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 Radcliffe, widower of Rahmeh Theodora Swinburne - he was just one of many former Empire builders settling in the South of France because of the temperate climate
and like so many of his compatriots, he was prepared to search all over the world for exotic specimens to plant in his little patch of heaven on the Mediterranean coast.
Menton has its own micro-climate, so gardens flourish here in this far-flung corner of southern France, just before you enter Italy. And, located where it is at the eastern end of the town, Val Rahmeh is protected from the wind by the mountains, and enjoys a subtropical climate.
The town is delightful and it has more than its fair share of beautiful gardens, yet the people who work there, don't even know they exist. In fact, my husband and I had lunch near the port and when we asked the maitre d'hotel how to get to Val Rahmeh, he just looked at us in amazement! We finally asked a glamorous French policewoman to show us the way. But once you get your bearings, the Villa is not hard to find and you can even park outside.
Allow several hours to see this magnificent garden because I think you'll be entranced by what you find here. The setting, the plants, the ambience - all are fantastic - and even though the gardens do not cover a huge area, you'll find so many fascinating specimens here that you'll want to keep exploring for several hours. Impressive too is the the labelling of the plants and each time you are peering in amazement at some new specimen, you only have to look to the discreet red label to find out what it is! This is quite definitely a 5* garden and worth making a detour for. And it's only one of several gardens in the area ... I shall be writing about the others in the next few days.