Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Stroll Through The Kensington Flower Walk Keeps You Grounded

Kensington Gardens in London is a huge expanse of open park space with plenty of large flowering trees the day I arrived in April, at 7:30 in the morning, from Paddington Station.  I was walking through the Gardens, pulling luggage and finding my way through to the other side where I would find my hotel and check in after my overnight journey from California.  There were bikers, joggers running and lots of dog walkers. There was work being done in the area near the Kensington Palace itself, some construction going on, dirt dug up and areas roped off.  It was fairly busy.


Then, nearly across and out the other side I came across this bench, by the Kensington Flower Walk.

An invitation to sit, where you could catch your breath, stroll and admire the color, or just rest from pulling luggage and take in the lovely blooms instead.

I remember finding the gardeners trimming, cultivating and tidying up early that morning so the garden would look its best.

Other people were sitting and reading on the benches that were scattered throughout. Nobody jogging about over here.

The pace was different here, compared to the rest of the park.  But that's what flowers do, they make you want to slow down, even stop to notice them.  Rest just a while, meditate and then when you are ready, you pick up that luggage and get on with the day--feeling just a little more grounded, hopefully.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dream Gardens On Tour: San Diego

          Twenty one.  That's the number of gardens I saw in the San Diego area in the last two weeks! May is a bonanza for garden lovers across the country because it is usually the month that garden clubs host walks and tours of local homeowners' gardens.  Not only do I get ideas, I get to dream, and a big fix of plants, flowers and garden design. But unlike a public garden, these have the element of  'secret gardens,' tucked behind tall fences and gates. You get a rare peek into how people live.  It's one of my favorite things to do.

     In Coronado on May 14, I saw seven gardens and there was a lot to envy.  These large homes are way out of my price range but a woman can dream.   My favorites here involve a lot of clipped boxwood. This doesn't surprise me.

It is time to add more boxwood to my own garden so I can see it all the time. I love it. I saw several ways to incorporate it.

This treatment around the fountain (below) I especially envied and the flagstone echoing the shape on the ground is a lovely part of the design, with small ground covers filling in between the stones. I want it!

This garden (below) at a mansion near the ocean is said to be inspired by the Alcazar palace garden in Sevilla, Spain and I could definitely see the elements here, including a mosaic tiled fountain, the palms and the colors incorporated into the setting. But, my favorite feature--the small secret garden (in the center of photo) hiding just beyond an open entryway in the back of the
main garden.

 Last week, I walked about two miles and saw 14 gardens on the Mission Hills Garden Walk. This garden walk is always worth the effort. Many of these homes featured yards with dought tolerant plants and no grass lawns.

          My two favorites in this walk were the smallest. The one pictured above was tiny, packed with plants and a small patio and table as the main focus. The owners featured found objects such as coins, keys and a fork and knife displayed in the concrete of the brick patio.  I could easily see myself dining alfresco in this garden often.

I was also in love with this outdoor-room style of garden (above) and it has all the features I love: fireplace, a fountain, a dining area under a pergola covered with grape vines and a beautiful gate. The pruned peach tree (below) offers a great structural feature in addition to fruit.

 I confess that I am surprised I loved the garden that seemingly had the least amount of plants! On the other hand, it's a week later and I still have the urge to go there and surround those two sofas with large pots of flowers and lots of lavender!  After all, it is a garden room... Dream on.





Friday, May 6, 2011

Claude Monet's Garden Leaves A Surreal Impression

           Walking through the garden and house of Claude Monet (1840-1926), is a surreal moment. The famous French founder of impressionist painting is likely just as famous for his flower gardens and water lily pond.  As a gardener myself and only having had the chance to see this garden in photos in my old-school paper address book that I kept until it fell apart, it was like a dream to step inside this spacious property.  In Giverny, France the garden is sprawling and packed with visitors in July 2009 when I first got the chance to tour.  It is also packed with flowers, shrubs, vines and trees.  There is so much to take in. Monet's gardening style is informal and rambling. No clipped boxwoods, no formal hedges and though I do love a formal Italian or French garden, this is the garden that you can relate to when you don't live in a royal palace.

     "More than anything I must have flowers, always, always," Claude Monet.

          I'm pretty sure his motto would be that you can never have too many flowers in a garden.  And, with so many visitors to this garden it was virtually impossible to snap a photo with the famous footbridge empty in the background as Monet would have painted it.  But then, a garden should be enjoyed.

                 "I perhaps owe becoming a painter to flowers," Claude Monet 
          Monet loved painting the water lilies later in his life and painted a whole series. If you can't visit the garden one day, do visit an art museum to view his paintings.

          This painting, Water Lilies, was painted in 1906 and currently hangs in the Chicago Art Institute.

I have to agree with the painter, however.  His best work of art really is his garden.