Queens Park Botanic Gardens, Toowoomba

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The botanic gardens in Toowoomba are a pleasant stop on a road trip

I’ve been traversing the East Coast of New South Wales, Australia, in a campervan with my wife and our dog. One of the many stops was to visit some relatives living in the West of Brisbane. We spent a day heading into the cooler hinterland where a higher altitude brings a relief from the humid conditions nearer sea-level. The higher, more inland, towns of Australia have a feel much more familiar to us Brits and show a wider range of street trees and historic buildings. Waiting for us there was the unexpected Toowoomba Botanic Garden.

Queens Park Gardens

To the East of the main town centre sits the Queens Park Gardens which contain the botanic gardens, playgrounds and cricket pitches.

The highlights were the mature trees and the fountains.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Vera Lacaze Memorial Fountains

These space-ship fountains looked great in the sun. What’s clever is that they’re all different sizes but that’s not so easy to see from the photo. The largest fountain is closest and they get smaller the further away they get. This clever trick of perspective makes them look like they’re stretching away into the distance. Such a clever design trick I’ll have to remember.

Botanical Gardens

The best thing about botanical gardens, apart from the free day out, is the opportunity to get close to some plants you wouldn’t have space for or may never have come across before.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Wollombi Pine (it lives behind a caged enclosure so I apologise for the interrupted view) 

The Wollombi Pine is an extremely interesting bit of botany of recent times. It was thought to be extinct and to only be found as fossilised samples but was rediscovered by chance in the 90s. Its natural location is a closely guarded secret to avoid people raiding the wild population for plants.  More work is being done to understand the genetics at play to inform research and conservation efforts. You’ve got ancient history, botany, science, conservation all unfolding in our lifetime – what could be better?

toowoomba botanical gardens
Grass Trees in a mixed border

The native grass trees are impressive with their soft fibre-optic-like foliage radiating out from the main stem. It can take 100 years to turn into the tree as it’s so slow growing. It adds an interesting addition to a mixed border.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Castanea sativa – Spanish Chestnut

This Chestnut was a strong impressive specimen just begging for a photo.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus tiliaceus – Sea Hibiscus

I always find it funny seeing such large blooms on a tree. A very elegant specimen.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus mutabilis – Confederate Rose

This tree looks like a white rose has been on steroids. I had never seen it before.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Singapore Botanical Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

During a recent weekend away to Melbourne my wife and I took a leisurely stroll from the hotel down to the botanical gardens. We have been there twice before but it’s always a highlight of our stays and since this is going to be our last trip for a while we made the most of it.

The Melbourne Garden is one of two botanical gardens run by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. The other is Cranbourne and is a large site to the south east of the city. We visited this two years ago on our way to Philip Island.

How to find the garden

The gardens are a large area of green sitting below the River Yarra that bisects the main city. We walked from the CBD through the open parks to the west and entered at the Observatory Gate which is located beside the Shrine of Remembrance. A full PDF map of the garden can be found here.

Melbourne Botanical Garden map
A tram line runs below the park but it’s easily accessed from the river by foot
Map of Melbourne Botanical garden location
The garden is located to the South East of the CBD.

Useful Information

www.rbg.vic.gov.au

Entrance Fee: FREE!

Opening hours: 07:30 until sunset every day

There is cycle parking at the Observatory Gate as you’re not allowed to cycle around the garden itself. We weren’t aware of this when we first visited and entered through the top gate and spent the morning pushing to very heavy rental bikes around the garden.

Main Features

  • Guilfoyles Volcano
  • Children’s Garden
  • Lakes and Islands
  • Canna Bed Rain Garden
  • Tropical Glasshouse
  • Herbarium
  • Potager
  • Eucalyptus Walk
  • Rainforest Walk

Guilfoyle’s Volcano

Guilfoyle's Volcano Pond
Guilfoyle’s Volcano Pond

At the top of the garden is a cone of planting with a raised pond. This is the where the parks water management system begins and rainwater is collected and managed as it passes through the grounds. It’s a lovely elevated spot for viewing the gardens with the city skyscrapers in the background.

Guilfoyle's Volcano
Guilfoyle’s Volcano at the Melbourne Botanical Garden.

Canna Bed Rain Garden

Canna Bed Rain Garden
Canna Bed Rain Garden

This eye-searing display is planted over a sump that forms the next part of the waterway that eventually leads to the lake. It was nice to see the variety of heights and colours in this genus. Instead of being a utilitarian eye-sore they’ve turned this into a feature to make use of the damp soil. Everyone had their phones out taking pictures and selfies with this backdrop.

Lakes and Islands

A main focus of the garden is the lake where you can take a gondola ride or have something to eat from the cafe overlooking the water.

Lotus in flower on the lake
Lotus in flower on the lake

This is the first time I had seen a lotus in real life. It’s easy to see why they’ve been revered for centuries. Simple yet elegant flowers stand proud of the foliage.

Potager

This summer I will be back in the UK I’m looking forward to starting a new allotment project. This potager garden is great inspiration for an orderly and beautiful productive space. My wife even conceded that a vegetable garden can be pretty as she’s not normally too enamoured with them.

Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Sunflower blooming in the Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Unusual infestation at the Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Ordered beds in the Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden

 Plant Highlights

Mother-in-laws Cushion (Echinocactus grusonii).
Mother-in-laws Cushion (Echinocactus grusonii).

This cactus was growing at the volcano on steep well-drained borders in full sun. It’s also known as the Golden Barrel Cactus (but where’s the fun in that?).

Hosperaloe funifera
Hosperaloe funifera -a mexican agavae relative

Throughout the park there are large flat-leaved Agavae with names and initials scraped in to them. I’m sure someone will find it an interesting urban trend like graffiti but I don’t like it.

Agave
Grafitti or community engagement? This Agave looks abused.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Singapore Botanical Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Singapore Botanical garden 

Singapore Botanical Garden

Holiday Horticulture: Singapore Botanical Garden

My wife and I spent a long morning exploring the Singapore Botanical Garden during our recent New Years Eve city break. As usual when I’m on my travels I like to seek out an interesting garden or patch of nature as an antidote to the city.

This was a warm and sticky overcast day but with plenty of water and lots to see it was a fantastic activity for a tropical weekend away.

Information

www.sbg.org.sg

Entry Fee: FREE!!

Opening hours: 5am until 12 midnight daily

Boardwalk through lush tropical planting
Boardwalk through lush tropical planting

How to find the Singapore Botanical Garden

Map of Singapore
Map of Singapore
Local roads and public transport links to Singapore Botanical Garden
Local roads and public transport links to Singapore Botanical Garden

We took a local bus from our hotel to the Tanglin Gate Entrance at the south end of the garden. We walked through the gardens in a northerly direction and used the MRT (Botanic Gardens stop) back.

Gardens

  • Bonsai Garden
  • Sun Garden
  • Children’s Garden
  • Evolution Garden
  • Healing Garden
  • Fragrant Garden
  • Ginger Garden
  • Orchid Garden (Home of the National Orchid Collection)
  • Foliage Garden
  • Trellis Garden

Main Features

  • Bandstand
  • Swan Lake
  • Botany Centre
  • Heritage Museum

Plant Highlights

Vanda 'Miss Joaquim'
Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’

The national flower of Singapore is the Orchid Miss Joaquim which was bred in the country from bringing together two native species.

Heliconia 'lobster claw'
Heliconia ‘lobster claw’

The exotic Heliconias are bright and eye-catching plants.

Heliconia
Heliconia
Petrea Volubilis
Petrea Volubilis

This climbing plant was seen in the Trellis Garden (designed to show the different ways of growing climbers within a garden). This plant is interesting in that the colour of the blooms intensifies as you get to the end of the panicle.

Mussaenda pubescens
Mussaenda pubescens
Delonix regia
Delonix regia

 

Wildlife within the Singapore Botanical Garden

Monitor Lizard
Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizards roam free through Singapore but tend to stick to the parks and more rural areas. We stayed far enough away not to bother it and not to put ourselves too close to those teeth.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

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This could be the most impressive urban garden in the world

Continuing this series of reports about the gardening highlights we’ve experienced during our recent holidays.

The Singapore skyline seen above the Grey Garden
The Singapore skyline seen above the Grey Garden

A highlight of my recent trip to Singapore was a visit to the Gardens by the Bay which has been on my bucket list since I first saw glimpses of it in a magazine article. Singapore is hoping to be a City in a Garden rather than a Garden City. The wider bay is a development on reclaimed land which is a new focus for the city and the site of the New Year’s Eve fireworks. The garden development consists of three larger sites named the Central, East and South Gardens. The most iconic of these is the South Garden with its grove of Supertrees. Since we were only staying in Singapore for a few nights we only visited this garden.

Gardens by the Bay Map

Gardens by the Bay Map
Gardens by the Bay Map showing the Bayfront MRT
Gardens by the Bay Map
Map showing location of Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

How to get to the South Garden

The nearest metro station is the Bayfront station located next to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel complex. From there you walk through the hotel lobby and over a skybridge into the garden proper.

An alternative is to get to the Tanjong Pagar metro station and take the 400 bus which drops you at the garden entrance.

It’s possible to walk directly from the city around the bay and into the gardens. One word of caution though – the distances covered are huge and that’s before you even get in to the garden. Pace yourself.

Entrance Fees

Entry to the wider garden is free. To enter the Conservatories or the Sky walk there is a fee (see below). If you’re looking for a beautiful walk for the day then utilising the free entry means you see the attractions from the outside and get to enjoy the main gardens on a thrifty budget. For those visiting just for the day then the Skywalk and Double Conservatory price is definitely worth paying for a full experience.

  • Skyway SG$8
  • One Conservatory SG$12
  • Both Conservatories SG$20

Garden Highlights

  • Flower Dome Conservatory
  • Cloud Forest Conservatory
  • Skyway
  • Supertrees Grove
  • Heritage Gardens
  • World of Plants
  • Silver Garden
  • Gold Garden

Flower Dome Conservatory

Pyrostegia venusta 'Orange Trumpet Vine'
Pyrostegia venusta ‘Orange Trumpet Vine’

The Flower Conservatory is a temperate zone showing plants from across the world. When we visited there was a Christmas display. It’s odd walking from a hot and humid environment into a cooler and drier conservatory as we’re so used to experiencing the other way around.

This bright climbing plant caught my eye (and my new camera’s lens) as we strolled around. I think I’ll try and source this back in the UK. I’m not sure yet whether it will be hardy enough but it can always be used as an annual.

Cloud Forest Conservatory

The waterfall within the Cloud Forest Conservatory
The waterfall within the Cloud Forest Conservatory

The mountain in this conservatory is planted with sheer walls of mountain plants displaying their variety of foliage types and colours with exotic orchids mixed in. The experience takes you through the levels of cloud forests and educational signage and displays highlight the strengths and threats to these environments.

A living green wall in the Cloud Forest
A living green wall in the Cloud Forest

Supertrees grove

Supertrees Grove
Vertical exotic planting seen on the Supertrees Grove

The Supertrees are designed to draw hot air up and away and collect rainwater for the garden. They are architecturally stunning but also provide planting opportunities. The Heritage gardens are located on a circular loop around the grove.

Bourgainvillea flowering on the vertical planting of the Supertrees
Bougainvillea flowering on the vertical planting of the Supertrees

Skywalk

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay Skywalk

The Skywalk takes you above the gardens for a unique vantage point of the dense planting below. This semi-circle walkway is suspended from some of the Supertrees and gives great photo opportunities of the city skyline.

A world-class display of science and society striving for better

This has to be on anyone’s bucket list but I would especially recommend it for anyone interested in horticulture, gardening, urban development and planning, sustainable cities and architecture.

The grey garden
The grey garden

 

Garden Visit: Kew Gardens

Garden Visit Kew Gardens

A visit to Kew Gardens in November 2016

I have a few posts on the go detailing a trip I took to Thailand and Singapore over the festive season but this may get a little samey. Here are some images of my recent visit to Kew Gardens during my last trip back to the UK in November 2016. I have only previously seen the gardens in January so, although still a winter visit, it was good to see some variety.

How to get there

See www.kew.org for more details directions.

Entry price: £10 for adults with some concessions and membership options

Map showing the location of Kew Gardens
Map showing the location of Kew Gardens

The gardens are located in the west of Greater London. We drove there from nearby Surrey and parked along Kew Road which is free during the day on weekdays. There are some parking spaces available inside the gardens. There is the Kew Gardens underground station which is a short walk away and plenty of buses serving the area.

 

The Palmhouse

Kew Gardens, UK
Tropical planting in the world-famous glasshouse

 

The Temperate glasshouses was under some maintenance when we visited but there were plenty still open to enjoy. We watched an informative short film medley under the Princess of Wales Conservatory about the life-cycle of bees which feature a lot in the garden at the moment.

The Hive

The Hive at Kew Gardens
The Hive at Kew Gardens

The main installation present at our visit was The Hive. It was constructed in metal and linked with a living hive. You were supposed to watch the lights flickering in time with the activity in the real hive but this wasn’t working when we visited.

The Treetop Walkway

Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens
Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens

The newest part of the garden wasn’t there when I last visited and it was exceptionally exciting. You walk up the stairs onto the elevated walkway and stroll through the canopy of the trees. As the sun was setting it was a beautifully serene part of the day. There is a lift if you are physically unable to climb the stairs (or if you’re a lazy teenager apparently).

It’s nice to see such an old institution striving to introduce new elements of the garden. This one really adds to the already rich variety of displays and gardens.

Vegetable and Plant Family Gardens

I’m a bit of a organiser so I always enjoy a botanical garden with orderly displays. The plant family garden groups plants that are related to each other botanically into the same beds to enable comparisons and learning for the students. The vegetable garden is also a place where the students get to learn and it was looking pristine for the time of year. I’m so jealous of them!

Vegetable garden at Kew
Vegetable garden at Kew
Cosmos flowering in the vegetable garden at Kew
Cosmos flowering in the vegetable garden at Kew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally..

I got my first chance to see the broad border walk after getting a glimpse on a TV gardening program (I can’t remember which one at the moment but it’ll come to me – I’m too young for a senior moment!).

I new plant I had never seen before was lounging casually along a pergola near the toilets. Vitis doaniana is a lovely little climber with a very unusual metalic-teal coloured ‘grape’.

Vitis doaniana at Kew Gardens
Vitis doaniana at Kew Gardens

Phuket Botanic garden 

https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanical-garden/

A visit to Phuket Botanic Garden

During my recent Christmas break we travelled to Phuket, Thailand, to spend the time off with my in-laws. Never one to miss an opportunity for seeing plants we duly took the car to explore the island’s attractions. Top of the list was the Phuket Botanic Garden which is located south west of the city of Phuket and on the other side of the island from the main tourist areas of Patong Beach, Karon Beach and Kata Beach.

How to get there

We had a hire car for the week so made our own way to the gardens. It was well signposted from the major routes and there was free parking to the side of the main entrance.

www.phuketbotanicgarden.com

https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/

https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/

 

Open 0900 – 1700 (closed Wednesdays)

98/89 Mu 4 Chao Fa Rd., Chalong Subdistrict, Muang District, Phuket 83130 Thailand

 

Entry fee for non-locals was 500 Baht (£11.50) (A lot of tourist attractions will offer a much cheaper entry fee for locals able to provide photo ID which I think is excellent)

Some of the plants on display

https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
Thalia geniculata, the bent alligator-flag, arrowroot, or fire-flag. Marginal plant with dierama-like flowers.
https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
Nephrolepis falcata furcans. Fishtail Swordfern
www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
I couldn’t resist showing you this little lady
https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
Cyrtostachys renda (red sealing wax palm or lipstick palm  The Garden Areas

 The Garden Areas

  • Herb Garden
  • Orchard
  • Sufficient Garden
  • Orchid Garden
  • Fern Garden
  • Cactus Garden
  • Rain Forest
  • Japanese Garden
  • English Garden
  • Bali Garden
  • Waterlily Garden
  • Palm Garden

Inside the Garden

https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
The plantings are lush and tropical
https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
The first area you arrive in shows the quality of planting and design on offer

The impressively ornamental gates open onto the first area. Here there are fun displays and on our visit a large heart-shaped planting that looked like a photoframe. Of course we both did the obligatory posing for the holiday album. Even though we only saw 2 or 3 gardeners during our visit the grounds were meticulously maintained. The paper map was useful for getting your bearings but you couldn’t get lost as there is one main loop that you walk along with the featured gardens opening on each side of the path.

 

 

https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
A large Koi pond at the furthest point in the garden where you can buy food to feed the fish.

We visited on a weekday on the run up to Christmas. I don’t know what the tourist season is in Phuket but most of the places we visited were lacking the people to keep them open. There were two other couples walking around the garden when we visited so it was lovely and quiet.

 

 

https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
Looking through a gap in the wall from the main path into the waterlily garden.

 

There were some beautiful plants on display and often there were plant labels to inform you of what you were looking at. However I have still had to spend some time tracking down the proper ID for lots of the things that caught my eye which is no great hardship and I find this with all botanical gardens I visit. Still, I had a great time playing with my new camera (a Christmas and Birthday present).

 

Some of my other botanical garden days out

Mount Tomah, NSW, Australia

Bicton Garden, Devon, UK

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

 

https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
One of the smaller gardens featured include the fruit / productive garden.
https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
Waterlily flowering
https://www.mypottingbenchblog.com/phuket-botanic-garden/
Costus woodsonii – also known as the spiral ginger

 

Garden Visit – Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

GARDEN VISIT Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

To celebrate the birthday of my lovely wife we decided to treat ourselves to a mini break whilst we were visiting the UK.

We chose Oxford and The Cotswolds, primarily due to the location of a few notable gardens and a long-term desire to spend the night at Raymond Blanc’s famous hotel.

How to get there

It’s an easy drive from London on the M40 and a 10 minute trip out of Oxford to get to the gardens. We were staying the night so were able to explore the gardens in the evening and first thing in the morning. The grand gates signal that you’ve arrived outside the hotel but you have to get very close to be able to read the golden signs clearly. I drove past this entrance twice!!

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

The Highlights

For me the best parts of the garden were the potager / greenhouse area and the Old Orchard which has recently been redesigned by Chris Beardshaw with perennial underplanting.

 

List of Gardens

 

  • English Water Garden
  • Orchard
  • Old Orchard
  • Japanese Garden with Tea House
  • Polytunnels
  • Mushroom Valley
  • Herb Garden
  • Vegetable Garden / Potager

The Vegetable Garden

Walking around the quiet vegetable garden as the sun went down was a highlight of our recent visit back to the UK. We could smell the open fires burning and the air was crisp and cool. A perfect dry winter day. The paths are easy to traverse and the display of world-class productive gardening was impressive.

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Winter Squashes seasoning in the greenhouse
Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Clay cloches / forcing jars lining the gravel path in the potager.

 

I spent a long time exploring the greenhouse shown below. I’ve taken the details to furnish my imaginary future garden. At this time of year they had a wide variety of chillies and peppers still producing in the sheltered environment. Also, as seen above, were the winter squashes seasoning.

 

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Can anyone say greenhouse envy?

 

The Orchard

At the furthest point of the grounds, on the other side of the main car park, you’ll find the new orchard. This is a fantastic display of over 800 varieties of fruit. The gardener encouraged us to take an apple to try with no hesitation. They were beautiful.

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

 

 

 

The Old Orchard

 

GARDEN VISIT Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
A view through the old orchard at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons underplanted with perennial beds designed by Chris Beardshaw.

 

The most popular twitter post I’ve ever had came from this image of Chris Beardshaw’s perennial planting design under the old Orchard. It is a magical area of the garden. I wish I could have spent more time sitting in there but it was dinner time and needs must.

 

How to visit the garden

 

One way to get access to the garden is to spend the night at the hotel. For those on a more sensible budget you can join one of the garden group tours which run regularly during the year. I haven’t done this tour but for Thirty Pounds and tea and biscuits included it would definitely be worth the money.

MyPottingBench: Down Under – Mount Tomah Botanical Garden

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden

 

 

The Mount Tomah Botanical Garden is part of three gardens that make up the botanical gardens in New South Wales. The other two are the Royal Garden, in the CBD of Sydney, and a larger, spreading garden at Mount Annan.

The greatest things about these three superb gardens is that they all offer free entry.

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-7-26-46-pm
Blue Mountains Botanical Garden at Mount Tomah.

Even if there was an entry fee it would be very worth it.This garden is located in the famous Blue Mountains and are well worth a morning or afternoon visit if you’re travelling that way.

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
Blue Mountains Botanical Garden at Mount Tomah.

 

 

 

The gardens are situated on a north-facing slope (remember in Oz that means facing the sun) within the Blue Mountains. Despite being so high above sea-level this aspect allows a continental climate where the summers are warm but temperatures can dip below freezing in the winter months.

It is set out as a variety of themed areas touring different horticultural geographies and this allows for a wide variety of plants. The terraces manage the slope and provide interesting changes of levels and hard landscaping consisting of formal and informal pools and ponds.

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
A summer view of the gardens
MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
The garden’s most recognisable feature is a spiral stone walkway

The gardens illustrate the use of native plants in mixed borders and carry examples of all the most well-known native species. Below you can see two examples of Proteas. These woody plants can handle the cool winters due to the extreme drainage offered from the slope.

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
Protea cynaroides amongst an exotic shrubby border
MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
Protea longifolia x pudens

 

This garden is a must on any tour of Australian gardens. I have visited with my wife on two occasions; once in the middle of winter where there was a freezing wind blowing and some snow had fallen the week before, and a second time in the heat of summer. We found the gardens to be full of interest and colour with amazing views both times.

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
View out over the terraces towards the Blue Mountains in the background.

Holiday Horticulture : Sorrento and Amalfi

image

The second holiday we had this summer was to the Sorrento peninsula for a family wedding. I had never been to this part of Italy before and apart from a quick weekend in Venice some years ago I haven’t seen much of this country. Monty Don’s programmes on gardens around the world, specifically Italian Gardens, were my only exposure to the gardens to be seen.

Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi

We stayed in a hilltop village called Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi just south of Sorrento town. My wife and I took a long walk around the hills and back streets of the villages in the region. What struck us was the vegetable gardens attached to each of these rural villas and even within the villages themselves. I turned green with envy watching row after row of plump tomatoes ripening outside.

Private garden near Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi
Private garden near Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi
Coastal grasses near Torca
Coastal grasses near Torca

Sorrento

The town of Sorrento doesn’t have much to offer as a horticultural holiday but the views over the bay to Naples are lovely and the small cloisters where the wedding ceremony took place in was beautiful.

View from Sorrento over bay to Naples
View from Sorrento over bay to Naples
St Francesco Cloister
St Francesco Cloister

Ravello

By far and away the highlight for us was a trip to Amalfi and Ravello. Having spent the week gripping the steering wheel of a fiat panda doing hairpin turns around the steep hills of the area it took some courage to plan a trip to Ravello. Our guide book stated it had 2 open gardens and a quiet square with cafes for lunch but was 90 mins away from where we were staying and located at the top of a hill. It was worth the journey.

Villa Rufolo is charming but the main attraction is the iconic view down over Amalfi. We had a tourist ticket that included all the sites of Ravello so we were able to stroll around the village and peak into any one that took our fancy.

Amalfi coast from Villa Rufolo
Amalfi coast from Villa Rufolo

Villa Cimbrone was our favourite. It was a pleasant walk through narrow streets up the hill and out of the main part of the village. I recently saw the garden featured on Alex Polizzi’s new TV programme. It has a variety of different areas including lawns, rose garden, arbour and an ‘infinity’ terrace. I have never been stunned to silence before but the view from here stopped me in my tracks. Breathtaking. I can’t wait to go back.

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Holiday Horticulture : Marrakech’s Top Gardens

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech’s Top Gardens

Firstly, I must apologise for radio silence on my part. It’s been a busy few months for us in Devon with a change of job (becoming self employed), getting married, a holiday and a Minimoon. The garden has suffered from this neglect and my blog was the worst casualty. So to make up for this I thought I’d brighten the rainy Autumnal weather of late with some sunny pictures.

My new wife and I went to Marrakech for a short break after the buzz and business of wedding mania. Having never been before we used a Top 10 guide book to direct us around the must see gardens and sites. It was wonderful. Despite being a desert climate, the city is undergoing a ‘re-greening’ with rows of orange trees and roses being planted along the highways making it a verdant modern city.

Majorelle Gardens

www.jardinmajorelle.com

Majorelle Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Majorelle Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Majorelle Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Majorelle Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco

Probably the most fashionable and famous garden located to the north of the old city and walkable from the new city. It was originally laid out by artist Jacques Majorelle (hence the name) but rescued by fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent in the 80s which elevated it in popularity.

Majorelle Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Majorelle Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Majorelle Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Majorelle Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco

It is a jungle-style garden and a lush relief from the arid surroundings. The searing blue of its walls has become iconic.

I found it rather small and a little disappointing. The plants were wonderful but poorly labelled and felt like it was trying too hard. Being three times the price of every other attraction in the city didn’t endear it to me at all and it felt more style than substance.

Koutoubia Gardens

Sitting at the feet of its namesake Mosque, this public park space has roses bordered by topiary hedges and flat-topped Orange trees. It’s a calm, free, space near the very centre of the old city and worth a wander on the way to Manoumia.

Koutoubia Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Koutoubia Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Koutoubia Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Koutoubia Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco

Mamounia Hotel Gardens

www.mamounia.com

Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco

This rather grand hotel (a favourite of Winston Churchill) has 17 acres of beautiful gardens stretching out behind it. It’s free to enter – just make sure you’re not wearing shorts and T shirt as there is a dress code and you will be turned away at the gate (as we found out). Once suitably attired you can swan through the plush lobby and out the back into the gardens. These were my favourites in Marrakech. Probably because it felt familiar as it draws on The English Garden for its inspiration.

Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco

Here you can see roses, olive and citrus trees and even the vegetable garden. Beautiful. They even do fantastic cocktails on the terrace.

Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco
Mamounia Hotel Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco