Tag Archives: Travel

A Stroll through French Gardens

Paris has often been referred to as the “city of lights” but it could very well deserve the title “city of gardens.”   From the much visited Jardin du Luxembourg to the understated elegance of UNESCO’s Japanese Gardens, the city of Paris displays a very versatile green thumb.

jardin_de_luxembourg - © Vit Kovalcik - Fotolia.com

The Jardin de Luxembourg is one of Paris’ most visited parks. It is located in the 6th Arrondissement (Metro stop: Odeon; RER: Luxeumborg). Created in the 1600s, it was not open to the public until the 19th century. The garden was a favorite haunt of the then starving writer Ernest Hemingway not only because of its beauty but because it was known for its extremely well fed pigeons.  More than a few ended up on his dinner table during his leaner years.

The gardens follow the classic French tradition of being formally laid out with plants and trees set out in precise patterns.  There is a central water feature leading up to the Medici Fountain, named after the garden’s founder Marie de Medicis, widow of Henry IV.  Urns and statuary, many on pedestals, frame the walkways on either side of the water basin. The garden is both adult and kid friendly. Children are encouraged to sail toy boats on the water, take pony rides and watch puppet shows.

The most famous sculpture sits at the southern tip of the Jardin du Luxembourg in a part also known as the Jardin Marco Polo.  The “Fountain of the Observatory” or “Fountain of the Four Corners of the World” is an elaborate structure that combined the talents of four artists in its creation.  The bronze fountain features the carved pedestal by Louis Vuillemot, the globe and its zodiac designed equator from Pierre Legrain and the horses, fish and turtles by Emmanuel Fremiet. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux crafted the four nude ladies.

Now we travel from the beautifully elaborate to the simplistically divine. UNESCO’s Japanese Gardens are located at the United Nations’ headquarters in the 7th Arrondissement (METRO stop: Segur/Ecole Militaire).  The gardens were designed in 1958 by Isamu Nogushi and are known as the “Garden of Peace.”  Refurbished in 1999 -2000 by Toemon Sano who stayed true to the original layout, the gardens cover 1,700 square metres. The garden features cherry and plum trees, bamboo, magnolias, a pond and stream and a sunken centre garden area done in the dry Karesausui traditional form.

Other countries are represented by gifts or with memorials within the garden. The Canadian government made a gift of a bench carved from one giant cedar tree from British Columbia.  Recently an olive tree was planted as part of memorial to Yitzak Rabin, the assassinated prime minister of Israel. One of the garden’s treasures is a carved angel’s head that was brought over from Nagasaki, Japan.  It survived the atomic bomb dropped in 1945.

These are but two of the many green spaces found throughout Paris. It is fitting that a city so vibrant, so alive and so culturally diverse should show equal diversity in the design of its gardens.  They are inviting locales for impromptu picnics, rendezvous with smiling lovers or just getting out and taking a walk in the sun. Parisians enjoy their open spaces and visitors are encouraged to join them.

Rikugien – Garden of Waka

The word “waka” translates into “Japanese poem.” The term dates back to the Heian period (794 to 1185) when Japanese culture was being heavily influenced by Chinese traditions, such as Buddhism and Taoism. Poetry and literature were respected art forms during this period. Purists of the time came up with the word waka to describe poetry written in Japanese by Japanese artists. This was to distinguish these 31 syllable texts from the same style verse Japanese poets were writing in the Chinese language.

The Rikugien Garden in Tokyo was constructed during the Edo period (1603 to 1868). This was the time when the Tokugawa shogunate was in power and when the mistrust of outsiders was at its peak. The first shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu saw the value of foreign trade and did indeed encourage it. But he did have a fear of foreigners, their customs and religions and set about turning Japan into a closed society.

The fifth shogun of the Edo period, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi gave permission for the construction of Rikugien Garden. Built by Yanagisaw Yoshiyasu, a daimyo, or territorial lord under the shogun, construction began in 1695. The gardens were designed to emulate the original six forms of waka poetry.

The gardens opened in 1702 and originally featured 88 landscaped scenes taken from actual poems. After Yoshiyasu died in 1714, the garden was largely forgotten until 1877 when it was purchased by the founder of the Mitsubishi Corporation, Iwasaki Yataro, who revived 18 of those scenes. Today it is the property of the city of Tokyo, Japan.

Visitors pass through the Naitei-Daimon gate and are greeted by a large cherry tree, which in season sports a cascade of pink blossoms. The pathway takes you to the Deshio-no-minato, a spot on the edge of the pond that gives you an overview of the garden including the islands in the middle. The two hills on the main island represent Izanagi and Izanami, man and woman, from the myth of Japan’s ancient origins. Another smaller island, made of strategically placed stones, is called Horaijima. It represents the home of the immortals.

As you follow the pathway around the pond, artfully placed azaleas and tiny bonsai trees seem to appear out of hidden pockets. Nearing the Tsutsuji-no-chaya teahouse, you find yourself standing in a grove of maples. In fall they will be clothed in bright reds, yellows and oranges. Take a walk through the Sasakani-no-michi, a pathway lined with greenery that is so narrow it is named for a spider’s web. Cross the Togetsukyo stone bridge, built in remembrance of a romantic poem about the moon, cranes and a rice paddy.

End your visit with a traditional tea ceremony at Takimi-no-chaya, another teahouse that sits next to a stream with cascading waterfalls, bonsai trees and stone lanterns. From here you can watch the Sleeping Dragon Rock and listen to the gentle flow of the waters.

The Chinese Venice of Suzhou

chinese-templesSuzhou is one of the most beautiful cities of China. Its the motherland of silk and one of the oldest traditional forms of Chinese opera – Kunqu, listed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO).

The city is located in the south of the province of Jiangsu and enjoys mild climate and beautiful nature. Marco Polo called Suzhou, this city of canals and gardens 85 km west of Shanghai, the “eastern Venice”. One Chinese proverb even says “There is heaven in the sky, and Suzhou on earth”. Its gardens appeared 2500 years ago and are still the best place to come to and enjoy the world as it is seen by Chinese poets, artists and men of wisdom. But for this they have to arrive there in advance, before crowds of people deprive the gardens of their calm charm. The city had about 250 gardens during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Nowadays there are about a hudred of them left, and only a few are opened for visitors.

Far from a distance the city impresses with its magnificent walls and gates, its ancient pagoda produces a fantastic impression as well. In the old times Suzhou was renowned as “the land of fish and rice”, and this patriarchal appearance is still characteristic for the city. The hubbub and laugh produced by local people is a typical Chinese “song”. There are several attractions not to be missed while staying in Suzhou.

Blue Wave Pavilion (Canglang Ting) is the only garden part of which is not fenced. Moreover, this is the oldest garden in Suzhou. It is filled with the atmosphere of wilderness, decorated with stone hillocks, artificial mounds and bamboo groves. The name of the garden derives from the name of the pavilion built here in 1044.

Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuozheng Yuan) is one of the largest and the most beautiful Chinese gardens. Its a magnificent ensemble, with water as its focus: the areas next to its ponds are covered with ornaments of summerhouses and pavilions, the ponds themselves are covered with islets, which can be reached by refined bridges and narrow stone dykes.

Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan) is dominated with a high rock, pavilions are rather big, and its main landmarks are the Yuanyang (mandarin duck) Hall and the luxurious Wufengxian Hall. The garden’s attractions are connected with a corridor 700 meters long. Hundreds of windows with patterned guards are overlooking the rocks, plants and water.

Master of the Nets Garden (Wang Shi Yuan) is Suzhou’s smallest garden. However, its small size is compensated with its elegant layout, which set a good example for other Chinese gardens. Names like the Hall of Captured Grace will help you get inspired with the atmosphere of calm contemplation which former owners created here. In summertime the garden is opened till late. It is illuminated with lanterns while musicians and dancers entertain visitors.

The nine-storied North Temple Pagoda (Beisi) was built in the end of the X century, then reconstructed several times. Visit the pagoda for unforgettable views over the city suburbs. Another city landmark – the leaning Yunyan Pagoda – can be found on the Tiger Hill (Huqiu). It is in fact taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Xuanmiao Guan, or the “Temple of Mystery” is thought to be one of the best local Taoist temples. Built in 276 AD, it was later demolished and rebuilt again. And, finally, a spot not to be missed is the Suzhou Market street, covered with restaurants, shops, stalls, theatres, snack bars, silk stores and confectioner’s.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Tatyana_Kogut

The apple pie of shrubs

dwarf korean lilac
dwarf korean lilac

When you choose a lilac you are planting a shrub that is part of our American heritage – some have even called the lilac the “apple pie of shrubs.” Thomas Jefferson planted lilacs at Monticello and lilacs greeted guests as they entered George Washington’s flower garden at Mount Vernon. Poet Walt Whitman’s elegy to Abraham Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” evokes an image of a lilac bush that may be familiar to many:

In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break

French and Dutch colonist first introduced lilacs to the United States, carrying them during their long journeys across the Atlantic Ocean. Lilacs soon found themselves all over North America, arriving by saddlebags and coach. Today there are over 2,000 named varieties of lilacs thanks to many industrious and passionate breeders all over the world. Our feature plant this week is the Dwarf Korean Lilac – the most useful of all the lilacs, and Alan’s favorite of all the shrubs we grow. It is easy to grow and maintain, making a beautiful and welcome addition to your garden.

The Dwarf Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri Pablibin)
The Dwarf Korean Lilacs’ parent, the Syringa meyeri, is named after Frank Meyer who discovered it in a garden in Beijing, China in 1909 and sent cuttings home to the United States. Many lilacs are offspring of the Syringa meyeri, but the palabin Dwarf Korean Lilac is the smallest and most delightful. The clean, dark green foliage provides the perfect backdrop for the exquisite powerfully fragrant, lavender pink florets that will cover the dense bush from head to toe. Expect it to bloom in May-June, with lighter rebloom in later summer and fall, extending the season and allowing you to enjoy its beauty and fragrance twice during the year. Foliage turns bright yellow in autumn.

Unlike other common lilacs, the Dwarf Korean Lilac blooms profusely at an early age and is not susceptible to powdery mildew. Expect it to grow four to five feet high and wide, the perfect size for a perennial border, foundation planting or shrub border foreground. No matter where the Dwarf Korean Lilac is planted in your garden, it is sure to be a standout year after year.

Planting and Care

The Dwarf Korean Lilac is one tough plant, a real survivor. Over ten years ago we planted some in wooden planter boxes that were fabricated over a black top parking lot in full sun. These planter boxes never get any supplemental water, only what mother nature provides. Every year the lilacs bloom profusely, hold their leaves all summer without browning, rebloom in the fall and never suffer any winter die back. After the drought of 2002, I expected the lilacs to be totally dead. When I drove by in the spring of 2003 they were in full bloom, just as they have been every year.

  • For best results, plant in early spring.
  • Lilacs require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Plant in good, well-drained soil.
  • Water regularly until established and during the summer.
  • Prune old blooms away immediately after flowering to encourage more blossoms.
  • Fertilize with Bulb-Tone at planting and again in the spring.

Butterfly Gardens

Austrian Gardens: Sachertortes, Butterflies and a Garden of Earthly Delights.

Vienna, Austria. Land of Mozart, of chocolate cake layered with apricot jam and decadent frosting and of leaping Lipizzaner stallions that almost seem to give the tale of Pegasus credence. But would one expect a greenhouse complemented by free flying butterflies and tropical vegetation in the heart of this multi-dimensional city?

Dating back to 1809 when Napoleon destroyed the bastions to make way for an Imperial Garden, the grounds have only been open to the public since 1919. Inside, the Mozart Memorial created by Victor Tilgner in 1896 holds a place of honour. Prior to World War II, when it was seriously damaged, the sculpture stood in Albertina Platz. After restoration, in 1953 it was moved to the Burggarten, which is what the gardens are known as today. Other statues of note are those of Emperor Franz Joseph I, and Emperor Francis I.

The Imperial Tropical Butterfly House or Schmetterlinghaus is located inside a 128 metre long greenhouse with foundations that date back to 1822. Part of the original city wall was incorporated into the structure. In 1901 the structure was replaced when the Jugendstil palmhouse was built by Friedrich Ohman. After a ten year refurbishment started in 1988, the building, now housing the Palmenhaus restaurant and the Imperial Tropical Butterfly House has become one of Vienna’s most popular attractions. Hundreds of free-flying butterflies flutter all around in a brilliantly created rain forest environment complete with waterfalls, hollow trees and tropical plants such as the Bird of Paradise and fragrant ginger. Step outside the greenhouse to an area near the restaurant and suddenly you are in a miniature Japanese tea garden, complete with koi pond and bamboo plantings. The Burggarten is only 200 meters from the opera house in the city center, easily reached by subway. The station to look for is Karlsplatz/Oper. If that little taste of Japanese tranquillity has you searching for more of the same, there is Setagaya Park to be explored. Located in the 19th District of Vienna and reachable by bus 10A or Tram 37, this park’s 4000 square metres was designed by Ken Nakajima in 1992. Vienna’s Dobling district shares Twin City status with the Setagaya district of Tokyo. Visitors are greeted by a poem set in stone and are encouraged to follow the pathways that wind through Japanese maples, ornamental cherry trees, azaleas, waterfalls and stone sculptures.

The grounds also feature a Japanese tea house and a stone lantern of the Yukimi style. As a gesture of respect for the elderly, who are cherished in Japanese culture, the gardens were located near a retirement home. From gardens created with the help of man we now go to those of the natural variety. Perhaps the Vienna Woods is not technically a garden, but it is 1,000 square kilometres of Alpine forest, vineyards and plant life all connected by a network of hiking and biking trails. The Vienna Woods stretch all the way from the north western edge of the city to the southern boundary.

If you are energetic, you can hike up one of Vienna’s landmark mountains, Kahlenberg or Leopoldberg and see this age old Austrian city from a different perspective. Just don’t forget to pack the chocolate layer Sachertorte in your picnic lunch.