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Showing posts from November, 2010

The best of Great Britain's glorious "G" gardens

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You won't be able to see these gardens in a day because they're spread out from Britain's Cornish toe to Scotland; but all are memorable, and each one has a story to tell. The Garden House in Devon will always be one of my favourites with its magnificent planting, glorious views and sense of secrecy. This is a garden you can visit many times and still feel you're breaking new ground each time you return. There are many areas under development, and it's constant, changing seasonal highlights will enthral you - this is a garden that looks just as good in spring as it does in autumn.  Godinton House in Kent with its wonderful vistas and gardens designed by Reginald Blomfield - an architect who loved gardens and wrote "The Formal Garden in Britain" - he also designed the gardens at Athelhampton. There's a charming Italian garden and roses to die for, plus a walled garden that houses the national collection of delphiniums - a real sight to behold when they …

Fabulous "F" gardens filled with trees

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There are two great American gardens that must surely be on everyone's wish list - Fairchild Tropical Gardensin Florida (above) and Filoli in California (below) and I was lucky enough to see both of them in 2010! Both are world famous and serve very different purposes apart from giving pleasure to gardeners - Fairchild is one of the world's great botanical gardens, and Filoli is a landscape garden on a grand scale, so you can't really compare them. And in terms of timing, it wasn't ideal, since Fairchild was recovering from the ravages of a frosty winter (yes, in Florida!) and Filoli was only just coming into bloom. When you read about US gardens, Filoli in California always crops up, so when I finally visited in February this year, it was with a sense of trepidation! Would it live up to my expectations? Would I like it? The answer to both those questions was yes and even though it was so early in the year the gardens looked somewhat bare like sheep after sheering, you …

Reflections from Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota

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Although my winter home is here in Florida, I realised that I've never really reviewed the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens here! I've marvelled at their epiphytesogled the orchids, photographed leaves in the Tropical Display House and enjoyed the view over Sarasota Bay from there on many occasions, but never given an overview of what's on offer at this amazing garden just a few miles from where I live. The gardens cover some 11 acres of prime bayfront property in downtown Sarasota with wonderful views over the water (above). They are the legacy of William and Marie Selby, who moved here in the early 1900s and remained for the rest of their lives. The gardens opened to the public in 1975 and have become one of the leading orchid and epiphyte centres in the United States. Marie Selby was fascinated by plants and would be pleased to know that her former home is now being used  to "further the understanding of plant life, with emphasis on epiphytes, and to provide enjoymen…

Enchanting "E" gardens - from Edison to Exbury

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East Lambrook Manorin Somerset is a tiny garden that draws visitors from all over the world - former home of much-loved garden writer and plantswoman Margery Fish, it's famous for its snowdrop collection and applauded as one of the greatest "cottage gardens" in the country. Hardly surprising since its owner was the author of "Cottage Garden Flowers" - a whole new approach to English country gardening in the 1960s. A wonderful garden to visit if you're looking for ideas for your own plot at home and there's also an excellent nursery where you can buy the plants that have inspired you. A long way from Dorset and on an altogether different scale from East Lambrook, is the Edison Estate in Fort Myers, Florida. Former home of Thomas Edison of light-bulb fame, it has fine collections of palms and cycads, plus the largest banyan tree in America. Henry Ford moved here a few years after Edison and you can look around their homes as part of your visit, as well as …

Delightful "D" Gardens

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We may have some of the best botanical gardens in the world in Britain, but the US is certainly growing  an impressive new breed of specialist gardens that rival ours in the UK! One of my favourites visited this year is the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, North Carolina, which I saw on a memorable blue-sky day in February. Opened just over 10 years ago, it has one of the finest conservatories I've seen, with impressive orchid displays and stunning epiphyte arches. The pergolas are pretty impressive too! A long way from North Carolina, but I'm glad I had the chance to visit the gardens at Deeg in Rajasthan which are a real reminder of days gone by, with an impressive display of Mughal pavilions and marble palaces. I went before the great monsoon of 2010 so water was a scarce commodity, but having just visited Rajasthan and seen the water levels in Udaipur, I can imagine how wonderful the gardens look now. This amazing palace complex was built by the Jat rulers in the 1…

Florida's Flighty Friends

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One thing about Florida is its bird life! Every time I come here, I'm amazed and delighted by the huge quantity of birds - and it's not just the ones you see everywhere, like the pelican eating dinner (below), but the sheer numbers of unusual birds that you don't see anywhere else in the world. Of course, there are gardens too, but I haven't started "Galloping" yet, because I'm still suffering from jet lag from India and suddenly I've travelled another five hours back through time.  I could spend hours just watching the brown pelicans here - they are absolute comedians, especially around food. This little guy was so anxious to get dinner in the tank that he swallowed the fish in one to make sure his mates didn't get it and then struggled for half an hour to swallow it.  Then there's the Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja) - a shy creature (above) that's hard to get close to, but quite astounding when you do, with it's delicate pink plumage, …

Best "C" gardens in California, the Cotswolds and Cuba

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Looking back at the year, I realise that I've covered an astounding number of miles in my quest for glorious gardens! Earlier this year when England was covered in snow, I was lucky enough to be in California looking at West Coast gardens. One in particular sticks in my mind - the garden atCarmel Mission (above), founded in 1770 by Father Juniper Serra, who's buried there. It's a delightful garden filled with flowers, fountains and statues and presided over by a basilica. I visited on a cloudless day in February, and it will certainly stick in my mind because of the striking planting and swathes of colour. I spent the summer months at home. Gloucestershire is a far cry from California, but has some of the finest gardens in Britain, including the magnificent 3.5 acre walled garden at Cerney House (above) with its riotous borders and lovely vistas over the surrounding countryside. You can really get away from the crowds here and admire rural England in a Cotswold setting - de…

And now for some beautiful "B" gardens!

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Barnsley House, former home of famous gardener Rosemary Verey, has been on my wishlist for years, so imagine my excitement when I had the chance to go there earlier this year and do a day's photography with Clive Nichols, one of our best UK garden photographers. It was a truly memorable day and I know I learned a lot from Clive. He's a wonderful, patient teacher and I really recommend his courses to any of you that are interested in garden photography. The garden was wonderful too and although the famous laburnum walk (above) was past its prime when we were there, it was a pleasure to walk in the footsteps of Rosemary and see why she was so ahead of her time in terms of garden design. One of the best gardens I visited this year was the other side of the pond - at Berkeley in California - where I was lucky enough to spend a week in February. I was treated to one of the best displays of rhododendrons I've seen yet and really enjoyed my time in this magical garden. But it was …

Astounding "A" Gardens as 2010 draws to a close ...

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It's getting to that time of year again, when gardens are closed and the weather is bleak and blustery! I've been writing this blog for 18 months and have visited many wonderful gardens, so it's time to look back and reflect at some of those I've really enjoyed, while making plans for 2011. One of my all-time favourites is Aberglasney in Wales (above) - which has been lovingly restored over the last 15 years. The house and garden have a long and varied history, with a cloister garden dating back to Tudor times, but it is the remarkable restoration work that makes this garden worth visiting.  An Cala in Scotland - a 1930's plantsman's garden, where much of the original planting still survives - looks glorious in the fall, and I have happy memories of my visit there two years ago, on a blustery autumn day. Located near enough to Arduaine, Ardkinglass and Ardtornish to make a real day out. The garden is located on a hillside and is filled with streams and waterfall…

Glorious gardens in Udaipur

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There's no better place to watch the sunrise than the lakeside gardens at Udaivilas, Udaipur - part of the Oberoi Hotels group and definitely the best-kept garden in my favourite Rajasthan city. As readers know, I was there last week opening Disha Hospital, but once I had time to relax, I got out into the gardens and spent time on the lakes, which are absolutely full this year, thanks to a wonderful monsoon season. Udaivilas is well positioned overlooking Lake Pichola, and there are 30-acres of landscaped gardens that complement the Mewar style-architecture of the hotel. The buildings and gardens were designed by Bill Bensley, who is renowned throughout Asia for his innovative hotel work, and the Mughal-inspired, stepped water garden (above) is one of the highlights of this property, with its fantastic sun king. On the lake side of the property, the gardens flow downhill and provide a wonderful green haven away from the bustling city centre of Udaipur, with views of the City Palace …