Category Archives: Garden Travel

Les Jardins de Sardy

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Our host in the gravel courtyard filled with fragrant plants.

There are magic moments on every tour and on the recent trip to France one of those moments came at Les Jardins de Sardy, a romantic garden east of Bordeaux. With an invitation to admire its scented trees and shrubs, the garden’s owner drew us into a gravel courtyard and then, with a spicy fragrance lingering on the air, led us to a shady overlook to tell the story of his Irish mother’s 1950s restoration, including efforts to grow English flowers before she capitulated to the allure and drought-tolerance of Mediterranean plants.

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The Italian inspired pool at Les Jardins de Sardy.

Before us in blinding sunlight, the mirror-like surface of an Italian pool reflected the 18th century stone house with its pale shutters and upright cypress trees.  Eager to get closer, the group surged forward as our host guided us to the water’s edge and noted its resemblance to the garden at Alhambra, minus one important detail.  Suddenly, inexplicitly, the pool sprang to life with jets of water reaching for the sky and falling back in graceful arcs, breaking the reflections of house and garden into thousands of brilliant diamonds.

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Voilà!

Wordless Wednesday–On the Wing in the Dordogne

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European Peacock Butterfly (Agais io)

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Small Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae)

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Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

Gardens of the Dordogne

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Here is temptation for garden travelers I hope you won’t be able to resist:

Gardens of the Dordogne in September!

This upcoming 10-day tour includes many of the best gardens of Bordeaux and the Dordogne Valley, such as Les Jardins de Marqueyssac pictured above, plus a free day in Sarlat-la-Caneda, a wine tasting, and more!

To know what makes the Dordogne so special, peruse this travel guide by the Daily Telegraph’s best expert, found here.

And for a full itinerary and more details about the tour, click here.

 

The Beth Chatto Gardens

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Home of Beth Chatto, with the water garden in the foreground.

Not long ago I remarked how nice it would be to have a snowy day on the sunporch and today my wish was granted, although it is sleet and ice that blankets the Upstate. For company, I choose The Shade Garden by Beth Chatto, a best-loved book I’m revisiting as I formulate plans for a renovation of the back garden.

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A view of the gravel garden.

In September, I visited Chatto’s renowned gardens for the first time. In addition to her own books, much has been written about the gardens, so I won’t attempt to explain what others have already expressed better than I can, other than to say I’m thankful I was able to visit the gardens in her lifetime and that they are even better than pictures can possibly show.  For those not familiar with Chatto and her method, often called “ecological gardening,” I recommend a short collection of notes on a 2008 exhibition held at the Garden Museum, found here.

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Called ecological gardening, Chatto’s method matches plants to conditions where they can thrive.

The main object of my visit was the woodland garden, but I found its late-summer charms were overwhelmed by those of the gravel garden and water garden. In fact, I’m afraid shady spaces were mostly overlooked that day, which adds to my impatience for another visit.  Since the gardens are only a short train journey from London, I hope, with time, to enjoy them in every season.

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Korean reed grass, Calamagrostis brachytricha, adds interest with striking foxtail-like flowers.

Tomorrow’s column in the Greenville News features a small handful of grasses grown in the drought-resistant gravel garden and the photos on this blog fulfill a promise to show more views of Chatto’s landscape.

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The scree garden.

Without a doubt, British gardens are among the most beautiful and noteworthy in the world. The best, such as the Beth Chatto Gardens, exhibit the highest standards of horticulture.  And, in general, British gardening professionals have been the primary leaders in both design and plant cultivation for the past 400 years.

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The nursery at the Beth Chatto Gardens.

If you haven’t noticed the Hortitopia Tours page, take a peek every once in a while. Currently, I’m featuring a June 2016 garden tour to southern Wales and England.  Among other highlights, the trip includes Cothay Manor, distinguished as one of the “20 Best Gardens in Britain;” Montacute House, featured in the recent BBC production of Wolf Hall; Veddw House garden, a celebrated contemporary garden and favorite of Piet Oudolf; the National Botanic Garden of Wales, a nearly 600 acre garden that looks clearly to the future; and a visit to the home of Dylan Thomas.  For details, click here.

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One of Somerset’s finest historic houses, Cothay Manor is surrounded by 12 acres of magical gardens.

 

 

Auld Lang Syne

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Bodnant in June

The title “Auld Lang Syne,” a Scottish tune written by Robert Burns in the 1700’s, translates to “times gone by” and is about remembering friends from the past and not letting them be forgotten.

I finished editing photos from the June, August, and September garden tours just yesterday.  Sitting at the computer for hours on end can be exhausting work, but time spent on these photos was also a trip down memory lane as I reminisced over the many adventures shared with travel friends in past months.

Here are a few highlights, followed by the lyrics to the English translated version of “Auld Lang Syne.”  You’ll also find a link to the first bit of the song on the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” so if the chance comes up, you can sing with brash enthusiasm tonight.

Happy New Year and all the best to you in 2016!

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Levens Hall, June

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Gresgarth Hall, June

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Arley Hall, June

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Chatsworth, June

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Scampston Hall, June

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Hancock Shaker Village, August

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Stockbridge, August

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Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, August

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Kiftsgate Court, September

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Iford, September

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RHS Wisley, September

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Sissinghurst, September

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Great Dixter, September

You’ll find the movie version of the song, “Auld Lang Syne,” here. 

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and days o’ lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!

We two have run about the slopes, and pulled the daisies fine, but we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since days o’ auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine, but seas between us broad have roared, since days o’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend, and give us a hand o’thine! And we will take a goodwill draught, for auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!

And surely you’ll buy your pint, and surely I’ll buy mine! And we will take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!

The Power of Water

Winter is only a week old and yet by this morning my gauge had measured nearly 8 inches of rain for the season. Following on the heels of a wet autumn, including a 2-day October deluge that dumped 7 inches in the Upstate and more than twice that amount in the Midlands, it’s safe to say we’re all praying for a respite.

We’re not the only ones hurting, though. Northern England has suffered devastating floods this past week and I’m heartsick for those who have suffered loss and damage.

Everyone knows how destructive a flood can be, but Tim and I discovered firsthand the power of water when a log pile (fashioned as a critter refuge when a 2014 torrent felled a tree) was moved more than 50 feet. Since the flood crested in the early morning before the sun rose, we didn’t see the heavy pile move, but were shocked to find it in a new location when we explored the riverbank a few days later.

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In this October photo, the log pile can be seen in its original location with its head above flood waters. The normal course of the Reedy River is along the top of the photo, while the flood channel through our property is separated by the elevated riverbank. Our home sits well above this area, atop several steep terraces.

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Other than making a quarter turn and moving downstream (left to right in the photo above), there is little difference in the position of the logs. Even the small braches piled on top of the critter refuge remain in place.

Unfortunately, my friend Chris Crowder, head gardener at Levens Hall, has seen this power at work in a more damaging way. In the past few weeks, the gardens at Levens have flooded three times, and the most recent was the worst ever.  Here’s a look at what Chris has experienced, along with a couple of comparison photos I took when I visited the garden in June.

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The force of the water toppled the palisade wall and swamped the entire lower floor of Levens Hall.

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In the greenhouses, flood waters came within a hair of bench tops.

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The fountain garden during recent floods.

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The same garden in June, with Chris (far right) leading a tour for my travel group.

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The red border looking towards the ha-ha and fields beyond.

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The red border in June, looking away from the ha-ha towards the center of the garden.

Upstate weather is clearing and getting colder as the week progresses, but the forecast for Cumbria and other counties of northern England is more rain.

Fingers crossed there will be blue skies for us all again soon.

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A final look at Levens Hall, where the power of water has destroyed the surface of the car park. (All Levens photos courtesy of Chris Crowder.)