Toledo Botanical Garden


Kidds Climax
Kidds Climax

On a recent mid-west trip, I met my Ohio friend at the Toledo Botanical Garden.  Aside from their small dahlia garden, which I may cover in another post, the gallery below contains some of my favorite plants and pictures from the visit.  The mixed bed with coppery, warm colors was adjacent to the parking lot.  I’ve always had a hard time seeing how to use the very dark-leaved plants, everywhere I put them they just disappear, but not here!  I recognized grasses, cannas and most of the flowering plants but I had to ask the garden for help with the tall, large-leafed copper variegated plant.  It’s one of a number of varieties with the common name of Copperleaf Plant from the genus Acalypha.  It’s a tropical plant that’s grown as an annual in the Midwest, or taken indoors. The first seven shots are all of the same bed.

The next shots are of a green and white variegated plant with large leaves that I admired in another part of the garden and it’s the same family.  Still common name of Copperleaf  Plant.  I love the way that it picked up the light from the deeply angled sun.

The gallery ends in pictures of a gazebo planted in white and covered with autumn clematis.

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Villa Ephrusi de Rothschild

French Garden
French Garden

Be sure to see both the video and photo gallery below.  This garden has been on my list for many years.  I’d traveled to Nice on both business and pleasure and it was after one of these trips that I’d read about the gardens at the nearby Villa.  This garden is also tied to the history of a woman, Béatrice de Rothschild.  She was not officially royalty; the day when kings and queens ruled Europe was over; but all of the elements were there.  Disparities of income; excesses of the rich.  A single woman after her separation from her bankrupt banker husband, she raced horses and flew airplanes.  She must have had a considerable amount of spunk.

The garden was built in the first decade of the 1900s on a rocky, windswept promotory.  According to the Villa’s web site.  In a manner much like the garden designers for kings, they dynamited the rocks that were in the way and brought in enormous quantities of earth to create flat spaces for gardening.  If you visit, be sure to use the free audio tours to learn more about this woman and her times.  The pink, birthday-cake of a villa holds world-class museum collections of porcelin and art, among other things.

This garden also has themed spaces; the French garden forms a classic vista on the top of the hill, from the vila to a belvedere in the distance.  The reflecting pools between the rough formed water feature at the end of the garden play fountains, coreographed to music in the best Las Vegas fashion.  The other gardens play down the hill, below the French garden and as I wandered through them, I would hear a new piece of music play for the fountains and wonder, what are the fountains doing with that?  This short video shows the transition from the water feature where it drops from the level of the belvedere.[wpvideo YttGZv9u]

The desk person at my hotel in Bealieu sur Mer told me that I could walk to the gardens.  The benefit of adding a few miles of walking to my day in the garden was a wonderful pedestrian-only cliff walk, along the edge of the ocean, most of the way to the gardens.The phot gallery starts there. [oqeygallery id=27]

Domaine du Rayol

The Mediterranean
The Mediterranean

(Photo Gallery below)  Compared to many of the historic, public gardens in France, the Domaine du Rayol is a latecomer.  This beautiful, unspoiled promontory, a short distance from Toulon, was discovered by a few families at the turn of the century.  The buildings and gardens went through two periods of consolidation and development. First, 1910-1940, when they were owned by a Parisian businessman, who eventually sold the main residence for use as a hotel and built a smaller structure near the ocean for himself and his wife; and later, in 1940 when war forced an aircraft manufacturer to buy the property as a refuge. The domain’s web site says that with his staff and dozens of gardeners, this was a time of glory for the garden.  After the hostilities, it was used only as a summer home and then deserted.  Protected by environmentalists from development, the Coastal Conservancy bought the property in 1989. Influential French Garden Designer, Giles Clement, has further developed garden interest by integrating plants from other Mediterranean climates in a patchwork of international gardens.  Although, to be honest, as I wandered around, I threw out the map and just enjoyed the juxtaposition of cactus against succulent against rock against tree against ocean.  Blossoms everywhere.

This was another great location for breathing; often and deeply.  Eucalyptus added spice to the quiet sweet smell of the mimosas, all mixed together on the sea breezes. Paths wound their way up and down and crossed the bluff from the entrance hall to the ocean; enticing the visitor to go here; no there; well, maybe there; just as a well-designed garden should.  The ocean views could be enjoyed from many locations, including a terrace that lead to a small beach, although the beach was closed to the public.  It was all right; I found another spot that day to put my feet into the Mediterranean.

The ground between plantings was almost always covered with clover, probably planted to keep things lush and fertile.

Some distance away from the ocean and following the sound of water, I found a small stream spilling down through the deeply shaded rocks.  Crisscrossing the quickly falling stream eventually led me to a picturesque, vine covered structure, tucked into the low spot in the porous rock; a 20th century folly or a true well house?  I could imagine milk jugs from the farm, cooling in the dark, damp hut but then garden follies often imitate functional structures.  A mystery; for sure.[oqeygallery id=26]

Rose, the Woman and her Garden

I just read the book “Madame Toussaud”, by Michelle Moran; bear with me here for a short deviation from gardens.  Madame was an incredible woman, although she must have been all business first.  If the characterization is true, I’m sure that she would have been called “hard” and unfeminine by many, especially in her day.  I admire her for doing what was necessary.  Moving back and forth between the worlds of both royalty and revolutionaries, she survived her central role in the French revolution by making wax death masks of the executed.    When she could do so no longer, she was imprisoned.  I highly recommend this book as a very readable but historically accurate depiction of life and death during the French Revolution.  Winding back to the topic for this post, the book has her in prison, awaiting execution with as woman named Rose, who would later be known as Empress Josephine, or Josephine Bonnaparte.

Rose is another self-made woman from that era who was often described as being pragmatic, at best.  Rose’s first husband from an arranged and failed marriage was executed, but after Robespierre’s execution, the prisons were opened and she survived to live on her wits and highly placed friends, until she married Napoleon.  My mind is still open but it’s impossible for me to tell, from hundreds of years away, whether her contributions to the science of botany and her ambitious plant collections were a sign of a serious and capable woman, or symptomatic of leftover imperialistic ideals.

Whatever values they reflect in the woman, history does tell us of her successes.  In a day when people were scouring the globe to bring home the new and novel, for study or the amusement of their friends, she amassed a small menagerie and a garden full of exotic plants at Malmaison, where she continued to live after her divorce from Napoleon. Roses were a favorite and she’s reported to have collected hundreds of varieties, helping to establish a source of breeding stock for early hybridizing efforts. She employed the premier garden designers and botanists of her time.  Her gardens were immortalized in books and in paintings.  The painter Redoubt captured hundreds of her roses alone, and was influential in having them converted to printed media.

After her death in 1814, through neglect and the influence of war, the gardens were destroyed.  The Chateau has been restored as a museum to Bonaparte and the gardens, a restored wisp, a memory, a small fragment of their former glory can be seen today at Chateau Malmaison in a Rueil, a close-in suburb of Paris. It’s a chance to touch her spirit, even if time has diminished the impact. The pictures were taken in 2003.

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[oqeygallery id=22]Since I mentioned it in a recent post, I thought it might be time to share my pictures and thoughts about the garden. It was one of the first gardens that I visited outside of Paris and I’ve returned over and over again.  Although my earlier trips weren’t captured on camera, I have been there every month of the year while it’s open, except for July.  I intend to fix that someday. 

The garden is always beatiful.  One October vist after a heavy frost, the naturtiums were grey mush but the colors reflected in the pond were incredible.  The garden is well funded.  The staff start hundreds of thousands of annuals every year so that there is never an empty space. They strive to be true to Monet’s artistic vision for the garden, although plant materials may be somewhat different than he might have used. I recommend that you find time to visit Museum Marmottan and the Musee d’Orsay  to see his work on the same trip when you visit this garden. The spirit of the place is somehow shared in all of Monet’s work.

Many people choose to take a train or a tour bus from Paris to see this garden and that works, but then you are on the same schedule as hundreds of other tourists.  The train stops in Vernon, over three miles away from the garden.  There is a bus that finishes the trip but the one time that I took the train, there were too many people for the bus and many people were left to find taxis and other conveyance on their own.  Rick Steve suggests that the last hours in the day have the least tourist traffic and I’ve found that to be generally good advice.  After the bus leaves to take the tourists back to the Paris-bound train.  Although packed with beauty and history, it’s a small garden; an hour or two will do it justice. Leave extra time if you want to tour inside the house (it costs more) as there are often lines.

The small town around Giverny is worth some time, too.  The Museum of American Art has pretty plantings, keeping with the theme.  And the hotel and restaraunt Baudy has a rose garden worth visiting, especially in early summer.  (Do watch out for the nettles.)  The visit was free if I ate there, if they still have it, try the omlette with rabbit and potatoes.  It’s a classic so I expect they still do.

Garden Gem in Normandy – Clos du Coudray

[oqeygallery id=21]If you want to visit Monet’s Garden when you are in France, and what garden tourist doesn’t, don’t plan to day trip out from Paris.  It’s worth the trouble to rent a car and drive to Normandy for a couple of days.  You may save enough in hotel rates to pay for the car.  But more importantly, you can also visit some of the other excellent public gardens that Normandy offers. Although it doesn’t have the same sense of art history, which is arguing apples and oranges to some extent, Clos du Coudray , in my opinion, surpasses Monet’s Garden in its horticultural importance and at least equals it in design impact.  The owners take pride in being completely organic.  It’s also a working nursery, so new discoveries are showcased next to old favorites.

Plantings are laid out in different “garden rooms”.  One of the things that I like about this garden is that the design goes far beyond the simple three parts that can be found so often in France (formal, informal and near-wild).  The rose garden is one of the best I’ve seen at integrating roses with other plantings for a long season of beauty, even in shaded spots.  It’s much more than a rose garden really.  It is the most formal of the gardens with straight paths and squared off design elements.  All of my favorites are used in one garden or another:  iris, peonies and dahlias.  And I fell in love with a birch tree, betula costata, that I’ve named Betts.  Located near a huge stand of gunnera in a shaded area, her tender, light bronze branches arching gracefully over a bed of hosta create a sunny spot. 

In the pictures, notice the loving attention to the details of color and shape, how they complement each other in the plantings.  It always amazes me that people can imagine these things and then use plants to create the vision.

Follow this link to look at the history of the garden.  There are three pictures in the middle of the page, clicking on them will take you to pictures and descriptions of the owners reconstruction of the building, the development of the garden and the extension of the garden.  It is in French but most browsers will translate for you. It’s worth looking at the pictures, in any case.

Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Buffon in Jardin des Plantes

Traditions are important in France and change is slow in coming. I was made sad this year to find out that the very hotel that I was recommending when I surprised myself by saying the words, “whenever I’m in Paris”, has changed.  It still lives on a tiny street near the Latin quarter and the Seine, but when I returned to it, trip after trip, it was a modestly priced hotel with tiny, indifferently decorated (but clean) rooms; plumbing that grumbled loudly to get me out of bed in the mornings; weak English-syle coffee with a roll, a croissant, butter and jam, for breakfast; and a friendly manager who spoke English and remembered her customers; even when it was years between visits.  I usually booked with an e-mail saying, “can I still get the same rate?” and the answer was almost always yes.  Sadly, a friend came back to me for another recommendation this year because the rates have more than doubled.  It appears to have changed ownership and become part of a small luxury chain. 

The Left Bank, while a good place for inexpensive hotels and restaurants by Paris standards, has never been the place where people would look first for true luxury accommodations.  The historic old streets are small and noisy, full of the smells of diesel fuel and garlic.  At night, the hawkers in the small streets will stand in the doors of the various ethnic restaurants, music blaring, to try to pull you in for dinner.  The crowds are full of students, emigrants and budget tourists.  But the location has its charms, especially for me.  A short walk to the East, just past the Arab World Institute, and the small Park zoo, is the entrance to one of the most wonderful places in the world, Jardin des Plantes, Paris

The people of Paris use this place (no entrance fee, except for the zoo and museums) as their front porch, their work-out studio, their alternate living room.  Summer, winter, rain or shine, there are always people in this park.  Jogging, walking, sitting, snacking in the cafes.  Rows of benches under the Plane trees create a cool haven in the summer and a comfortable place to sit year-round, to soak in the beauty and the history.  Kings and queens have walked here; in fact it was established as a medicinal garden for a king, hundreds of years ago.  Sitting as close as it does to the historical center of Paris, it’s challenges, reversals and perseverance to become a world-class botanical and scientific resource could fill a book.  But you can see it; soak up its essence, for free.

I highly recommend it as a cure for jet lag.  The overnight flights often drop you off in Paris in the morning, with little or no sleep and an afternoon to fill.  Take a book to the park, wander around and when you get tired, find a comfortable bench.  The light of day will start to reset your clock and the beauties will sooth the soul.

There are a number of gardens, including one that organizes plants by their botanical characteristics; so read up on your interests before you visit or ask for a map at the small gate house.  The rose garden is best in late May or very early June as it contains a number of once blooming varieties, but the main parterres have many roses that last most of the summer.  Most of the pictures in the gallery were taken in the main parterres.

Notice the smoke over Buffon’s right shoulder in the long shot toward the front gate (fourth in the gallery).  There were some particularly vehement protests that day; I saw worried police everywhere on my way to the gardens but I was oblivious to the cause until I heard the noise, and saw that night’s news.  Explosions, smoke, screaming loudspeakers and sirens as the protests passed the park, but inside it was an island of tranquility.[oqeygallery id=20]


Overlook Farm, MA

amaranths in Peru garden
amaranths in Peru garden

Sister, neice and I visited Overlook Farm on Saturday, an educational endeavor in eastern-central Massachusetts, owned and run by Heifer International.  Visitors are welcome to look around the grounds and the demonstration gardens include small sites representing how people live around the world.  The garden representing Peru had the broadest display of amaranth varieties that I’ve seen recently, where it’s used as a food crop.


My sister and I both live in heavily wooded areas with small spaces for gardens and my niece lives in a condo where she gardens on her deck.  We were green with envy on seeing the two acre food garden on a sunny slope, not a wisp of shade in sight.

Cabbage in the food garden
Cabbage in the food garden
cabbages and brocolli
cabbages and brocolli
Bright Lights swiss chard
Bright Lights swiss chard

Michigan State University Rose Garden

This garden got top points for sheer impact with roses on my midwest trip.  It has the advantage of being small and well designed.  The rose beds are raised so that even the shorter roses are near eye level.  It was probably peak bloomtime when I visited with both once and repeat bloomers in show.  The first picture is not taken in the rose garden.  It’s just the healthiest purple elderberry that I’ve seen, growing in the small place between restaraunt and parking area at a nearby Sushi restaraunt.  The last shot expresses how I feel about this garden. [oqeygallery id=12]


Updated with the correct spelling (thank you Glen from gardens), I find some more results, including pictures of the fruit and other information.

I visited the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Near Grand Rapids last week with my granchildren.  Not too many flower shots but I saw this curiosity and chased down a staff person who was kind enough to find another staff person, and another and finally walkie talkies were used.  The name I believe I was told is Dranuncula, but I can’t find much about it on the web.  I was told that it’s one of the family of meat eaters that attracts its prey by smelling like carrion.  It was not smelling bad yet, that I could tell.   Click on the small images for a bigger one.

Endicott Pear Tree Visit

[wpvideo Q3v2KWcv]It was incredible to me that a hundred or more people would all show up on a cold, rainy week night in  April to visit an old tree. 

It wasn’t the location that bought them.  Although the hill, that slops gently to the salt flats and two rivers to the south and east, was probably beautiful in its day.  Now it’s dotted with complicated traffic patterns, box stores, chain hotels and light industry; part of the 128 commercial sprawl around Boston.  The marshlands looked like blighted space with a drainage ditch to my Midwestern it’s-gotta-have-a-tree-to –be-pretty eyes.   

And it wasn’t the food or speakers, which both turned out to be exceptional; because the program sponsors hadn’t sent us that much information in advance.

What were we doing here?  Sister and I wondered as we made our way through 128 rush hour in a driving, cold rain, after our day jobs, and as we met a healthy crowd in the Atrium of Massachusetts General/Northshore Center for Outpatient Care, and as we sat through the speaker list of welcomers from the Sponsoring Institutions.  I listened carefully as Dr. Anthony Patton told us about the history of the Endicotts and took notes as Dr. Karen Krag, a local Oncologist and amateur historian took us through her carefully researched thoughts about what the Endicott’s home and orchard would have looked like and grown.  Note to self:  check out samp; review how Indian Corn could be planted in April; only 30 plows in all of MA in 1636?  Wow.

And then, as I listened to Dr Patton talk about the meanings that people have assigned to the tree through its history, and I thought about Dr. Krag’s joyous attention to the details of her research, it started to become clear to me why I was here.  

It wasn’t really about the tree, although it’s a very nice old tree; but about what the tree symbolizes for us.  It’s about longevity, the miracle that extends its life hundreds of years beyond expectancy; its ability to survive the harsh winters of New England and the meanness and neglect of man.  It’s connection to a family; after all I was there with sister who grew up with the same fruit trees as me; and four generations of Endicotts showed up to share our celebration.  The pear tree’s beauty owes a lot to its simplicity of purpose, extrapolated against the messy, transportation centric shopping district and waning marshlands.   Dr. Krag talked about the pear tree that was historically planted near the back door for luck as well as convenience, what it would have meant to a family; now it just exists to bear fruit; year after year after year.  Our brief attention was an example of how we sometimes look backward, to remember and preserve the best of ourselves. 

These are values that don’t get a lot of air time in our society, but they live on like the pear tree behind the parking lot.  In New England and in us.

For a more prosaic version of the evening, see the follwing link:  “Just the Facts, mam…”

San Francisco Bloomin Stuff

[oqeygallery id=4]I was in San Francisco last week at a big Information Security Conference.  What I learned is that between the movement of applications to “the cloud” and the proliferation of different kinds of personal, mobile devices, we are losing what little control we had over information security in the corporate environment.  But former President Bill Clinton closed the conference saying we must be optimistic.  What choice do we have?  It rained every day but I did get in a walk and snapped some pictures that bring out the optimism in me. 

The first shot was from my hotel room window.  Some shots of winter flowers near the convention center follow.  The last are from a walk to Fisherman’s warf.  Does anyone know what the blue succulents are in shots five and six?  They really work well mixed with the greens.

You can see my cable car trip home on YouTube.


Parc Floral, Orleans France

[wpvideo tO4B4taw]I found this park on one of my first visits to France. My early research had advised me that the Loire Valley was the place to visit for garden interest.  Although it doesn’t have the history of Monet’s Garden or Villandry, what it does have is this well-loved feeling and such a variety of beautiful plants and special-purpose gardens that it’s always worth a visit.  Ironically, the rose garden, a semi-ampitheatre around a large reflecting pond, was one of the best I’d ever seen on my first trip — no camera.  By the time I started recording my journeys they decided that drainage was an issue there and were reworking that area to improve it. 

Orleans is a short distance from Paris and it makes a great starting or return point for a car-based visit to greater France.  The Mecure near the center of Orleans is a favorite of mine, especially when I’m ready for the air conditioned, large room hotel experience.  I’d spent a week in Saumur at what was supposed to be an exclusive and historic B & B.  The new owner stuck me in a badly furnished attick room up three flights of stairs (because a bus was coming (no bus came)), wouldn’t let me use the pool (problems with the permit and could use it but it could destroy his business), and wouldn’t let me into my room between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm (everybody knows that’s how it’s done).  It was near 100 deg F most days and the attic didn’t cool down well at night.  I gave up, and to my host’s great displeasure moved to the Mecure for the last few days and sunk into the luxury of air conditioning and dinner by the pool.

Rosarie du Val-de-Marne, l’Hay les Roses

[oqeygallery id=5]The archetypical rose garden, designed in the late 1800s by a Parisian businessman, Jules Gravereaux, who loved roses and Edouard Andre, a garden architect; this garden is a return to the structured, symetrical forms of the classical french garden, but on a smaller and more intimate scale.  Although it’s large for its purpose.  It was designed to display a single type of plant, the rose.  The genius of both the rosier and the garden architect are exhibited in the breathtaking use of roses to provde structure to the garden.  Roses form pillars of color fifteen feet in diameter and as tall as a house.  Roses cling to trellises and fences and swags of chan between the taller features.  Roses provide the colors of the rainbow on walls and are shaped over domes and arbors to provide delightfully scented shady places on hot June days.  Both the history and the beauty of the rose are celebrated here.

I discovered two of my favorite climbers there.  Veichenblau is an unusually shaped, small, purple/blue once-bloomer that shows off its colors in large clusters.  City of York is a simple, classic white rose but I can find it in any rose garden by its wonderful scent.

Although it’s in a nearby suburb, not Paris itself, you can take public transportation from central Paris.  You can use the RATP trip planner to plan your trip to the nearby suburb of l’Hay les Roses, Bus Stop: Sous-Prefecture-Eglise.  The bus stops right across from the entrance to the park. 

A word about venturing out of central Paris; there will be fewer people who speak any English.  Go armed with maps and visuals if you don’t speak any French.  You can print out the informaton for the buses at the RATP site, for example.  And I found it took me longer than the trip information said. On transfers, just about the time that I figured out which bus I should take it was pulling out and I had to wait for the next one.  But it’s really fun to watch the bus drivers navigate those huge city buses through the tiny streets.

Bagatelle (and Bolivian bimbos in the Bois de Boulogne)

[wpvideo mUbud6D0]More Paris gardens for my one follower <smile>  It was very hard to choose from all of my Bagatelle photos on a trip in June of ’03 but not hard to pick what to pull from my trip journal.  It still makes me laugh.

Also found the way not to go to Bagatelle.  I can read a map and I picked out the way to Bagatelle from La Muette, walking over the peripheric and through the Bois de Boulonge, a larger green space in which Bagatelle is located.  I had read that in the evenings the Bois can turn into a red light zone but it was 2:30 in the afternoon when I started out, map and notes in hand. 

First I was not sure if the road I was on would actually take me over the peripheric, but after having made my way over both entrance and exits, I felt more confident that I could find my way.  I walked, and I walked.  The usual French consistency about road signs was consistently non-existent.  I saw sign after sign for the most expensive restaurant in Paris, located in the Bois de Boulougne but none for Bagatelle. 

When I turned onto the wide but heavily wooded Allée de la Reine Marguerite, I began to wonder just what a bad girl she had been.   There were women, or reasonable facsimiles thereof, and many, many men.  Cars were cruising and, unbelievably, slowing down to check me out. 

 I am not young; I am no longer what one would call pretty.  On a good day I may aspire to distinguished or attractive.  But frankly, when I am traveling I often do not give a damn (I am in the purple dress with a red hat time of life) and this day was one of those. There I was in my baggy black knit pants (really baggy as I’d worn them on the airplane and then for two days of sightseeing); a beat up straw hat; and a man’s big blue work shirt that I got from my computer job and love for the pockets.  And they were slowing down to check me out!  There were too many sleazy men and it did make me uncomfortable but at some point I was beyond that and started to have the impulse to laugh hysterically.  Trying to keep from giggling or laughing in someone’s face, I continued on.  No eye contact.  Absolutely no eye contact and no smiling!

And since I am really more worried about my backpack with camera and money inside than someone seriously testing my virtue, I also tried to be sure that anyone who passed me kept going and anyone who was faster than me was able to pass me easily.  But no eye contact.  Try that!

I failed with one poor man as I avoided his eyes when he approached and then made eye contact as I looked back to make sure that he wasn’t turning around.  Quick about face, pick up pace, try not to giggle.  So, finally, after 50 minutes of walking I found a sign, that directed me back the way I’d come but deeper into the woods.  In spite of my uncertainty, I saw families and couples, so I took the path.  And crossed a side path just as the same poor man was coming out of the woods on the path he had taken minutes ago.  He mumbled an uncertain bon jour and I once again moved my eyes quickly away.  What’s an honest woman to do?

One of my research sources said that Bois de Boulogne was a favorite place for working Bolivian transvestites.  I can attest to seeing and hearing things that made me think that source might be right but why Bolivians in the Bois de Boulogne, (other than it makes for lovely alliteration, especially if you throw in a bimbo.  Bolivian bimbos in the Bois de Boulogne)?  I think that it’s probably something that the tourist office would rather not discuss.  The source also implied that it was authentically French because the original owners of Bagatelle threw their lust around in the French Royal court.  That’s what he said, really.

 So I walked some more and finally found a gate for Bagatelle.  An hour of walking, history and current events thrown in for free.  And Bagatelle was everything the tourist books said it would be.  I took some pictures of roses but there are still other things that I want to see.  I will go again tomorrow but I think I will take a bus.

Be sure to allow plenty of time to visit the rest of the garden, beyond the roses that make it famous.  The “folies” and perspectives still show the influence of Thomas Blaikie, called the Capability Brown of France.  His fascinating life as a gardener to kings and princes spanned the period before and through the French Revolution.  You will see much more if you research the many stories about the garden before your visit.

More on Blaikie another time…

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

[cincopa A4BAWZ6JpeSB]  Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI.

Although I’m from Michigan, my deep appreciation for the role of public gardens blossomed after I moved to Massachusetts.  As I looked to combine garden visits with my regular trips home to family, people kept recommending this garden.  I visited with the family in October, 2009.  It was late enough in the season that we didn’t have high expectations  and we hadn’t even packed the stroller.  The fall colors, enhanced by plantings and landscaped effects were impressive and we wore out the grands, and the big folks who took turns carrying them.  Now I want to visit in summer.

Whenever I’m in Paris

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I heard myself saying that one day and it stopped me cold.  Born and raised to a barely middle class family in rural Michigan, I grew up thinking that one trip to Europe in my lifetime would be a lucky event, involving huge expense and sacrifices beyond my grasp.  In this lifetime, anyway.  The complete story of how I got to the day where I could offer travel advice with authority is too long for this post.  But it was culture, not gardens that I wanted to understand in my first visits to France.  Visits to public gardens were the means, not the end.  That didn’t last long.  There are people in the world who value the contributions of long dead gardeners so much that they preserve their work through history.  Lots and lots of them at great expense and, no doubt, the occasional sacrifice, maybe even sacrifice beyond my grasp.  Who knew?

So, of course, I did learn about the culture, and history became more than dates and times that I had to memorize to pass a test in school, and then those became the means to help me more deeply appreciate the hundreds of public gardens that preserve culture and history in color and transformed light. 

When I started this blog in winter, I promised myself that I’d spend the dark days of January and February  sharing some of these treasures, both in Europe and in the US, with you. 

More soon…