Come to England with me!

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is launching a new Garden Travels series – and Mike Sikes and I are the first speakers on Tuesday, March 26. We are inviting folks to gather together for a social hour first at 6:00 pm, enjoying dinner or coffee at Donderos’ Kitchen (Dutch treat,) then seeing a presentation on English gardens in the Gardenside Room at 7:00.

Last June Mike and I spent a week at Sissinghurst (which gave us after-hours access to the entire grounds,) then traveled north to Chatsworth, with private tours of the national rambling rose collection and the headquarters of David Austin Roses, plus many other garden visits. We’d love to tell you about it and have gone through 3,000 photos to find the very best to show.

This is going to be fun and we want our friends to be there, so please come and bring anyone you would like – this event is open to the public. The talk is free, but of course we encourage you to feed the donation box at the Garden.

Eze and Le Jardin D’Eze

Visited early November 2011

Far above the Mediterranean, between Nice and Monaco, is the historic hilltop village of Eze, once a fortress.  Towering above that is a botanical garden filled with cacti and succulents and sculptures of goddesses. Beside each statue is a small poem, in both French and English; many informative signs fill the garden. The stone steps are plentiful, uneven and steep, but the 360 degree view of a historic church and the valley and coastline below is amazing and worth the hike. If your idea of a botanical garden is lots and lots of bright annuals, well, this is not it. This is a celebration of plants that grow on an exposed, dry site balanced by a series of fluid, feminine sculptures by sculptor Jean-Philippe Richard with their own quiet beauty, gentle sentinels looking down on the Cote D’Azur and valley below. 

 

 

My best friend and I spent two nights at Chateau Eza. In the mornings Kris sat on one side of the breakfast table filled with cappuccinos, French pastries, fruit and cheese, sketching the coastline and I sat on the other side, sketching the statues looking down on us from Le Jardin D’Eze. It was the first time I had sketched in a decade and about the most inspiring spot to start sketching again.

In between the hotel and garden is the wonderful town of Eze, at its best in the early mornings before the tourist buses unload and the narrow stone streets fill with people. Browsing boutiques, gift shops, and art galleries, people-watching with a glass of wine at an outdoor table or a sketchbook at a bench outside the cathedral, photographing perfect vignettes, and enjoying le Jardin d’Eze easily fill a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middleton Place

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina

After seeing Middleton Place in so many landscape design and history books, in 2011 I attended a 2 day retreat in the Inn at Middleton Place, the LEED certified hotel on the grounds. I highly recommend staying in this hotel if you are interested in visiting Middleton Place (as well as Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall, right down the road and worth visiting.). A quick stroll down a path through the woods, beside water, then beside the gardens brought us to the restaurant.

I woke up Sunday morning at 6 am, gathered my camera and notebook and excitedly ran to the garden as soon as it was light enough to see. Guests at the hotel have access to the gardens when it is closed to the public. I had the garden to myself for hours that early March morning, playing with my camera, listening to the birds, and strolling among the sculptures and blooms as if it were my own private garden. It was a magical morning. Spring was just breaking, but many of their famous camellias were in bloom, as well as spring bulbs.

Middleton Place is one of the most famous gardens in the world, featured in landscape history courses and advertised as ‘America’s oldest landscaped gardens.’ It has been under the same family stewardship for over 300 years. One resident was President of the First Continental Congress, another a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The live oaks and camellias are ancient by our standards and the gardens and statuary are wonderful. It is where the first Camellia japonicas were probably introduced by André Michaux in 1786 and was probably one of the places John and William Bartram visited (when they weren’t back in Philly chatting with their buddy Ben Franklin.) Middleton Place is also stunningly beautiful and peaceful.

 

Great Dixter, England

“It feels like walking into a Dr. Seuss book.” A friend pretty much summed up Great Dixter in those few words. Parts of the centuries-old home were listing in different directions, the flowers were dancing among each other, succulents and container plants were artfully, yet playfully, arranged and topiaries rose out of a meadow. Classic design features and familiar plants were not as expected. Great Dixter combines amazing plants and horticulture with whimsy – letting Nature laugh (which always makes a lady more beautiful.) 

 

I thought the most impressive features of Great Dixter were the many containers and succulents in the landscape and the meadows. Here are a few images from my visit.  More can be seen on my Pinterest garden visits boards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Vacation for Garden Geeks – in Carolina.

This weekend I am reading up on the gardens I will soon be visiting in England. The adventure starts with a week in Sissinghurst, staying at the Priest’s House on the grounds. We can actually wake up in the morning, pad over to the window, and look out onto the famous White Garden. This stay includes access to Sissinghust grounds before and after hours. From there we will take day trips to nearby historic gardens and charming villages.

But you can have a similar experience by only crossing one state line, not a whole ocean. In March 2011 I attended a retreat at the Inn at Middleton Place. This inn is LEED certified, with each room offering a view of the river. Stroll down a path through the trees and enjoy a delicious breakfast outdoors or in a dining room with a woodland view. Middleton Place is one of the most famous gardens in the world, featured in landscape history courses and advertised as ‘America’s oldest landscaped gardens.’ It has been under the same family stewardship for over 300 years. One resident was President of the First Continental Congress, another a signer of the Declaration of Independence, The live oaks and camellias are ancient by our standards and the gardens and statuary are wonderful. It is where the first Camellia japonicas were probably introduced by André Michaux in 1786 and probably one of the places John and William Bartram visited (when they weren’t back in Philly chatting with Ben Franklin.) Middleton Place is also stunningly beautiful and peaceful.

Back to my visit. On Sunday morning I jumped out of bed, grabbed a camera, jacket and notebook and wandered the gardens at Middleton Place for a few hours, having the entire garden to myself. The birds were waking up. It was an incredibly peaceful, inspiring morning. Many of these photos are from that early March morning. I would think it would be as memorable an experience to visit the garden at twilight in summer, or during an early summer morning. Oh, and visiting other historic gardens and charming villages? The Inn at Middleton Place is about 15 miles from Charleston and just down the road from Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall, both well worth visiting.