Category Archives: Travel

High on the High Line

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Before we even start talking about the High Line, I just have to record my total admiration for Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who landed an Airbus 320 on the Hudson River (above), in which all 155 passengers and crew survived with only minor injuries.  It was an astonishing feat and, strolling along the High Line looking out over the Hudson and watching the helicopters buzzing about, reminded me of the film and brought home just what a feat it was.  It was properly choppy out there!  It’s not that wide!  And lastly, it’s a RIVER!  Hello!  What a guy.  If you haven’t seen the film (‘Sully’) just do.

I was in New York with my daughter to celebrate the end of her her degree.  I’d taken both ‘kids’ to New York for their first time a few years ago and she absolutely loves it.  She’s now been back twice without me and had, in fact, already walked the High Line.  However, bearing in mind I was (largely!) paying, she indulged me with another visit.  I have to say it’s been on my bucket list since I was first aware of it and it didn’t disappoint.  Having said that, the planting – designed by Piet Oudolf – is deliberately low key, with the aim to maintain a sense of the ‘feel’ of the line when it was abandoned and overgrown, and therefore it’s not ‘flowery’ in a conventional sense.IMG_3907

However, despite this, I loved it.  I loved the vision of ‘re-purposing’ an urban space (a disused railway) in such a bold way, and I loved the way it meandered above the city streets and brought greenery and beauty to what must previously have been an eyesore.  I couldn’t get over how many thousands of people now had this amazing green ribbon to admire.IMG_3886

The first section opened in 2009 and many trees are now becoming really mature adding shade, scale with some fabulous specimens of Cercis and Cornus amongst others.IMG_3903

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In places, the original railway lines have been left, and the planting is around and amongst them.IMG_3892

There was planting for sun,IMG_3914

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planting for shade,IMG_3901

planting that matched buildingsIMG_3913

and views of iconic landmarks.IMG_3911

Thanks High Line.  Now I know what I want to do when I grow up!

An Cala – a Scottish gem

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Not long after my walking holiday to Italy, where I visited the stunning Villa Cimbrone, I headed to Scotland, staying with friends for a more relaxing holiday, walking and garden visiting.

My favourite garden was the privately owned ‘An Cala’.  The garden was established in 1930 by Colonel Arthur Murray who had inherited a cottage outside the village of Ellenabeich on the Isle of Seil in Argyll.  He decided (with his new wife, the actress Faith Celli) to commission Thomas Mawson to draw up plans for their 5 acre plot.

It took a year to convert the terrain into a garden, including dynamiting bedrock, importing thousands of tons of topsoil, and creating terraces, walls, steps, paths and lawns.

Once the structure was in place, the Murrays planted up the beds and woodland using the acid loving plants including azaleas, rhododendrons, Japanese ornamental cherry trees and their great love, roses.

Whilst I visited a number of gardens, all reflecting the acid soil, it was this one that I loved.   The plant palette had been broadened to include more herbaceous planting, as well as bulbs.  As I’ve noted before, I’m not a big fan of ‘stiff’ plants, and to me azaleas and rhodos fall into that category and therefore I did struggle to really love the other gardens.  An Cala was different, not least because of the incredible engineering feat to make it in the first place, but more especially because of the more varied planting – and the wonderful use of water, coupled with stunning views.IMG_3759

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Pictures from the fir cone house!  The small building was built rather like a shell house, but instead of shells, there was an astonishing arrangement of different fir cones.

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Fabulous peony.

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The motto on this bench particularly struck me as our lovely hosts have planted some wonderful trees in their garden since they moved to Scotland five or so years ago.

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With thanks to the Scottish Gardens scheme (the Scottish equivalent of the NGS) and An Cala for sharing such a wonderful Scottish gem.

Villa Cimbrone garden – un bel giardino!

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I always try to ensure that posts are pertinent to the time the photos were taken, at least within a week or so, but we’ve been back from Italy for nearly a month and I’ve struggled to find time to pull this post together.  However, it really was a beautiful garden, so I hope you’ll  excuse this being almost a month late!

On the last day of our walking holiday on the Amalfi coast we were lucky enough to visit the gardens of the Villa Cimbrone.

Found on the outskirts of Ravello, the setting is absolutely breathtaking, on a south pointing ‘finger’ high above the coast, with sea views around 270 degrees.

The abandoned estate was rescued by Ernest William Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe after he discovered it as part of his Grand Tour when he came to Italy to get over the death of his wife.  He bought the estate in 1904 and, with the help of local Nicola Mansi, as well as Harold Peto, Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, the gardens were laid out in what the guide describes ‘a happy combination of traditional English and Italian landscaped gardens’.

I’d worried that we might be too early, even on the Mediterranean, for many flowers, but magically our visit coincided with two fairly fleeting blooms – both the Judas Tree, Cercis siliquastrum IMG_3595

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and Wisteria.

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Both were featured repeatedly and provided fabulous colour to clothe wonderful structures.

One plant that was new to me was the one growing vertically (above) reflecting the Wisteria hanging down.  Here it is closer.  I’d seen it on previous days growing wild and would love to know what it is.  Any clues?  We discussed it within the group and thought it must be bulbous and perhaps related to Muscari?DSC00981

The next few photos reflect the stunning views out over the Amalfi Coast.  DSC01001

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as well as a few planting combinations which appealed.

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And to finish, two charming ‘housekeeping’ items.  Firstly, one of the elegant rubbish binsDSC00982

and secondly, the most beautiful emergency exit!IMG_3599

With thanks to Villa Cimbrone – you made my holiday!

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!