Vizcaya Gardens, Miami

Vizcaya House and gardens stand as an oasis in Miami, away from the hustle and bustle of the city in Southern Florida. The name ‘Vizcaya’ traces back to a northern province in Spain which highlights the strong influence of European inspiration. This beautiful villa and estate was the winter home of the International Harvester Vice President, James Deering, and created between 1914 and 1916 to look like it had stood there for centuries.  Originally covering 180 acres including farm land Deering wanted his house to be designed in the style of the Italian Renaissance and French Baroque villas. The gardens were designed by Diego Suarez, a Colombian designer who trained in Florence and are one of the best examples in the USA of Italian garden design. They were adapted and manipulated to look Italian in design and form but planted using Miami’s subtropical plant species. Due to the garden’s location on Biscayne Bay, it is susceptible to high winds and storm surges during the hurricane season and mangroves surround the property offering protection. Inside the plants have been chosen to cope with salt spray, high humidity and wind damage. Limestone elements are used throughout the garden to create an aged feel which complements the planting design. Bromeliads spill out of stone urns and give a subtropical feel. Throughout the garden Italian influences from statuary, and water features are present that cascade and flow. In many areas plants have been clipped and trained neatly to resemble a formal presence next to the house. The orchidarium has recently been restored to its former 1917 design and showcases a beautiful display of seasonal flowering orchids. Visitors who arrived from the bay must have felt they were arriving in Venice and enjoyed taking tea in the teahouses in the warm winter subtropical climate.

 

 

Singapore Botanic Gardens

This historically globally renowned botanic garden became a UNESCO World heritage Site in 2015. It is the first tropical botanic garden to be awarded this prestigious award. Sir Stamford Raffles established the garden in 1822 at Fort Canning. In 1859 the present gardens were founded and laid out by the Agri Horticultural Society. In 1974 the gardens were handed to the British colonial government. Following on from this the gardens grew and developed with the great assistance of a few Kew trained botanists. Today the beautiful Gardens are owned and managed by the National Parks Board.  SBG has been instrumental in the greening and transformation of Singapore into a garden city. The garden consists of 183 acres and has a visitor pull of 4.4 million people a year. It is very famous for its orchid collection which has more than 450 species. In the 1920s, it spearheaded new techniques in raising orchids in aseptic media and founded a regional orchid breeding industry.  It is also a regional centre for plant science, research and conservation in South East Asia. It is well worth a visit and was named Asia’s top park by TripAdvisor in 2013.

 

DSC_0746 (1)

 

DSC_0622

The Thousand Bloom Mum

Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania grows the largest thousand bloom ‘mum’ of its kind outside of Asia.  It has more than 1,500 flowers blooming this year on one plant alone! Two mums are grown from vegetative cuttings to ensure the 1000 bloom mum target is reached. From a single stem it takes 17 months and more than 1,500 staff hours to nurture and train this plant into a perfect blooming dome. Out of the hundreds of Chrysanthemum cultivars only a few are suitable for this size of mum. Longwood use the variety Chrysanthemum xmorifolium ‘Susono-no-Tsuk’. Each month the plants are re-potted, pinched, tied and framed as required. Towards the last month before the mum goes on display in the conservatory final flower placement and selection is carried out and a custom-designed frame built to fit. Longwood’s Chrysanthemum Festival showcases more than 16,000 beautiful Chrysanthemums which is the largest display in the USA.

DSC_0846 (2)

Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York

Growing from its humble beginnings as an ash dump in the 1800’s this 52 acre garden has evolved to become the very best in urban greening, horticultural expertise and display. The garden’s core values are focused on education, sustainable practices and stewardship. It is leading in having a Children’s Garden established since 1914 where children are allowed to grow flowers, vegetables and herbs. Here they learn first-hand about growing and the natural world which surrounds them. There is a wonderful cherry esplanade that blooms in April every year attracting many visitors to experience the garden’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The Japanese hill and pond garden is one of the oldest and most visited outside of Japan. A spectacular sight it features wooden bridges, a viewing pavilion and Shinto shrine.  There are also impressive glasshouse pavilions which showcase plant species from around the world.

DSC_0334

DSC_0294 (2)

DSC_0261 (2)

DSC_0273 (2)

Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden

Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden is in the Cape of South Africa and was established in 1913 to preserve the country’s unique flora. It was one of the first botanic gardens in the world to have this conservation ethos. It has the dramatic backdrop of the slopes of Table Mountain behind it and it effectively blends a natural landscape with a manicured garden beautifully. The plantings change and develop throughout the garden. There are great combinations of agapanthus and sculptural natives. Many of the plants you will recognise and soon remember that this is their native homeland. The collection flows and has a wonderful naturalistic display as you move away from the buildings. It is a wonderful experience to see thickets of Protea and Strelitzia. Sunbirds flitter and dance throughout the garden. Panoramic views can be seen of the landscape as there are many dramatic view points throughout the garden. There are no boundaries towards the upper areas of the garden and here you can walk up the Skeleton Gorge. This route can be accessed to reach the top of Table Mountain and is popular with tourists and walkers.

10444548_10152428380998546_4160781578565800170_n

Chanticleer

This romantic and dreamy garden is wonderful to visit.  It is one of the most attractive and imaginative public gardens in America and a contemporary garden within a historic setting. It has 48 acres of rolling landscape, mature trees and a meandering creek. The famous Chanticleer house sits majestically over a sweeping landscape downwards to the west. The garden is divided into various garden rooms featuring different planting combinations and features and each area has its own unique microclimate. The garden design effectively  maximizes the potential of shaded and sunny locations by planting species that will grow best in each environment. Light is cast in different areas of the garden, vistas draw you in, and planting combinations both inspire and provide a relaxing oasis for the visitor.  The garden was originally established by Adolph G. Rosengarten who was the grandson of a German immigrant to America who founded a pharmaceutical business that became part of Merck & Co in 1927. The Rosengartens named their home after Chanticlere in Thackeray’s novel ‘The Newcomers’.  Chanticleer is also the French word for rooster and this theme runs throughout the property. More than 5,000 plants are currently documented and grown in the garden.

DSC_0873

DSC_0872

The chequered Snake Head’s Fritillary at Cricklade

The beautiful and enchanting snake head’s fritillary which emerges in April every year is one of Spring’s delights. Fritllaria meleagris is a bulbous plant that will put on a great show in your garden. In the Liliaceae family its delicate chequered blooms and its snake like markings explain how it got its name. The leaves are lance shaped with squared shaped bells for flowers that sit at the end of the elegant stems. They could be mistaken for being hand painted which supports how this flower through history has influenced art nouveau designers. William Morris used the fritillary in some of his famous fabrics and Charles Rennie Mackintosh made a painting of it in 1915. Vita Sackville West described it as ‘sullen and foreign looking, the snaky flower’ (The Land 1927).  Plant fritillaries in your garden in damp soil as typically in the wild they grow near a flood plain. Ideally always plant the bulbs in autumn or if you have not enough space why not try them in terracotta pots? If you want to see fritillaries en masse go to North Meadow at Cricklade which is an (SSSI) site in Gloucestershire.   Here you will see thousands growing in an unimproved lowland hay meadow which has been managed in the same way for the last 700 years. Due to modern farming techniques there are only 1000 hectares of unimproved lowland hay meadow remaining in the UK which makes it a very rare sight.