Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dogs Rule At Chiswick House

Chiswick House and Gardens in London, England is a great place for a walk in the park.  Although the house, an example of 18th century British architecture, is closed for the season, the sprawling grounds are open all year.  This 65-acre garden, which reportedly influenced the design of New York's Central Park, is located in the west London burough of Hounslow. 

It includes great open space as well as a large woodland garden,

an Italian garden and a greenhouse

a play area for the kids, a large enclosed field for sports,
even a cafe to enjoy a cup of tea and a scone.

There are beautiful walkways, tons of camellias that were covered with buds
and roses still in bloom on this November day.

       But, in the end my two favorite things about this park,
er--garden--was this man-made river

that was studded with trees, shrubs

and ducks.

The swans were a stand out, of course, against the dark background.

  But my absolute favorite thing about these gardens didn't have much to do with
the plants, the statuary, the trees or the blooms.  You heard me right. 
It was all about the dog watching here. 

It seems to be a popular spot for residents to walk their dogs and let them run unleashed. This young pup was having so much fun trying to chase the ducks.

I was bitten by dog love all over again while strolling through here.  It has been a few years now since my cocker spaniel and my llasa apso/shih tzu died and I haven't been ready to get another. 
I don't think any dog could replace the bond that I had with my
beloved cocker spaniel.
Then I saw this King Charles spaniel and my heart melted.

My take away after visiting England a few times now: 
 I love a country where houses frequently have proper names and, even more, where spaniels are King.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Falling For The Kew Gardens--Again


                    It's a gray November day at the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens on the outskirts of London.  Gone are the spring bulbs I photographed earlier this year that bloomed in neat borders and flourished in front of the Victorian greenhouse. Gone are the long summer days, most of the flowers and the blue skies. Colorful flowers are replaced by changing leaves on trees.

Glowing yellow, orange, and red leaves are everywhere.  Holly shrubs and even holly the size of trees are blooming bright red berries everywhere.  Everywhere? Yes, everywhere.


  Fall color is a great reason to see this botanical garden.  But this fall there is a new reason to visit the Kew--the Xstrata treetop walkway.

Visitors can climb 118 steps up to the walk around the tops of the trees for a sweeping bird's eye view of the botanical gardens.  This beautiful iron and glass greenhouse structure above, the Temperate House, is stunning against the landscape.

 The Pagoda peeks through the trees.

Back on the ground, inviting trails are covered with leaves fallen from those treetops

 and there is one pretty vignette after another

to make me want to keep snapping up photographs as I walk through here.

Not to mention the pretty birds

who seem quite comfortable posing for my camera.

Growing up in the Midwest I have always been fond of autumn--the chill in the air, the colors of the trees, apple picking, caramel apples and pumpkin pie. These are great memories but the season is just not the same now that I live in Southern California.  So this chance to enjoy an autumn visit unexpectedly in London made me fall in love with the Kew all over again.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Day In Court--Hampton Court

          Walking through Hampton Court gardens just outside of London, England last week was, for me, like literally stepping into the pages of one of my favorite nightstand books, Royal Gardens of Europe by George Plumptre.  Before falling asleep at night, I love leafing through the beautiful pictures of perfectly clipped yews, pruned trees, graceful statuary and large swaths of colorful plants.  It fuels my dreams about having such a view in my own backyard.  Ah, but I don't live in a palace. So the unplanned and unexpected opportunity to go visit one of the historical gardens featured in this book was exciting.


         The royal castle itself is fascinating, being a house architecturally divided between a Tudor castle on the right for Henry VIII and a baroque fantasy home on the left for William III and Mary.  The Tudor castle dates back to the 1500's.


          The 60 acres surrounding the castle are palatial, of course, and there are several different gardens to enjoy, including a walled rose garden, parkland currently with trees glowing in autumn color, a maze made of one thousand yews and a medieval herb garden near the large kitchen compound of Henry VIII.

          Kids love this maze.  I went through it and, honestly, I was just a tad anxious after a while to find my way out.  Nearby, the autumn glow from a grove of trees was brilliant, as the English would say, especially for a California resident who rarely gets to enjoy autumn weather and crunch fallen leaves by walking on them. The castle sits next to the River Thames and on the short walk from the train station this is the first impression from the bridge.

          But I confess, I am really here for one thing:  formal royal palace gardens.  And after 12 hours of flight, a five hour layover, public transit and a train to the outskirts of London, I am--finally--walking the perimeter of the castle and its grounds and I found it.

                 I am here to swoon over the topiary and the formal Privy Garden,


                                  marvel at  the sunken pond gardens and

                                                       and envy the knot gardens.

                           And, though it is not spring or summer when the garden would be filled with colorful bulbs and annual flowers, this garden is still beautiful in its bare-boned structure and design.  Autumn offers not only the changing colors of the trees but berries that are blooming like crazy on the pyracantha,  holly and even the yew in the fountain garden.


One of my favorite and unexpected features are the cut out windows in the hedges that offer just a glimpse of the view in the garden beyond.

This gateway below serves as the entrance and exit to and from the formal garden on the baroque side of the castle.  I was exhausted by the time I walked through here but exhilarated when I left.  Garden hopping in the autumn in London? Are you sure? Absolutely. Quite right.


                    Now that I am back home I am, again, thumbing through this gorgeous book, Royal Gardens of Europe.  I'm thinking I just might set my future sights on some dream gardens in Italy.  Now I know--it could happen.