Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jardin Exotique Leaves An Indelible Impression

               I didn't specifically set out to see the Jardin Exotique in the principality of Monaco and, though curious, I didn't think I was that interested. So when I decided on the spur of the moment to visit the garden I didn't quite know what to expect.

I thought I might like exotics; I anticipated some succulents and cacti but I never envisioned a lush garden, not with thorny plants that don't have leaves. 

But my morning on this April day in the south of France got off to a rocky start. 

 I had decided I would garden hop in Menton, France (above), which is actually quite beautiful.  But after more than an hour on a city bus and a long uphill walk I arrived at a garden that was closed when it was supposed to be open. What?

 I walked back downhill and got a little lost (okay, completely lost). I had just wasted the whole morning without seeing any great gardens in what my travel book described as the "city of gardens."  And, I was no longer confident about the prospect of my afternoon.

I remembered seeing street signs to the Jardin Exotique in nearby Monaco and knew it would be an easy bus ride. Voila! Plan B emerged. Hopefully my afternoon wouldn't be lost.

And within a few minutes of walking into this exotic garden, I realized this was special and I was definitely liking it.  My spirits lifted.

The Jardin Exotique de Monaco is on a cliff side perched high above the Mediterranean Sea

with great views of the port, the city and the coastline.

The rocky garden journeys down part of the cliff and is said to have more than 10,000 plants and more than 1000 varieties of succulents, especially cactus.

Rocky, yet I would say it is definitely lush at the same time.

The design works beautifully.

Panoramic views from numerous lookouts

throughout the garden offer stunning vistas.

 I even found a beautiful black iron garden gate in an archway trimmed with bougainvillea.
I do love a garden gate.

Between the views of the Mediterranean coast and the garden vignettes I found myself snapping up photos like paparazzi chasing a celebrity.


But the stars of this show are the agaves, like the agave stricta (above),

the black tree aeonium,

the remarkable ceiba insignis from South America,

Opuntia leucotricha
and the beautiful,

Mammillaria compressa
and numerous varieties

(Echinocactus grusonii)
of cacti

Opuntia microdasys v. albispina
that seem endless.

When I came across this one I also felt compelled to take a picture of it, I think because it was unexpected but, then again, no different from trees I am used to seeing where lovers carve their initials in the bark.  

While I can't say that I carved my initials on a cactus at the garden, I can say, in fact, that the Jardin Exotique de Monaco definitely has left an indelible mark on me, for good.

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Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

On Top Of The World At The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

This gorgeous pink villa and garden

is another one of those that I have come to know and love from seeing first in a book of famous gardens.  So it was definitely exciting and I was feeling lots of anticipation when I unexpectedly discovered I would be able to visit this garden.  

           The visit includes a tour of the Villa as well, which of course would be the natural progression to the garden. But in my excitement I looked only briefly at the main rooms and found myself heading straight for a door that leads outside.  I couldn't wait.

          And then, voila, I'm in the middle of it; it seems a little bit unreal for a moment.  I am on a peninsula in the south of France, a long way from San Diego, and in the small town of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. I am surrounded by a beautiful, symmetrical formal garden with green grass, fountains, well-groomed flower beds (pink, of course) and hedges. It doesn't disappoint. In fact, it feels like the top of the world. Like always, beautiful gardens help untangle the frayed mess of my emotional state, at least temporarily.

What I didn't know about this villa is that it has superb views of the Mediterranean Sea 

on either side.  The stars couldn't have lined up any better for the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

        And then all at once the fountains start up and they are coordinated with classical music playing in the garden for the next fifteen minutes or so.

          The villa was built between 1905 and 1912 for Baroness Beatrice de Rothschild, the daughter of a wealthy banker who married a wealthy banker, Maurice Ephrussi.  The Baroness loved to gamble and liked to spend time at her homes in Monte Carlo and as well as Paris, in addition to her pink villa. The villa is filled with art, tapestry, porcelain and beautiful furniture. Ah, the life of a baroness.  When she died she bequeathed all of it to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. (Score!)

          And the villa's garden doesn't stop with what is known as the French garden. Walking past the fountains and up the stairs

past this beautiful statuary there is much more, in fact there are nine gardens around the villa, though none as exquisite as the French garden.

 There is a Spanish and Japanese garden, an Italian garden and a rose garden.

The Baroness was said to be influenced by Italian design, especially that of Venice and Florence.

Walking back through the garden there is yet another stunning view of the villa, this time 
against the backdrop of  mountains.

Finally, after walking through the gardens, I did tour inside the Belle Époque villa.
No surprise, my favorite room is the large
terrace facing the French garden. 

Sitting on this terrace I was thinking about what it would be like to live here, looking at the garden from here first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Given the artwork, the furniture, the architecture, its history and of course location, location, location the value of this home must be a crazy amount of euros, because the ultimate luxury--this view of the garden in the middle of the Côte d'Azur--is
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Copyright 2012.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Carlsbad Flower Fields Forever

Normally in Carlsbad, California there is nothing sweeter than the 
strawberry fields.

But this lovely flower, 

the Giant Tecolote Ranunculus,

                                       is crazy in bloom right now

         at the Flower Fields of Carlsbad in Southern California until May 13.

 The annual rite of Spring at this flower farm includes 50 acres of flowers, 

although it looks like infinity and beyond. I couldn't see the end of this field 
and I can't even imagine how many blooms there might be at the moment.

When you walk up to the top of the field 
you can see a lovely view of the ocean.

And it is sweet, at this field of dreams, where hundreds of sweet peas

 form a maze to walk through.

In addition to acres of ranunculus blooms, there is a greenhouse of cymbidium orchids also on display. 

And I have to say,

even though there weren't nearly as many orchids as there were ranunculus

                      these beauties leave a sweet impression on me too
                                         This is Garden Envy.

                                             Copyright 2012.