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Showing posts from February, 2010

Winter wonderland in North Carolina!

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I thought I was in heaven when I went to Filoli, but yesterday I went to a garden in North Carolina that set my heart soaring even higher – the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont. It’s quite one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve seen on my travels this year, and what I couldn’t believe was the way it looked in the middle of winter - the temperature was just above freezing and this has been the weather pattern for weeks here – yet the garden looked serene under a Carolina blue sky and with many plants in bloom.
This site was the brain child of Daniel and Alene Stowe, who bought some 450 acres in 1989 and set them aside with the idea of making a garden in the years to come. This was no mean feat and Stowe, who had made his fortune in textiles, wanted these gardens to be perfect, so although construction and planning went on throughout the 1990's, it was not until October 1999 that 110 acres of gardens finally opened to the public. Just over 10 years later, these gardens conti…

Great American Gardens - Filoli, California

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I'd heard so much about Filoli before I went there that I wondered whether it would live up to my expectations, especially after my recent visit to Viscaya. But it did, because there's no doubt that it's a really beautiful garden. From the moment you arrive and walk through the olive grove to access the main gardens, you are aware that this property is different .... very different from others! It has sweeping vistas across open countryside; wonderful planting and you get caught up in a huge stage set.
Located just 30 miles of San Francisco, the mansion that forms the central focus of Filoli was built for William Bowers Bourn II and his wife in 1915. Bourn made his money from gold mining, and it is his credo: "Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live for a just cause", that gave the property its name FI-LO-LI. The estate covers some 650 acres, but it's the 16 acres of formal gardens surrounding the Georgian-style house that visitors come for.
When …

Two more California delights - Hakone and Gamble

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I haven't visited a Japanese garden before, so the Gardens of Hakone came as a real delight when I visited California recently. Used as a backdrop in many scenes from the film "Memoirs of a Geisha", this charming 18-acre garden was the brainchild of San Francisco philanthropists, Oliver and Isabel Stine, who commissioned Naoharu Aihara to work alongside a Japanese architect and design the garden for them on a steep, hillside plot in 1917. Isabel Stine travelled to Japan to look at gardens there before work began on her own plot and she named this garden after the Fuji-Hakone National Park.
Hakone changed hands in 1932, when ownership passed to an East Bay financier, and again in 1961, when the gardens were bought by a partnership of prominent local families who restored them to their former splendour, before selling them on to the city of Saratoga in 1966, for $145,000. The city then hired Kyoto-trained landscape architect, Tanso Ishihara to carry on with the restoration…

From junky to funky - all in a day!

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A rubbish dump is a pretty unlikely place to start a garden tour, but that's where I began my first day in California last week as I went in search of different gardens on the Big Sur Coast in California. Just a few miles south of Moss Landing, there's a garden with a difference - the Small Planet Garden, where waste items have been re-used to decorate the tiny plot.
It's a wonderful idea and a great way to educate children about re-cycling and having seen it for myself, I'd like to see other municipal waste sites thinking along these lines, including ours in the UK, so I'm going to see if I can interest our local tip on just that when I get home! After all, our English sites take garden rubbish, so they've even got a good supply of compost!
After that we headed south on the Big Sur coast, where we saw the biggest waves I've ever seen and more wild flowers than I could imagine. We were blessed with wonderful weather and I couldn't believe that this was on…

Never thought I'd find blooms like this in the Bay Area!

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We have rhododendrons in the UK and we're very proud of them, but when I went to the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley yesterday, my heart stopped - the Asian garden there is just magnificent and I saw blooms that just made me want to scream with joy!! What an enchanting garden this is, and how lucky I was to see it in full bloom. In all honesty, I've never been a fan of rhododendrons before, but this garden made my whole trip to the West Coast something to remember!
Everywhere you look in the Asian Garden at this time of year, there are magnificent camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias, sourced from India, China and other Far Eastern countries. It's an astounding collection and well worth making a special visit for.
As you wander through this section of the garden, keep your eyes up, because every tree has fantastic blooms, and this is just one part of the garden - elsewhere you will find plants from Africa, South America, South Africa, and Central Amer…

The Wave Garden overlooking the Bay

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Today I visited a such a special garden that I wanted to post it straight away. I found out about it from one of my favourite garden sites: Garden Visit and had a really strong urge to discover more, even though there are no references save the Garden Visit link anywhere on the web. So armed with a GPS system and a vague address, I set out to search for it. Several steep hills and wrong turns later, I finally emerged below what appeared to be a garden built into the hillside and walked up some steps to find myself in one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen - it was like a fairy tale, with magnificent views over the Bay (above); fabulous planting; and sweeping paths and railings throughout. There was nothing to say who owned it, or who had designed it, although I know from Garden Visit that the designer was Victor Amador and you can see his photographs on their site. All the plants are labelled and there were some there that I've never seen anywhere else, but not a w…

In heaven - magical Monday!

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There's no doubt about it - I've gone to heaven!!! The gardens here in California are just fabulous and I thought I'd give you a sneak preview, because I haven't got time to write them up yet. Yesterday, I went to Hakone Garden (above) in Saratoga, a beautiful Japanese gem.
Then I went on to the Elizabeth Gamble Garden in Palo Alto (above), which is filled with wonderful flowers ... and it's free!
And then there's Filoli, just south of San Francisco (above)... which left me speechless! I'll be reviewing them all when I get my head above this fog in the bay area, but in the mean time, I need to some sightseeing here, so thought I'd just give you a taster!

From snow to sea otters and other stories

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Now what, you might well ask, has a snowy runway got to do with gardens? Not a lot, but for the fact that this was the scene awaiting me in Dallas, Texas on Thursday, en route to San Francisco from Florida. This snowy tableau nearly stymied me and if it hadn't been for the de-icing trucks I'd still be sitting there!
It's hard to believe that within minutes of take off, the scene outside looked like this, with blue skies and puffy clouds, but I did notice there was lots of snow on the ground as we flew from Texas to California, and when I finally reached San Francisco (albeit four hours late), the sun was shining and I emerged like a stunned mullet into warmer temperatures than Florida.
I'm now staying at Moss Landing, CA some two hours south of San Francisco on Route 1 and went on an amazing boat trip this morning, up into Elkhorn Slough - a beautiful estuary -where the mammal and bird life is quite remarkable. It seems that about half of California's sea otter p…

Naples - the world's first funky botanical garden

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I have a feeling that many of you (particularly US Blotanists) have been waiting for a review of the new Naples Botanical Garden. I was there last week on my way home from Miami and managed to get round the site before one of the torrential Florida downpours that are so typical at this time of year! If I'd left it any later, both camera and me would have disintegrated like soggy kitchen towels, but that said, it still would have been worth the visit - even in the rain - because this is an exciting and visionary garden.
It's rare when a new botanical garden opens (in England we have the National Botanic Garden of Wales that opened in 2000) so it's fascinating to see the approach that both designers and plantsmen have adopted at Naples. The emphasis is on eco-friendly practice, including water conservation, and there's no doubt the planting is innovative and the colour schemes impressive! And when I say funky ... that's a compliment!
Of course, it's very new (opene…

After the storm there's always sun!

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Today my post will be short and sweet, but carries a warning! Those of us who garden on Blotanical (or any other specialist platform for that matter), do so because we love our subject matter. I love gardens, gardening, plants, flowers and trees and am lucky enough to have joined a community set up by Stuart where most of us share those common interests.
I've been saddened to see that some of my fellow bloggers have had problems on their blogs, with stalkers and other strange people, who see blogs as an invitation to home in on the author and leave strange messages, or links to unsavoury sites that have nothing to do with the blog in question.
I too have had this experience recently, with comments and links left on posts that bear no relation to gardening or plants.But I'm NOT going to stand down or be put off by people who get vicarious pleasure from attempting to post inappropriate rubbish on my posts, or give links to sites that have nothing to do with the simple pleasures li…