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Showing posts from September, 2009

Hibiscus hunting - WOW!!

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Well, it's time for me to leave Florida now and return home to the UK, but I got up really early this morning and decided to go hibiscus hunting. I couldn't believe how many of these magnificent flowers I found and they come in every shape and colour!
Glorious white in the morning light
Mellow yellow, with a bright red heart
Gorgeous pale pink....
Darker pink with a blood red veins....
Blood red - the colour of your heart
I'm sorry to say that I know nothing about hibiscus at all except that they are incredibly lovely flowers and I've really enjoyed looking at them during my time here, so I thought it might be helpful to give you some addresses, if you'd like to know more about them.
The American Hibiscus Society is based right here in Florida; there's also an International Hibiscus Society and in Australia, there's the Hibiscus Society of Queensland. I'm sorry if I've missed out on other major societies, but I'm sure you'll let me know and …

DO check opening times before you visit!!!

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Today I tried to visit a garden that's been on my list for a while - Historic Spanish Point - on the Tamiami Trail, near Osprey and south of Sarasota. But I hadn't checked the website and if I had, I would have discovered that Monday is the one day of the week it's closed. Now I know why I always provide links for my readers, so you can check the opening days and times before you go to any of the gardens I write about. Shame I didn't do that myself!
But I found another beautiful garden in the making and can't wait to tell you about it, because once it's open, it's definitely going to be worth a visit - this is the former Burrows-Matson home (above), adjacent to Spanish Point, which sits in beautiful grounds overlooking Little Sarasota Bay, and which is currently being restored by the Sarasota Conservation Foundation. They will open the property later this year as a public community park, and work is already well underway. Other plans for the site include a…

Blown away by Bok Tower!

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Bok Tower Gardens in Florida has got to be one of the most special gardens that I've visited this year - it's spectacular, unusual, slightly haunting - especially when you hear the Carillon bells ring! And we chose quite a difficult day to visit - the temperature outside on the way there was 94F; the air-conditioning in my car chose to stop working; and then we encountered massive Florida thunderstorms later in the day (you can see the torrential rain for yourself later in this post!), which made both garden visiting and driving conditions challenging. But none of this made me think any less of this fabulous garden.

This is an extraordinary place - the brainchild of Edward Bok - a Dutch immigrant who made his fortune in publishing at the beginning of the 20th century as editor of "Ladies Home Journal" - one of the most successful publications of its era. He went on to become a Pulitzer Prize author. He was also a philanthropist and on 1st February 1929, the comple…

A big thank-you to all my fellow Blotanists

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I've only been here at Blotanical for a few months, but I do want to say a BIG thank-you to all of you who've helped me find my way around; made really nice comments on my posts; and sent me messages. But a specially big thank-you goes to Stuart, who spends so many hours sorting us all out; ironing out the problems on the site; and most importantly, for starting Blotanical, and creating a network that allows all us garden bloggers to communicate not just with one another, but with the world at large.
I'm really honoured to have been nominated in this year's awards, both in the Best Blog Name section and the Best UK Blog. I have to say that the name was easy to choose because I do indeed, GALLOP around the gardens I visit, and the blog just started somehow. I still make a lot of mistakes because my knowledge of computers really isn't up to scratch, and I can't tell you how many times I've started writing an entry and then lost it in the ether! Same seems t…

Orchids and epiphytes galore ... a re-visit

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For those of you who regularly read my blog, you will know that I have fallen in love with Botanical Gardens. My recent forays in the UK took me to both Oxford and Wales, but now I'm in the US, it would be a sin to miss out of The Marie Selby Botanical Garden, right here on my doorstep.
I did visit earlier this year when I was here and wrote: "This is such a wonderful place to visit to see specimens that you won't see growing in ordinary gardens in Sarasota. It's location is perfect, overlooking the bay, and for anyone interested in orchids, this is a must. The garden covers some nine acres and is a fine showcase for bromeliads and epiphytes (plants that live on other plants). And with the latter, you have to make sure that you keep looking up!"
The plants in the Tropical Display House (some shown here) are fantastic! I have to confess that I don't know a lot about orchids so to me they are just extraordinary plants that make wonderful pictures, but judging…

Oh to be in England now that autumn's there!

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Can there be anywhere more glorious than England in the autumn? And the answer will undoubtedly be yes from readers all over the world. I notice that many of my fellow garden bloggers have been talking about autumn and featuring wonderful pictures on their sites recently and I just wanted to alert you all to one of the most beautiful British gardens so that you can plan a visit to view the spectacular autumn colours.
Sheffield Park in East Sussex is one of the most glorious gardens in the world to visit when the leaves change. It is a veritable riot of colour and will make your spirits soar high.

Designed by Capability Brown and mentioned in the Doomsday Book, this garden is an absolute must - it has the most amazing collection of trees, and the acers are at their finest in autumn.
That said, I'm hoping to get glimpses of the autumn colour here in the US later this week. I'm driving up to the Carolinas to stay with friends and am sure I'll see some fantastic changing colo…

The best things in life are free!

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Today I visited the most charming garden and it was free. So too are the birds and the beaches that I am enjoying here in Florida. The Joan M. Durante Park is just off Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key and it is a charming 32-acre site which was taken over by the town in the 1980's after the donor, James Durante offered to restore the property in memory of his wife Joan. They have done a wonderful job and today the park includes a large mangrove forest, created wetlands, a salt marsh and a small botanical garden, which includes a selection of roses currently in bloom. Located in the heart of one of Florida's most exclusive property zipcodes, it's a joy to find this haven with wonderful views over Sarasota Bay - completely deserted on each occasion that I've visited and another great spot to watch the birds that I so enjoy here, because of the park's created wetland system. On my recent visits I have seen herons, egrets, cormorants, ospreys, pelicans and smalle…

Rousham - a treat not to be missed!

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Monty Don described Rousham as "one of the greatest experiences on this earth" in his book, "Around the World in 80 Gardens", and having visited yesterday, I have to agree with him - it is an outstanding property! Originally designed by William Kent in the first half of the 18th century, little has changed in the last 250 years, and every corner you turn gives another amazing vista. Combine this with perfectly mown lawns, the impressive statues and the views over the Oxfordshire countryside and the River Cherwell and you've got a garden that's unique.
Rousham has stood still in time. You approach the property up a long driveway bounded by fields filled with grazing cattle. There is no gift shop or tea room here, but just a ticket machine where you pay your entrance fee, and then you can wander at leisure through the grounds. First view of the house is impressive (above) but when you wander round the side, you realise that this garden is really different.

Secret gardens and castles - Wales Part III

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I saw many wonderful gardens during my brief sojourn in Wales and have already featured two of the large, well-known properties that are extremely well publicised and much visited, so for my final post on Wales, I am going to focus on three gardens not so much in the public eye and all currently being restored, re-planted and improved - so expect to see changes if you visit.
Time and distance would not allow you to visit them all in a day, but you might want to make a special visit to my first entry - Cae Hir - because it is a truly charming garden! You won't find huge glasshouses, extraordinary specimens or restored cloisters, but you will find a garden planted with love by a Dutchman, Wil Akkermans, who has passed his extensive love and knowledge of plants to his two children. This is a garden to wander slowly round, and sit on one of the many benches, looking at the plants and the trees - it is extraordinarily peaceful.
Covering just six acres, the main garden is behind the ho…

National Botanic Garden of Wales - you'll be amazed by what grows here!

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Where in the world do you find plants in so many shapes, sizes and textures that you think you might be on Mars? Take the one above - this is surely a work of art, not a plant? But this is the kind of unusual sight you can expect to see at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.
Opened in 2000, it stands on the site of a former Regency estate and extends to some 500 acres. It was not without its critics when it opened, but now, just under a decade later, it has some of the finest and most unusual plants in the world; enjoys a spectacular setting; draws hundreds of thousands of visitors a year; and has become a favourite with families, plant enthusiasts, and tourists, who come variously to marvel at the giant glass house, the planting and the scale and grandeur of the sights on offer.
The great glasshouse (above) - the largest single-span structure of its type in the world - is reminiscent of a giant flying saucer. You can see it from everywhere in the garden and it houses some spe…

Wonderful Welsh gardens - Aberglasney - recently saved from ruin

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It's raining again and I'm in Wales - well known for its verdant landscapes because of the high rainfall levels!  First stop was Aberglasney, near Carmarthen - known as "A Garden Lost in Time" - thanks to its inclusion in the popular TV series of the same name. Its origins are "shrouded in obscurity" according to the brochure, although there are records dating back to the 15th century on both house and grounds. But just wait until you see the gardens today and history pales into insignificance!
What matters today is that Aberglasney was saved from complete ruin in the 1990's by a group of historic house enthusiasts and an American benefactor, and they have worked tirelessly to turn the property into what it is now. The result is an absolute "must see" property with a series of unique and stunning gardens set against the backdrop of an uninhabited, but attractive house. There's a cloister garden, upper and lower walled gardens, alpinum, sun…