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Showing posts from January, 2010

Absolute must for all US gardeners!!

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Now this is an absolute must for all you US readers who like visiting gardens because it makes them affordable; works nationwide; and will save you a fortune, if you love visiting gardens. I discovered it here in Florida and know that it works all over the US. I've already used it to visit most of the gardens I've reviewed so far (with entry fees running anywhere between $5 and S20, I couldn't afford to "Gallop" here at the rate I do!!).
Many public gardens here in America run a "Friends" or "Member" Programme which means that you sign up for an annual membership. If like me, you have a fabulous garden nearby (and in my case it's the Marie Selby Botanical Garden), you can visit that garden whenever you want during the year, but you also get reciprocal arrangements to other gardens through the American Horticultural Society (AHS) all over the United States.
Alternatively, you can just join the AHS and then you'll get their magazine, p…

The "estate" that Sarasota forgot - another secret garden!

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I've been coming to Sarasota for at least five years, but I've never seen anything written about Historic Spanish Point. I found it by accident; spent a couple of hours there this afternoon with my girlfriend from the UK; and was amazed that more is not made of this wonderful and eclectic property - another "must-see" if you're in the area!
Former home of Bertha Matilde Honore Palmer - widow of a Chicago magnate - you can just imagine the parties that went on here during the family's 70-year "reign" at this estate! It's certainly as interesting as the Edison and Ford Winter Estates that I reviewed earlier this week, and Bertha was definitely a gardener with "attitude", so you have unusual features like her sunken garden, with its exotic pergola (top and below), Duchene Lawn (bottom) and glorious Fern Walk (above).
But it's a little hard to understand the ethos of the property today - virtually unpublicised - but very visitable, wit…

A great little "estate" in Florida

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It's taken me several years to get to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida, but I finally made it today!! It's a charming property - not what we'd call an "estate" by English standards - but well worth the visit if you want to see a slice of life gone by, some magnificent palm trees (above) and cycads (below), and sit by the Caloosahatchee River admiring the views.
Thomas Edison, the great inventor, first visited Fort Myers in 1885. He was already well-established as an inventor and wanted to find a property that would allow him to escape from the brutal winter months in New Jersey. The story goes that he bought the 13-acre plot within 24 hours of arriving in town and went on to build a house for himself and a guest house that stand on the site today. All the materials had to be brought down the river because there was no road system at that time.
With views like the one above, looking down Edison Pier, it's hardly surprising that when …

US & Canada Garden Directory

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Climate change ... breaks your heart if you're a gardener

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Today I left my Florida home excited because I was planning visits to two new gardens I'd never seen before en route to Tampa airport to collect a friend from England. But instead of the usual spring in my step after garden visits, I'm feeling really sad, having seen the extent of the damage that the prolonged spell of cold weather here in Florida has caused. The picture above was taken at the University of South Florida Botanical Garden but this wasn't the glorious brown that we associate with autumn in the UK (below).
I'm sure that this garden can look lovely, with its ideal location on the edge of Lake Bennke, but my visit was a real wake-up call on climate change! And I haven't seen "The Road" yet, which is hitting cinemas all over the world, but I've read the book and when I saw the way the gardens looked today, I realised that I probably don't have the stomach to see the movie!
My second visit was the Sunken Gardens in St Petersburg - still …

Sunny Sunday ... at last!

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This post is to thank you for all your lovely comments and good wishes for my travels. And yes, today the sun is trying to shine, so I thought I'd share some of the sights from my morning walk today. The birds here are wonderful - pelicans (above) everywhere!
The flowers are beautiful too and such a delight after all the snow in England.
I can't believe how many types of hibiscus there are ... everywhere I look!
Beautiful grey herons too!
And the jewel in the crown here ... the roseate spoonbill.

Weather here is worse than the UK!!

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This post is for everyone who thinks that I'm galloping around in glorious Florida sunshine, because although it should be like the picture above, I'm actually shrouded in a thick flog, reminiscent of November in the UK, so I'm sitting at my desk planning my garden trips in the next few weeks and praying that the weather improves. What's more, the current weather patterns also made for a pretty bumpy transatlantic ride, so I was pretty pleased to put my feet back on the ground last night!!
I'm incredibly lucky to be within 10 miles of the wonderful gardens in Sarasota, including the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (all pictures on today's post are taken there on previous trips... when the sun was shining), and the gardens at Ca d'Zan, which I haven't reviewed yet, but will be doing when the weather improves, to see Mable Ringling's magnificent rose garden.
I'm really excited because Marie Selby is running some fantastic courses this winter, includi…

Thinking about spring ... as the days get longer

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I'm leaving for the US tomorrow and won't be home for several months, but as the big thaw continues (despite more snow flurries today!), I realised that I'm going to miss some of the wonderful spring gardens in England this year. I won't see the bluebells, or the daffodils, so wanted to flag up a few gardens for my readers, in case you've got the chance to visit when there are carpets of spring flowers. And if you do ... please take some pictures for me!
Two exceptional gardens that you can visit in a day are Mottisfont Abbey (above) with its incredible camellias, and Heale House (below) with its acres of daffodils - both are quite wonderful in springtime, and you may want to think about planning a visit as the days grow longer. Longstock Park is another must see in this vicinity - but opening times are very limited and I have yet to get there (because of the restricted hours), although only last week someone was telling me what a beautiful garden this is.
Cornw…

Frozen Sheffield Park - another winter wonderland!

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It's fantastic at any time of the year, but yesterday when I visited Sheffield Park, the lakes were still frozen. And even though the sun was shining, it was still very cold, but a wonderful day to see this amazing garden recovering from the big freeze. There were new shoots everywhere and it's going to be a blaze of colour in the spring judging by the bumper crop of buds on the rhododendrons and azaleas!
The swans were picking their way through the ice; children were running around in the park; and adults were amazed by the amount of ice left on the lakes. It was a perfect winter wonderland, like so many of the gardens here in the south emerging from the snow.
All of the lakes were still partially frozen, with notices everywhere, warning people not to walk on the ice. It may look tempting, but you wouldn't want to fall in that water .... hypothermia would soon set in! And best of all was the thin and watery winter sunshine. Not enough to warm you up at the edge of the …

An amazing winter wonderland - West Dean

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Snow's melting, sun's returned, and I can't think of a better garden to visit than West Dean near Chichester in Sussex, particularly in the late afternoon, when the shadows are long and the spring bulbs are about to push up through acres of grass at this idyllic setting in the folds of the South Downs.
Former home of Edward James, the 100-acre estate supports a College of the same name dedicated to education in the arts and crafts (you can study many different subjects here from making stringed musical instruments to photography, bookbinding or metalwork!) and a garden that draws visitors from all over the world.
Harold Peto (of Iford Manor fame) designed the magnificent giant pergola (above), which always looks spectacular - even in winter - for this is when you can see just what an architectural feat it is, with its columns reflecting in the pools of water below.
Gertrude Jekyll also had an input here, with her wild water garden to the west of the main house, alongside th…

Memories of summer .... as more snow falls

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OK - that's it - we've woken up to another blanket of snow here in southern England; the roads are hushed, the schools are closed; there'll be more stories about how we're not equipped to cope in this country. So as I look out of my window onto another Brighton "white-out"I'm going to reflect of one of the glorious gardens I visited last summer, to lift my spirits.
Welcome to Waterperry near Oxford - eight acres of ornamental gardens, founded by a Miss Beatrix Havergal in the 1930's - to educate women in horticulture - and now a glorious palette of colour to remember as I look out over more white streets and try to remember just what is planted in my garden under the latest blanket of snow. Open all year round (except Christmas), you can look forward to special snowdrop weekends here next month on 6/7 and 13/14 February.
This is a wonderful garden, home to the National Collection of saxifrages (kabschia), with more than 300 species and cultivars, bu…

Lovely "L" gardens to divert us from the snow

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As we're sitting here in the South of England waiting for the snow to thaw (and we've certainly seen more of our fair share of the white stuff in the last month!), I thought I'd revert to my alphabetically listed gardens, and give you some glimpses of some of the best starting with "L".
Lamorran is one of my favourite English gardens - way down in Cornwall on the Roseland peninsular - this is one of the best kept secrets in the county and well worth a visit. The gardens are on a steep incline overlooking the sea, and the planting is so dense that you feel as though you're in a jungle! This property is quite unique - Italianate in style, with many wonderful statues - but also notable for its collection of palms and tree ferns, which flourish on its south-facing slopes. Opening times are quite restricted, so do check the website before visiting.
Just down the road is Lanhydrock with its 17th century mansion and unique gatehouse (above). This garden couldn'…