 35 gardeners who worked there wore sailor costumes; and then she divorced the Baron and moved to Monaco, leaving her extraordinary villa and …

Garden Gadabout - a great way of raising funds!

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Regular readers will know that I often visit two or three gardens in a day when I am out and about, but today I turned from "Galloping"to "Gadabout" Gardener on a wonderful tour of local gardens in Brighton, England. This scheme really appealed to me (and judging by the numbers of visitors at the gardens, it did to other garden fanatics too!) and it may well be something that like-minded gardeners want to try back home.
The formula is simple (although it does take some organisation!) and is an open garden scheme raising funds for charity. Private garden owners open their patch for a couple of consecutive Sundays and charge a £1.00 (($1.60 approx) entrance fee on the gate. The proceeds all go to a selected charity; the visitors get to satisfy their curiosity about other people's gardens; there are often plants for sale; but most importantly, this is a wonderful way of looking at the ingenuity of other gardeners; seeing new planting schemes; and realising that …

Wandering through Wiltshire

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The Peto Garden at Iford Manor is an English garden that you can't miss - it's like something from a dream. I had it at the top of my list for several months before finally getting there and I'm glad I made the effort, because it's outstanding!
Nestling on the side of a steep valley near Bath, the honey-coloured Manor house sits near the river Frome, and the garden rises behind in a series of terraces, filled with surprises. You enter by a simple garden gate and then the show begins! This garden is a masterpiece, with its magnificent cypresses and junipers; its columns, fountains, marble seats and statues - and all in 2.5 acres! You wander through this theatrical feast and wonder just how long it took Harold Peto to make this extraordinary Italianate spectacle in the middle of nowhere.
Harold Peto trained as an architect in the same offices as Edwin Lutyens, but he did not become really interested in gardens until he was in his forties. He bought Iford Manor in 1899 a…

Gardens that open for charity - don't miss them!

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I am just re-posting this entry because there is a garden in Sussex that opens for the last time under the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) this coming Sunday and you won't want to miss it!! Town Place, near Haywards Heath in Sussex (pictured above) is one of the most stunning gardens that I have seen this season and it's open from 2-6pm on Sunday, 12th July. There's ample parking and excellent teas, and I hope that some of my English readers will make it!
We're incredibly lucky in the UK because there are so many gardens to visit. And, thanks to the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), which has a network of owners who open their gardens on just a few days a year to raise funds for the charities that the NGS supports, this is a wonderful way to see gardens that wouldn't normally be open to the public.
This year has seen many changes to the way owners operate, with many gardens opening on weekdays as well as weekends, which gives Mums a chance to visit while the kids are at …

Dalliance with Dorset

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Summer is here and the weather was wonderful (until today's torrential rain!), so why not venture out to Dorset, where there are some really magnificent gardens? You could do two or three in a day if you were determined, so in the first of a series of musings about Thomas Hardy country, I can tell you about some of the historic houses with wonderful gardens that I rate as "unmissable" in this glorious part of England.
Mapperton Houseis a one of my all-time favourites - I return there regularly and am never disappointed because there is always something different to see against the backdrop of a wonderful English manor house, which overlooks a magnificent garden nestling in the valley below. And this is what makes this garden such a complete surprise! The drive is lined with tall lime trees, and you see the house in the distance. Then you explore the gardens adjacent to the property, starting with a courtyard garden at the entrance, and an immaculate lawn and borders at …

Garden paradise for all the family

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It's all very well being a passionate gardener, but one of the problems of garden visiting is what to do with the kids when visiting gardens away from home! If they're anything like mine, there's no way that they will give a second glance to plants or wonderful border displays... but give them another distraction and you might just get to spend time admiring the garden yourself.
Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk offers the perfect solution because it has a spectacular collection of birds which will entertain all age groups and a magnificent Millenium Garden (above), created by my favourite garden designer, Piet Oudolf. There is also the smaller Wave Garden designed by Julie Toll. Both are very different, but quite spectacular and well worth going out of your way to visit. There is a lot of open space here, including a wildlife habitat garden and a wildflower meadow, so kids can run around while "crinklies" admire the flowers.
I have to confess that I am als…