Gardens, Plant Ecology, Travel

Postcard from the Isle of Wight

You may find it hard to believe, but this is the UK in October…

Photograph of Ventnor Botanic Gardens by Michael Turner www.photogardenerblog.com

Ventnor Botanic Gardens on the Isle of Wight.

Not just anywhere in the UK of course; my postcard is from Ventnor Botanic Gardens on the Isle of Wight. The garden’s sheltered, south-facing location, tucked well into the Ventnor ‘Undercliff’, has challenged gardeners and ecologists here to push the boundaries of plant hardiness in a constantly evolving experiment. In the light of rising global temperatures and the prospect of significant climate changes to come, the gardeners here are succeeding with an increasingly diverse range of semi-tropical plants that would normally curl up their toes at the first signs of the UK winter.

The result is a lush, exotic garden that is only a short ferry ride away from mainland Britain and one of several garden delights we discovered during an enjoyable week away.

Gardens, Travel

Chihuly Garden and Glass

There’s a city centre garden in the North West corner of the USA that is, I would suggest, totally unique. Whilst there are plenty of gardens worldwide that feature contemporary art installations – gardening and art are natural partners after all – this combined garden and sculpture gallery in its space age setting is something really rather special.

The beautiful Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. photogardenerblog.com

Chihuly Garden and Glass at the Seattle Space Center combines the work of world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly with creative modern architecture and innovative garden landscaping. The overall effect is truly spectacular. You can read about the background to the exhibition, the dedicated building and how the designers arrived at their choice of planting in this Seattle Times 2012 web article here.

My October visit was rewarded with a showing of late-season grasses in full flow, and timed for dusk so as to experience the best combination of daylight and artificial lighting on the colourful sculptures and carefully crafted planting schemes.

There’s only one word to describe the garden, and that’s ‘breathtaking’! I hope my photographs will do it justice…

The beautiful Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. photogardenerblog.com
Looking up through the visitor centre ceiling to the stunning Seattle Space Needle.
The beautiful Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. photogardenerblog.com
The Chihuly sun at the Seattle Space Center.

The beautiful Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. photogardenerblog.com

The beautiful Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. photogardenerblog.com

The beautiful Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. photogardenerblog.com

The beautiful Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. photogardenerblog.com

The beautiful Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. photogardenerblog.com

The beautiful Chihuly Glass and Garden in Seattle. photogardenerblog.com

Personally, I often find that modern sculpture can look awkward and out of place in a garden, but not on this occasion – the Chihuly Garden is one of the most bewitching contemporary gardens I have experienced. The exquisite beauty of the glass creations sits perfectly with the garden design and planting, with colour, shape, light and texture weaving a magical web of intrigue and discovery.

Without doubt, Chihuly Garden and Glass is a fitting (and extremely popular) addition to this modern, thriving US city.

Gardens, Travel

The Bardini Garden

On a recent trip to Florence with my wife Janet and photographer friend Martyn we took some time out to visit the famous Boboli Garden, part of the historic Palazzo Pitti, the largest museum complex in Europe. Our short holiday was more of a culinary and cultural city break rather than a grand garden tour, but even considering the time of year this opportunity to take in one of Italy’s renowned classical gardens was too good to miss.

The Dragon Canal at Bardini Garden, Florence
The Dragon Canal, Bardini Villa Garden, Florence, Italy.

Although the Boboli Garden was indeed impressive in a grand yet minimalist Italian way, the ticket also included entry to another Renaissance garden, tucked away down a quiet, narrow street just a short stroll away. The recently opened and little-known Bardini Garden is a much more intimate affair, with an Anglo-Italian feel and views across the city of Florence to match anything that the Boboli Garden has to offer. A real bonus!

Reading the brochure it became obvious (though not exactly a surprise) that this is a garden for the spring and early summer, boasting collections of azaleas, viburnum and camellia, as well as olive groves, a rose garden and wisteria pergola. Not to worry though – we were in Italy after all – and even in late October there was plenty in the way of architectural formality, statues, stairways and grottoes to keep us enthralled. There was also a very well tended and fruitful kitchen garden adjacent to the ‘Kaffehaus’ terrace…yet another excuse for a cappuccino stop. Oh, and did I mention the views…?

Kitchen Garden Bardini Garden Forence

Bardini Garden Florence
Looking across The English Wood on the lower slopes of the Bardini Garden.