2019, Gardens of the World, Uncategorized

Armchair Travellers’ Gardens: Eze- an exotic garden town on the French Riviera

img_0257

I am lucky enough to have seen some interesting gardens in my travels, and in 2019 am going to share one of them with you each month. So without further ado, let’s go to France!

Less than 6 miles  from Monaco, along the Middle Corniche, lies the town of Eze, one of the diamonds in the extravagantly bejeweled crown that is the French Riviera. Built on a cliff about 1400 feet above sea level around the ruins of an ancient château, Eze has a medieval section which  is comprised of tiny streets which are at most about 12 feet wide, and therefore, there are no cars. These streets rise steeply uphill and curve and split off from each other like a maze, with surprises around every corner: a café, a shop; a wall completely covered in blossoms, or a quiet, shady corner with a seat.  The slope of the streets makes for an unhurried climb, with time to notice these things and enjoy them at leisure (Unless, of course, you are a UPS man or a valet bringing luggage up to the luxury hotel at the top, both of whom I saw and felt rather sorry for!)

img_0255

Eze itself is like a well built garden, complete with patios, walls, and pergolas, and planted with trees and vines that we, here in New England, can only dream about growing. Bougainvillea and Plumbago foam from every opening, tropical vines scramble up walls, and olive trees have been trained against the walls so as not to impede the flow of foot traffic. Although it is now a town, you can see how it was once private property, and there is a distinctly home-like feeling to it. As a visitor, one feels quite at leisure to explore, discover, rest, and enjoy it all.

img_0260

For those with a sense of adventure and a head for heights, the climb up to the very top of the town to the Jardin Exotique d’Eze is a must. The view from the top, looking out over Monaco to the east, and Nice and the Côte d’Azur to the west, is stunning. The garden, created in the 1950’s by the designers of the Jardin Exotique de Monaco, is full of Cacti and Succulents from all over the world. There are collections of Agave, Aloe,Yucca, and Euphorbia, to name a few, and Cacti of every shape that you can imagine, including ones that look like they could be rather comfortable to sit on, until you get close enough to see their two inch spines.

img_0270

The Jardin d’Eze is a definite must if you are ever in that area of the world; bring your curiosity and comfortable shoes!

img_0279

2018, June 2018, Plant trivia

Mountain Laurel tricks

Mountain Laurel, or Kalmia latifolia, is an evergreen New England native that lights up the woodland border in late spring/early summer. Depending on the variety, they prefer part sun to shade, acid soil, and grow to be 3-8 feet tall, although most are in the 4-5 foot range. They are a lovely addition to the natural woodland margin garden, and need no more marketing than that. But did you know that they have a really clever mechanism for getting pollinated?

DSCN1745

Mountain Laurel flowers are cup shaped, and grow in clusters. The “cups” have tiny pockets arranged evenly around the inside, and as the stamens grow, their filaments (the stalk-like part) bend backwards, allowing their anthers (the part that holds the pollen) to tuck neatly into the pockets. When an unsuspecting bee lands in the middle of the flower, these spring-loaded stamens catapult towards it, hitting it with their anthers and depositing pollen on its back. They can fling their pollen almost 6 inches when this happens. And when the bee flies away, some of the filaments will even bend backwards again and tuck themselves back into place.

Although I don’t recommend doing this often because too much of it could harm the plant, try poking the center of a Mountain Laurel flower sometime when you see one. You will experience what happens to the bee as the anthers spring forward and deposit their pollen on your finger. Isn’t Nature remarkable?!

DSCN1740