Category Archives: Travel

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – what a gem!

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The second garden visit I managed to slip in during last week’s French sojourn was the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild overlooking the Bay of Villefranche and the Bay of Beaulieu, about 10 kilometres from both Nice and Monaco.

The Villa is situated on the Cap Ferrat peninsular and has spectacular views in all directions.

Béatrice de Rothschild bought the land in 1905, having recently divorced her husband (a banker, Maurice Ephrussi) and lost her father and consequently inherited a tidy sum.  At the time, the plot was just a rocky outcrop and she set about both building the villa and landscaping the beautiful gardens.

Maybe it was the weather, or maybe the views, but I really do think this was one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve visited.  Not only was the site incredible, but the design, apparently designed to echo the prow of a ship (to fit the peninsular’s shape), led you on a wonderful journey through different gardens from Spanish to French to rose and exotic. What an adventure!

The entrance, to the western side of the house, took you past this rather glamorous display featuring, yes, marigolds!  However, the thing that intrigued me were those marvellous Asparagus ferns.  What a gorgeous fresh colour and funky shape!

Through to the Spanish garden and whilst I’ve seen Brugmansia (previously Datura) before, I’ve never seen them in such a gorgeous soft peach, never planted as an avenue lining both sides of a pool, and also never such an astonishing display of glorious, pendulous blooms.

The sign suggested this one is B. x candida and I’m so taken with it I’m tempted to see if I can get it to grow here.

As well as exotic blooms, there were plenty of plants you could grow in the UK – this rose and perfectly matched bizzy lizzy for example,

or striking Salvia

(maybe) Cuphea and Hibiscus

or a peachier Hibiscus.

This first view out of the gardens was looking north west towards Villefranche.

and here, in a similar direction, through a beautiful iron gate,

and again, through an arbour.

Here, looking due west

and again.

I loved the extraordinary colour of this plant –  I think it’s an Iochroma

The Exotic Garden had a similar array of plants to those at Eze, but (to me) not quite as successful, perhaps because they were amongst non exotic trees as a backdrop?

Next came the Rose Garden, covering quite a significant area, and still smothered in a restrained palette of rosy blooms.

However, what was extraordinary was the fact that the very ‘English’ Rose Garden was smack bang next to the Exotic Garden.  So much for ‘right plant right place’ – amazing what an irrigation system will allow!

The Rose Garden was the furthest (south) from the villa so we started to make our way back, through the Provencal Garden, past Leonotis leonurus planted with lavender

a stunning Salvia

and yet more views, firstly, almost south towards Paloma Beach

and then looking east towards Cap-d’Ail

Back to the gardens, the final ‘hurrah’ was the French garden, clearly seen from the villa and consisting of a formal arrangement of beds and pools, where, according to the website “To add to the fairytale feel, musical fountains spring from the large pond like a grand aquatic ballet.”

Beyond icing and beyond cake, just wow  🙂 

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Thanks Béatrice, it was an absolute joy.

Taking it Eze-y on the Cote d’Azur

We’re just back from a last minute walking holiday to the Cote d’Azur, blessed with absolutely fabulous weather.

Aside from walking around 9 miles a day, I was delighted to squeeze in two garden visits.  The first was Eze which turned out to have a wonderful Exotic Garden (Jardin Exotique d’Eze), perched on a rocky pinnacle.  Not only were all the plants in fabulous condition, but the garden was enhanced by elegant sculptures of rather elongated ladies by Jean-Philippe Richard,

as well as stunning vistas in every direction, both inland

and out to sea.

Oh, and see the umbrellas below?  They turned out to be on the terrace of the Chateau Eza Hotel which served a very good cup of coffee with the best ever biscotti.   Worth every one of the 24,565 steps it took me to get there!

 

In a vase on Monday – in a box!

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Home from London on Thursday evening for a quick turn around and then an early get away on Friday morning.  We were heading to Bath to celebrate the OH’s big birthday with family, staying in a lovely rental house in central Bath.

Like the silly sausage I am, as well as three cakes (long story), Friday dinner and food for breakfasts, I was determined to take some flowers, and so Thursday evening saw me wandering around the garden at 10pm with a torch (in the rain), picking blooms.

I got them picked and arranged in three small vases and photo’d them (above) ready for their travels.  What I of course then forgot to do was photo them again gracing the very lovely dining table, laid for 10.

This is a photo of the table from the Bath Holiday Rentals website.  You’ll just have to imagine the blooms in situ!Dining room to seat up to 16 with stunning views over the garden

Nothing to do with blooms, but I just wanted to share, on Sunday, as a birthday treat, I took the OH and the two ‘kids’ ballooning.  I’ve never been before and we were blessed with the most glorious evening and fabulous views over Bath – including being able to spot the house we’d been staying in.

If you ever get the chance, do go, it was absolutely magical.IMG_3230

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With thanks to Cathy who hosts this lovely meme.

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech

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The house was originally constructed for Jacques Majorelle in the 1930s and from the beginning, the walls were painted in ‘Majorelle blue’.  He designed a garden around the Art Deco house with the rare and exotic plants he’d collected worldwide.dsc00128

The garden was first opened to the public in 1947, but fell into disrepair after his death in 1962.  It was saved from developers when Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent bought it in 1980 and since then the garden has been restored, with many plants added.

Following Saint Laurent’s death in 2008, the garden passed to a new non profit ‘fondation’ to ensure the conservation and maintenance of the property.  The fondation has already opened a fascinating Berber museum within the grounds and are currently working on the ‘Musee Yves Saint Laurent’ which is due to open later this year.

I previously visited this garden in 2006 with two primary age children in tow.  I remember worrying that a garden visit was likely to be very painful, but actually the combination of spiky cacti, bright colours and, most particularly, turtles in the pool proved a winning combination.

Fast forward to 2017 and the turtles have gone, but the other elements are still very much in evidence.

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Unlike the Jardin Secret, this garden is outside the centre of Marrakech and the entrance is off what feels like a residential street, but like the Jardin Secret, there is significant use of water in the design.dsc00135

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It doesn’t have the striking layout of the Jardin Secret, and is definitely busier, but its still a fascinating space with much to recommend it.  Perhaps I’ll return in another ten years to check our the new museum.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how they keep that blue paint looking so fresh…dsc00113

 

 

Le Jardin Secret, Marrakech

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If you want a wonderfully detailed account of this garden, including the history, do head over to the Frustrated Gardener who visited late last year (and in much sunnier weather!)

I realised when we were forced to land in Casablanca to refuel (due to a 40 mile wide thunderstorm sitting over the Marrakech airport) that the weather for our short trip was unlikely to be balmy, and indeed it wasn’t.  Having said that, by Saturday the weather had improved, and by Sunday (when I took my ‘Aloe Aloe’ Wordless Wednesday picture) the sky was a fabulous blue.  Sadly, on Friday when we went garden visiting, all was rather grey.

Le Jardin Secret is situated in Marrakech’s central souk and is an extraordinary oasis amongst the chaos.  It has been open less than a year after a redesign by Tom Stuart-Smith and a fabulous renovation.  It is an absolute triumph.

The space consists of two separate  gardens, the first square and the second rectangular which abut on a corner, each largely invisible from the other.

In this photo you can see the exotic garden to the middle right, with the second, larger, Islamic garden in the main part of the picture.  The link between the two is deliberately small, creating a contrast between the narrow link and the wider gardens themselves.dsc00221

The first photo is of the exotic garden, looking back to elegant reception building seen at the rear.  The view looking the other way, as you first enter the exotic garden, is below.dsc00264

Whilst not a huge fan of battleship grey, it makes a striking back drop for the wonderfully textured planting and the colourful Aloes.dsc00247

I love this Dasylirion acrotrichum – it reminds me of Heatherwick’s ill fated ‘B of the Bang’.dsc00257

Although the exotic garden is segmented and symmetrical, the larger Islamic garden is even more strictly laid out.  The rectangular shape is split into four quadrants, with each quadrant further split into four.

And whereas the planting in the exotic garden is contemporary and from all over the world, the planting in the Islamic garden is much more traditional with repeated planting of olive, pomegranate, fig and date.  Only the herbaceous planting underneath the trees is a modern interpretation of the original swept earth.dsc00156

The grasses really were extraordinary en masse like this.dsc00200

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Throughout both gardens are beautiful rills and fountains, with water being an essential element in Islamic gardens.

The original water system in Marrakech utilised ground drainage tunnels (established in the late eleventh century) which carried water from the Atlas mountains into the city’s mosques, hammams and some of the great houses, including Le Jardin Secret.dsc00238

An exhibiton shows numerous photos taken during the renovation, including this one of the painstaking tile workdsc00165

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From the Islamic garden we climbed up to first floor level above the Oud el Ward pavilion to lunch in the new cafe.

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From here we climbed a further beautifully tiles staircase

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to the top of the tower, from where the layout of the garden was clear.   As the website says “The garden is as a matter of fact a metaphor of heaven; it is a sacred place, laid out according to rigid geometrical rules, in which the Muslim order asserts itself over the wild disorder of nature.”  Heaven indeed.

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Just time to admire one of my favourite plants, Melianthus major, before running the gauntlet of the hawkers once more….dsc00148