Gardening sketchbook

Apr 29

Giardino Bardini, Firenze, Italy

The Bardini Garden has an extraordinary view of the Florence skyilne: its 4 hectares of park between the left bank of Arno river, the Montecuccoli hill and the medieval walls. The garden was originally a loom of the Mozzi Villa (which is still now at the entrance of the garden) in 1700 it was enlarged and enriched with fountains with mosaics. In 19th century the garden was enlarged again in Victorian style. Now, after many years disagreement for the inheritance, the intervention of the Minister of Cultural Heritage, and five years of restoration, the garden has again its original look and rich array of foliage as well as a large baroque flight of steps and six fountains with mosaics, all of which have rose borders. In the green theatre you can admire a bed of azaleas or camellias in addition to many other different types of flowers. In the agricultural area, there are fruit trees, a tunnel of wisteria and a collection of hydrangeas.

Apr 27

Alhambra, Granada, Spain

The best and most famous late-medieval castle gardens in Europe stand on a fortified plateau, across a valley from the Generalife and surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains. Before reaching Spain, the Moors had seen and occupied Roman villas. Muhammad I (1230-72) made the Alhambra his palace and much of the work was done in the reigns of Yusuf I (1333-54) and Muhammad V (1354-91). The overall plan of the plateau resembles that of Hadrian’s Villa. In Arabic, Alhambra means Red Castle. Muhammad ibn-Yusuf ibn-Nash commissioned the garden. The Lion Fountain, from which the brilliant Court of the Lions takes its name, dates from the eleventh century. The Court of the Pool is ordered, beautifully proportioned and rich in Islamic detail. The palace windows frame views of the surrounding landscape, as though they were oriental minatures. The importance of the Alhambra in garden history cannot be over-stated: it is a distillation of the East Mediteranean tradition of garden-making; it is the prime example of garden design from the period; it is a great work of art which may have inspired the enclosed knot and parterre gardens of northern Europe; it is packed with visitors. Charles V added a renaissance palace (1527-68) with a marvellous circular courtyard. It was made because his young Portuguese wife disliked Moorish architecture, but it was unused for centuries and sits uneasily with the older structures. Authors become lyrical in the Alhambra and the father of American literature, Washington Irving, published a colourful account in 1832.

Apr 26

Butchart Gardens,  Brentwood Bay (Victoria), Canada

The Butchart Gardens is one of the world’s premier floral show gardens. Jennie Butchart began to shape this magnificent landscape in 1904. She established, in the style of the grand estates of the period, several distinct gardens to evoke a range of aesthetic experiences. An abandoned limestone quarry was transformed into the dramatic Sunken Garden, a reflection of the early 20th-century beautification movement and an exceptional achievement in Canadian gardening history. Through successive generations of the Butchart family, The Gardens has retained much of its original design, and continues the Victorian tradition of seasonally changing the outstanding floral displays.
The public area of The Butchart Gardens covers 22ha (55 acres) with much more, for the most part, “off stage.” Twenty-six greenhouses covering almost 2 acres, along with trial growing areas, a plant and a tree and shrub nursery help to keep The Gardens in prime viewing condition.

Apr 25

Gorbea 4 Atriums, Madrid, Spain

This 2007 project by Studio Urquijo-Kastner Landscape Architecture, was set in two inner courtyards of a 5 floor office building in Madrid. Two rectangular spaces of 20 x 11 m. (220 m2 each) to which the fully glazed offices overlook. These courtyards provide natural light to the workspaces but receive little sunlight or direct light. Ultimately these environments are deeply shaded and poorly ventilate. The available depth for planting being very shallow (50-60 cm approx.) didn’t help much either.
It had to be a garden with a very permanent and constant in time appearance, being so present in the heart of the building and therefore seen from all floors. The vision of it from the higher floors influenced the design and structure and so determined that the pattern should be recognizable from above. Several design alternatives were offered. Some based on more formal and geometric motifs but the one which was finally accepted had this organic and naturalistic look

Apr 24

Fort Saint Jean, Lyon, France

In Lyon, Fort St Jean hangs above a rocky outcrop on the left bank of the Saône river. The project, which accommodates the new school of public treasury, asserts the site’s great quality with very simple principles : “Landscape buildings” slip into the fortifications repeating the vocabulary of terraces, walls and glacis.
At the center of the fort, the Place d’Armes is a large mineral courtyard, paved with limestone, that federates all spaces. As a balcony over the city, the Mediterranean Garden opens this courtyard by framing views between a stratum of low evergreen shrubs and scented Mediterranean perennials.

Apr 23

Jardins de Géants, Lille, France

The Garden of Giants, situated in the centre of a dense urban environment, is a place for walking and for relaxing. The creation of the garden was entrusted to landscape gardeners from the Mutabilis workshop and to the architect Duncan Lewis. The garden is made up of three different areas: the “Parvis des Nuages”, the “Herbe des Géants” and the “Jardin des Sources”. In total, it extends over about 2 hectares and has more than 45 000 types of plants.

Apr 22

Sneak Peak, San Francisco, USA

Created by Ann Nichols, an avid plant lover with an exceptional eye, the garden is full of delightful surprises with treasures everywhere you look.

Apr 21

Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, Pedra da Guaratiba (Rio de Janeiro), Brasil

Beyond Grumari, the road winds through mangrove swamps and tropical forest. It’s an apt setting for the plantation-turned-museum where Brazil’s famous landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx is memorialized. Marx, the mind behind Rio’s swirling mosaic beachfront walkways and the Atêrro do Flamengo, was said to have “painted with plants,” and was the first designer to use Brazilian flora in his projects. More than 3,500 species—including some discovered by and named for Marx as well as many on the endangered list—flourish at this 100-acre estate. He grouped his plants not only according to their soil and light needs but also according to their shape and texture. Marx also liked to mix the modern with the traditional—a recurring theme throughout the property. The results are both whimsical and elegant. In 1985 he bequeathed the farm to the Brazilian government, though he remained here until his death in 1994. His house is now a cultural center full of his belongings, including collections of folk art. The grounds also contain his large ultramodern studio (he was a painter, too) and a small, restored colonial chapel dedicated to St. Anthony.

Apr 20

Parc del Laberint d’Horta, Barcellona, Spain

The ‘Parc’ is an historical garden in the Horta-Guinardó district in Barcelona, and the oldest of its kind in the city. Located in the former estate of the Desvalls family, next to the Collserola ridge, the park comprises an 18th century neoclassical garden and a 19th century romantic garden.
he parc, which extends over a surface of 9,1 hectares, is divided in two parts: the neoclassical garden and the romantic garden. All around the park there are numerous sculptures, some depicting motives of greek mythology and others with folk motives, as well as a number of fountains, springs and pools. The park gardens are surrounded by a large area of Mediterranean forest.

Apr 19

Levens Hall, Kendal, UK

There are ten wonderful acres of gardens at Levens Hall waiting to be explored and enjoyed. They include the unique collection of ancient and extraordinary topiary characters sculpted from box and yew. They rise up from a spectacular seasonal underplanting populated with an ever-changing range of over thirty thousand flowers. Further on, beyond the romantic old orchard and separated by the great beech hedges, lie the magnificent herbaceous borders. These are traditionally double in format and are amongst the finest to be found in England. There are also wall borders, vegetable and herb gardens, a rose garden, fountain garden, fine lawns, wildflower meadows, a willow labyrinth and much, much more.