One of my favorite BBC shows is “As Time Goes By” w/ Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer playing Jean and Lionel. In the show, many a dilemma is smoothed over with the quintessential British option of a Gin & Tonic. I notice that bit because my cocktail of choice is a G & T. After all what else should a gardener drink? Gin is infused w/ botanicals such as juniper berries, lemon peel, almonds, cucumber, chamomile, angelica root, apple, coriander, leaves, fruits, and flowers, it is a liquid combination of the garden. I’ve been traveling in England for a few weeks and I was surprised to discover that Gin is having its moment of fame all over the cocktail and retail scape of the country. How else can you explain the varieties of gins for sale in the market?
When someone tells you a destination is “wonderful” or “beautiful” and how they “loved” a particular city, you never quite know what it will be like for you, so it was for me as I headed to Barcelona, Spain. I had heard great things about this unique city and in just a few days of my arrival, I loved it beyond words. It is a city by the sea with a climate that draws the people, both locals and tourists out of doors to enjoy life walking tree-lined streets such as the Ramblas, enjoying the cafes, admiring the ironwork railings of balconies, and decorative doorways.
Gardens are my happy place, a refuge from the news, traffic, noise, and security checks. I embrace the blooms, the design, the human touch on a patch of the planet. It is a piece of heaven right under my feet.
The Alhambra & Generalife Gardens Granada, Andalusia, Spain
The Alhambra, in Granada, Spain looms large in the history of gardens. Monty Don, host of the British program, Gardener’s World, says “the Islamic mind changed the way the whole of Europe gardens” and the evidence bears this out the more I learn about the Islamic paradise garden.
Some of the best views in the world are from a garden.
If you find yourself in Monte Carlo and you don’t expect to win enough at the famed Beaux Arts Casino to shop for a Rolls Royce while you are there, I have the perfect adventure for you. Take the #2 city bus up the mountain to the end of the line to the La Jardin Exotic Botanical Garden. Hanging off a promontory point, nearly 500’ above the bustling tourist sites down by the harbor, this garden will give you spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea, and the bay filled with yachts and sailboats. Gazing afar you can see Italy. Looking below, you see the lavishly landscaped rooftop gardens of the surrounding high-rise buildings.
Living in the wide open southwest I’m used to lots of space, wide streets and a spacious patch of earth to grow flowers, vegetables, and trees. Traveling this summer in Mediterranean cities I found an entirely different spatial atmosphere.
Monet wrote of his pond at Giverny,
“It took me a long time to understand my water lilies. I had planted them for the pure pleasure of it and I grew them without thinking of painting them…And then, all of a sudden, I had the revelation of the enchantment of my pond. I took up my palette. Since then I’ve had no other model.”Monet’s Water Lilies, Vivian Russell
Sitting on a Paris bench in May I was enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower. The beds of the park had been freshly dug exposing the rich dark soil and I knew colorful summer plants would be arriving soon. An elderly woman came walking through the grass pulling her shopping cart. She stopped at the flower bed. In the bright light of day she removed her red trowel and a plastic shopping bag. Bending over she began carefully filling the bag with fresh soil.
I became impatient listening to the tour guide explain 700 years of Spanish history. Already I calmly sat through a long bus ride from the port of Cadiz to Seville to get to the Royal Palace Gardens of Alcazar. I wanted only to see the garden. So. . . . I slipped away from our tour group.
Perhaps the very instant spring begins is that brief sunny moment when bare branches burst from bud to flower. Dormant limbs feeling the stir of seasonal change bud and swell with the news that winter is waning. Seemingly overnight the bleak branch canopy suddenly commands our attention as we notice the burst of flowers filling a tree. Flowers before leaves, before fruit and seed pods simply fascinate a gardener, who willingly rakes and sweeps the debris that follows the spectacular show of flowering trees.