U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8b. Sunset climate zone 5

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lawrence Johnston's Serre de la Madone Garden

This garden on the Mediterranean coast of Southern France was created by Major Lawrence Johnston (1871 - 1958), designer and plantsman, born in London into an American family. I've never been to his  garden in England, Hidcote Manor, but visited Serre de la Madone twice: in May 2013 and in May 2014.
Our first visit was wonderful and exciting, but most of the pictures were lost during my camera's battery failure while uploading.  To heal the wound, we managed to squeeze a second visit there into our European trip in 2014.

The property (about 15 acres = 6,8 hectars), which originally consisted from agricultural terraces and woodland, was acquired by Johnston in 1924 and turned into a unique exotic garden with plants from the warm climates which Johnston couldn't use in his Hidcote garden. Being passionate for both botany and architecture, he brought rare tropical and subtropical plants from around the world and planted them in garden rooms among pools, statues, fountains, pergolas and stone staircases.

After his death, Serre de la Madone was held by several owners and eventually was abandoned with plants growing on their own. In 1990, the estate was listed as an Historic monument, and in 1999 was acquired by the French coastal conservation agency, Conservatoire du Littoral. An extensive restoration program was undertaken between 2000 and 2005 mostly by volunteers who were members of  the Association for the Preservation and Enhancement of the Serre de la Madone Garden. Botanist Pierre Auge and landscape architects Arnaud Maurieres and Eric Ossart led the effort.

Hold on now! We have about 200 pictures to see! The day was bright and sunny. I hope you are wearing comfortable shoes  and have a bottle of water. Major Johnston chose this site because of its mild micro climate, and it was pretty hot here already in May!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hampton Court Gardens - 131 Pictures


 Hampton Court Gardens were the final gardening stop in our May trip to Europe last year.
It's important to finish a trip on a very high positive note, isn't it?
 Hampton Court with its clipped trees as perfect exclamation marks was a wonderful choice for this mission. 

Located just 18 kilometers from downtown London, Hampton Court is easy to reach by train. Our short trip on the clean and almost empty train car was comfortable and pleasant. (How to get there).
The history of the place is very interesting: Henry VIII, William III, George II and others. There is enough good information about the history of Hampton Court Palace and Gardens on the internet, so I'll focus on the pictures.   


More than Hampton Court Palace, I was interested in its Gardens.
I love different styles of gardening - cottage, oriental, and yes, formal.
My own garden is eclectic with some elements of formality. Geometry and structure help me to unite separate parts of my garden and give it some sense of peace and order.
I appreciate such features of garden formality as symmetry, balance, visible repetitive patterns,  straight lines, right angles, variety of geometrical forms such as ovals, circles, triangles, etc.
All the elements of the formal gardening please the eyes of Hampton Court visitors - trimmed  trees, shrubs and slipped hedges, topiary, classical urns, sculptures and fountains, gravel paths, expansive lawns, brick walls, lakes and canals, etc.
Hampton Court Gardens, being as formal as formal can be, include also luscious borders and flower beds that make them even more pleasant for the eye. 

I love the monotonic beds of annuals punctuating the rolling expanses of grass.

Huge pyramidal yews (Taxus baccata) in the Great Fountain Garden look like giant chess figures on the perfectly mowed grass.  Planted along the paths leading to the palace they are icons of this place.


Some of these trees are several hundred years old, and they saw several king and queens!
The younger trees were planted historically correctly in places where the original trees grew.
Altogether, there are about 8,000 trees in the Gardens and estate.


Monday, January 12, 2015

My Shade Garden Tragedy and Revival

Summer 2013: Soon after the garden tour in which my garden was featured, something happened that changed my mood from cheerful and optimistic to gloomy and depressed.
Returning from somewhere and approaching my house, I noticed something strange and different on the south side of it.
It didn't look the same way it used to look.
Sky! I saw sky where a huge alder tree's crown  used to be.

This is the spring picture. In summer, when leaves are opened, 
this huge piece of sky was barely seen through the alder's foliage.

I went that direction and stopped in shock. The tree was gone.
I remembered that my neighbor told me about the tree removal. It spread its branches toward their house and instead of trimming, the tree company suggested cutting it down. This is what happened.

Notice the difference.
Left: multiple alder's trunks can be seen. Right: the trunks are gone

Then, I saw my shade garden. It wasn't shady anymore. The shade was gone. Bright afternoon sun, now unblocked, had changed everything. The plants, which were never exposed to the direct sun and which enjoyed dappled shade for several years, were in shock just like me.
It looked like a battle scene. I couldn't believe my eyes. Where there was formerly shady coziness, now bright light and heat invaded the area.

Rhododendron, hydrangea, Fuchsia magellanica, epimedium, tetrapanax, helleborus, corydalis, groundcovers.... everything looked hurt, miserable and pitiful.



The suffering of plants was bad enough for me to see. However, the worst was the feeling of loss that donned on me: I lost my shady refuge.
This corner of the garden was always cool and shady, even in the hottest days. The alder's crown created a huge canopy. Every time, when I entered it, I felt like I was stepping into my private cozy and a bit mysterious world.
After several minutes of absolute disbelief and astonishment, I started to run back and forth bringing whatever I could find to protect the plants. Umbrellas, towels... It was like trying to help something that was already dead.

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