Category Archives: Garden travel and tours

Steven Desmond Gardens of the Italian Lakes – book review by Tom Turner

gardens Italian lakes

Marianne Majerus’ photographs of the gardens of the Italian lakes are delightful

The Italian Lakes are a fantastic place for gardens, comparable with Kashmir. They have great scenery, wonderful light, a terrific climate and extremely wealthy residents who have been building luxurious villas and gardens since Roman times. Though only a small proportion of the total, many villas and gardens are open for visits. Even better, you can travel to them by public ferries, which is so much better than driving long distances on exhausting roads. The book describes 17 gardens.
Of its type, this is a very good book. Readable, well-illustrated and and informative. If you are wondering about a visit to the gardens of the Italian lakes, this is the book to buy. The last chapter has maps and details of garden opening times ‘at the time of writing’. Garden owners do tend to be conservative about opening times but, in case they change, you can find links to the the garden websites below.
But what type of book is this? More than anything, it puts me in mind of a set of articles which might have been written for a glossy magazine. Steven Desmond, the author, ‘is a gardener’ who leads garden tours and ‘advises on the conservation of historic gardens and writes for Country Life.’
He is good on general chit-chat and sets the gardens in the context of the personalities and historical contexts in which the gardens were formed. The plants and planting are very well handled, picking out notable examples but keeping horticulture in balance with other considerations.
The things I miss in the book are garden plans and an art-historical account of the styles represented in the gardens. The terms Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque, Romantic etc are used but without any information either about their characteristics or about how they apply to gardens (see our Style Guide for further information on design styles and please contact us if you offer tours of the gardens of the Italian lakes to add to our Garden Tours section on Italy.

Gardens of the Italian Lakes by Steven Desmond was published by Frances Lincoln in May 2016



1 . ISOLA BELLA Open from late March to late October, daily 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
2. ISOLA MADRE The garden is open from late March to late October, daily 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
3. VILLA TARANTO The garden is open from late March to the end of October, daily 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.; during October, the garden closes at 4 p.m.
5. VILLA DELLA PORTA Bozzolo The garden is open from March to November, from Wednesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm
6. VILLA CICOGNA MAZZONI The garden is open for guided visits on Sundays and public holidays from April to October, 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon, and 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
7. VILLA PALLAVICINO The garden is open from mid-March to the end of October, daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the last entry at 5 p.m.
8. ALPINIA The garden is open from mid-April to mid-October, daily 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
9. BOTANIC GARDEN OF THE BRISSAGO ISLANDS The garden is open from late March to late October, daily 9am to 6pm.


10. VILLA MELZI The garden is open from late March to the end of October, daily 9.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
11. VILLA CARLOTTA The garden is open from early April to mid-October, daily 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (the ticket office closes at 6 p.m)
12. VILLA DEL BALBIANELLO The garden is open from mid-March to mid-November, daily except Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with last entry at 5.15 p.m.
13. VILLA SOMMI PICENARDI The garden is open by prior arrangement
14. VILLA SERBELLONI Tours are available from mid-March to the end of October, daily except Mondays, at 11 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. I POI-points-ofinterest/villa-serbelloni-garden
15. VILLA CIPRESSI Access to the hotel garden by ticket from reception:
16. VILLA MONASTERO The garden is open from March to the end of October, daily 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
17. VILLA D’ESTE The garden can be visited by arrangement with the hotel:

Most of the gardens are beside the lakes and easily accessible by ferry

Most of the gardens are beside the lakes and easily accessible by ferry

Cotswold Garden Tour of Hidcote, Highgrove and private gardens

Chipping Campden garden tour

Chipping Campden is a ‘garden town’ in the Cotswolds

Chipping Campden is a small market town in the Cotswolds, described as ‘the most beautiful village street now left on the island’ (G.M. Trevelyan English social history, 1944). The Cotswolds is an area of gently rolling hills famous for its sleepy villages, fine gardens and concentrated ‘Englishness’. The June tour from Cotswold Walks starts with 3 days visiting its private gardens. They are open (for charity) only for a week in June. After that the guests move to another Cotswold town (Barnsley, Bibury or Cirencester) for visits to other gardens, including:

Hidcote Manor  was designed and created by an American, Major Lawrence Johnston and examplifies the Arts and Crafts style of garden design with well-designed  garden rooms and linking spaces.

Rockcliffe garden was designed by its owner, Emma Keswick and her taste shines through the the design.

Temple Guiting Manor garden was designed by a well-known designer at the Chelsea Flower Show, Jinny Blom

Barnsley House Garden was owned and designed by Rosemary Verey

Highgrove is the country home of HRH Prince of Wales. He has had a remarkable success as owner, patron, designer and part-time gardener.

Asthall Manor garden is owned and designed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who also help Prince Charles with the design of Highgrove.

Chelsea Flower Show, Sissinghurst, Wisley and Tatton Park Garden Tour

England is rightly famed as ‘the garden country’ and it would be a pity, surely, to visit England without seeing some of its gardens. So we recommend a 3-day classic gardens tour which includes visits to Chelsea, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, the RHS Wisley Garden and Tatton Park.

Chelsea Flower Show garden tour

Chelsea Flower Show Garden Tour

Chelsea Flower Show Garden Tour

The three main reasons for visiting the Chelsea Flower Show:

  • to see the show of flowers in the great tent
  • to see the show gardens which surround the great tent
  • garden-related shopping

The show is international. Flowers, products and garden designers come from around the world. So do the visitors. The demand for tickets is high and unless you buy a ticket long in advance of the show, or try your luck with ticket touts, there is little chance of getting in.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Castle Garden is, quite simply, the most famous garden in England. This is partly on account of its high design quality and partly because of the fame of its creators: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson.

Wisley RHS Garden Tour

RHS Wisley Garden Tour

RHS Wisley Garden Tour

RHS Wisley is the home garden Royal Horticultural Society. It has a fantastic collection of flowering plants in every category: herbaceous plants, Alpine plants, flowering shrubs, trees – everything.

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden is set in a vast park designed by Lancelot Capability Brown. The garden has a Red Book by Humphry Repton and was largely designed by Joseph Paxton (who also designed the Crystal Palace in London) and was planned to give views of the Brown lake and deer park.

Bring the royal barge, Gloriana, to Greenwich

Gloriana royal barge

Bringing Gloriana to Greenwich is a great idea

As explained on the video about Greenwich Park, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were rowed from Whitehall Palace to Greenwich Palace in a royal barge. So keeping Gloriana in Greenwich is a really great idea. The Gloriana is a 94-foot-long (29 m) royal barge which was privately commissioned as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. The project to build Gloriana was initiated by Lord Sterling, who liked the idea of a waterborne tribute to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The Greenwich Park video has a short clip of the Gloriana passing some suburban houses. She would look much better traveling between Whitehall and Greenwich – preferably with wealthy tourists paying a fortune for each trip. It costs £2,800 for a ceremony in the London Eye. How about £10,000 for a couple of hours on Gloriana? I would see it as a contribution to London’s urban design.

Is Greenwich Park London’s most interesting Royal Park?

I think the answer is ‘yes’ – and it should certainly be included in London garden tours. For a start, it is the oldest of London’s Royal Parks. Greenwich has associations with the period in British history most loved by the BBC and English schools. Only the 1930s and ’40s rival the Tudors.
Greenwich was enclosed by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, who also built what became the Royal Palace of Placentia. Henry VIII was born here. So was his daughter, Elizabeth I. The design and the design history are also of great interest. Greenwich Park began as a late-medieval Hunting Park with an Early Renaissance garden. It was then influenced by the Baroque Style in the seventeenth century by the Serpentine style in the eighteenth century and by the Gardenesque Style in the nineteenth century. The green laser beam is a Post-Abstract twenty-first century addition – and a great idea. The designers who influenced the park include Inigo Jones, André Le Nôtre, John Evelyn Christopher Wren, Lancelot Brown and John Claudius Loudon.

Persian garden tour April and May 2014 Iran

iran_persia_garden_toursPersian Gardens have a 2500 years history. They overcome environmental constraints and manifest the cultures and beliefs of people living in an often-harsh climate. In collaboration with the Iranian Society of Landscape Professionals (ISLAP) offer a specialized tour and workshop called “Taste Paradise”. This is a unique opportunity for Landscape professionals, architects, botanists and Landscape historians to exchange information with Iranian specialist experts while visiting Persian Gardens. After our very first successful international tour and workshop “Taste Paradise I” in May 2013, The Cultural Landscape Association (CLA) is planning to offer another journeys (Taste Paradise II and III) for experts and professionals all around the globe, to visit and enjoy the cultural beauty of Persian Gardens. You can find More Information here:
The dates are:
Taste Paradise II: April 12-18, 2014
Taste Paradise III: May 03- 09, 2014
Further information on Garden Tours in Iran and on Iranian Gardens:

London Sightseeing – a cruise on a River Thames Boat

How do Londoners and tourists regard the river Thames? This video was taken on a London City Cruise and you can hear the waterman’s commentary. I guess he loves the river but, like  Joseph Conrad, sees it as being as much a place of darkness as a place of light – while also being a river of  greatness, cruelty and folly, a place where kings are cruel and greedy, where most architects are fools and where the people  remain cheerful, cynical and long-suffering. My view is that the river and its banks need enlightened planners, brilliant architects and imaginative landscape architects. That, and some money, could put London high in lists of the world’s top waterfront cities. The Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority (GLA) put their weight behind the 2012 Olympic Bid. They should now accept the challenge of getting near the top of these lists:

Great Waterfronts of the World
17 International Cities With Wonderful Waterfronts
World’s Top Waterfront Cities
Top 10 waterfront cities in the world

I do not know whether Joseph Conrad belonged to The Company of Watermen and Lightermen but he had many years experience as a seaman on the high seas, on the River Thames and in the West India Docks. I’m sure he would like to have London on these lists. He loved London, loved the Thames and lived in Tachbrook St, London SW1V 2NG. wins 2013 Award for Best Garden Tourism Website

We were delighted to receive the 2013 Website of the Year Award. It was one of the Canadian and International Awards handed out during the Garden Tourism Conference in Toronto, Canada. The Garden Tourism Awards are presented to organizations and individuals who have “distinguished themselves in the development and promotion of the garden experience as a tourism attraction. Recipients travelled from across North America and as far away as Japan, France, Portugal, Italy, and Australia”.
“It is an honor to be part of the international community that has established an awards program to recognize the invaluable contribution the world’s outstanding garden experiences make, not only in terms of environmentally friendly and sustainable tourism, but also in terms of the equally important intangible benefits that nature brings to the soul,” said Alexander Reford, Chair of the Canadian Garden Tourism Council as he handed out the Awards. Michel Gauthier, Conference Chair, closed the event by saying, “According to Richard Benfield, authorof ‘Garden Tourism’, more people visit gardens annually in the US than visit Disneyland and Disneyworld combined, and more than visit Las Vegas in any given year. Given those impressive statistics, we’re certainly on the right track as we recognize the country and the world’s finest garden experiences in this vibrant, thriving and rapidly growing segment of the international tourism market.” The inaugural Garden Tourism Awards were presented at the 2011 Garden Tourism Conference held in Toronto. To view past winners, visit: and click on the ‘media’ tab. In the spirit of highlighting Canada and the world’s most dynamic garden experiences and GardenTourism’s limitless potential, the Canadian Garden Tourism Council, in consultation with a Canadian and international jury network, proudly announce the 2013 recipients of the Garden Tourism Awards.

Garden tourism: 'Is London the World's Gardening Capital?'

I am a Londoner – and with understandable bias regard London as the capital city of world gardens, garden design and gardening. As argued in the above video, the reasons for this are both geographical and historical. Britain was emerging from the Pleistocene when horticultural techniques were devised (about 12,000 years ago) and they did not reach Britain until c3,800 BC. The art of making pleasure gardens came to London with the Romans, ended when they left and resumed when the Normans invaded England in 1066. Since then, there has been a steady advance in the popularity of gardening. Long may it continue! Britain is always likely to have a hard time competing with the Mediterranean countries for beach holidays – but it has very considerable opportunities for developing garden tourism. We were delighted to hear of the 2013 Garden Tourism Conference to be held in Toronto, Canada, in March – and have entered the Website in hopes of receiving an award in the Garden Tourism Website category. Further information on the London Gardens Walk – and free routemaps.

Shalimar Bagh Kashmir: historic garden conservation

As a generalisation, the condition of historic gardens in most countries is getting better. They enjoy more expert attention, more visitors and more resources. Shalimar Bagh in Kashmir is an exception. When I saw it in 2006, it did not seem to be in quite as good condition as when Susan Jellicoe (black and white photo above) photographed it c1970. And when I saw it again in 2012 (colour photo, above) it seemed in even worse condition. Oddly, there were also far more visitors than in 2006. Does anyone know what the problem is? Lack of money? Lack of will? A concern for the bugs which enjoy rotting timber? A lack of concern for India’s Islamic heritage?

Make it extraordinary

What makes the setting of a town extraordinary? What makes a development extraordinary? What makes a garden extraordinary?

Is it the subtlety of colour? Is it the unexpected? Strong formal qualities? A sense of fun? Or a location to die for?

Or the delight of the whimsical? Or recognition of the familiar?

Just what is the X-factor that makes a design extraordinary?

Impressive gardens: revisiting the Golden Age in America

‘The Golden Age of American Gardens’ begins “In the 1880s America’s millionaires were looking for new ways to display their new wealth, and the acquisition of a grand house with an equally grand garden became their passion.”

It is said that the style of architecture and gardens, evidenced in Lila Vanderbilt Webb’s 1886 model agricultural farm Shelburne Farm (among others) “was a mix of eclecticism and the latest advances in artistic and cultural developments as promoted in popular English style books and periodicals of the time.” The tubbed bay trees on the terraces overlooking Lake Champlain, as a consequence, were said to have been climatically challenged!

The Golden Age ended with the Jazz Age in which a distinctly American sensibility in gardens and lifestyle emerged. European influences still dominated design ideas, but new approaches were gradually emerging as is shown in the Chartes Cathedral Window Garden (photograph by Saxon Holt shown above), one of three walled gardens on the estate.

Filoli, the home of shipping heiress Lurline Roth, whose daughter debuted to jazz strains in 1939 at the property, maintains a strong jazz tradition.

Perhaps she danced to the classic‘I wish I could shimmy like my sister Kate’, said to be a charleston/belly dance fusion, and which inspired The Beatles to release a song of the same name in 1962?

Monty Don on the best garden in the world: Ninfa?

Monty Don, in a recent TV series on the gardens of Italy, remarked that his friends know he has visited a lot of gardens and often ask him ‘What is the best garden in the world?’. So, while visiting Ninfa, he told us: ‘This is it’. I too have visited a lot of gardens and, though I could not name a ‘best garden’ have ventured a list of The World’s Top Ten Gardens. My list does not include Ninfa. Nor have I been there, but I would like Monty to be questioned or psychoanalysed to discover the reasons for his choice. My theory is that Monty Don is more interested in plants and planting than art and design. I like him as a presenter but despair of his garden history and regret his being such a gusher. Critics should be critical and, to be fair, he did visit Isola Bella to say ‘it’s kitch but I love it’.

Image courtesy sunshinecity

John Ruskin: picturesque tourism, poverty, love, life and sex

John Ruskin was one of the most brilliant writers of the nineteenth century. We all tread in his picturesque footsteps when exploring foreign cities and taking street photographs. But take care. Ruskin wrote that “Yesterday, I came on a poor little child lying flat on the pavement in Bologna – sleeping like a corpse – possibly from too litte food. I pulled up immediately – not in pity, but in delight at the folds of its poor little ragged chemise over the thin bosom – and gave the mother money – not in charity, but to keep the flies off it while I made a sketch. I don’t see how this it to be avoided, but it is very hardening.” Or was he a hard man? The beautiful Effie Gray (right) thought him oppressive. Her marriage to Ruskin was never consumated because, it is said, he knew of female beauty only from marble statues and was horrified to discover that real girls had pubic hair. Effie divorced Ruskin and had 8 children by his friend, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Sir John Everett Millais.

Above image of India courtesy Dey Alexander. Below drawing, by Ruskin, of Piazza Santa Maria del Pianto, Rome.

How green is my neighbourhood?

One of the unfortuneate consequences of the fight against urban sprawl, which has been largely taken up in the name of Jane Jacobs, is the loss of green space and the urban forests of many communities. They are disappearing in the manner environmentalists call ‘death by a thousand cuts’, that is (sometimes) slowly and incrementally.

Sherwood Forest is one of the old, upscale, districts of Detroit, ‘the city of Neighbourhoods’;

“Developers thought that the area should resemble an English village; thus, they selected appropriate English names and curved and winding streets. You will not find a rectangular street pattern here or in old English villages. There are about 435 homes, most of them built before the Depression terminated housing construction in the city. Many of them are Georgian Colonials or English Tudor homes in keeping with the English theme. Some of the homes are newer, having been constructed after building resumed in 1947. They are large, even by the standards of early 21st-century architecture since they average about 3,600 square feet with four to six bedrooms.”

In the adjacent suburb of Palmer Woods is the Dorothy Turkel House by Frank Lloyd Wright, which undoubtably also relies on its leafy surrounds for its ambience.

British biologist Professor Jeff Sayer in his lecture at James Cook University asked the apt conservation question, ‘Conserving the forests for whom?’

Museum Quality Gardens

A interesting garden typology which seems to be given more attention in recent times is the museum garden, such as the garden at Giverny ‘The Museum of Impressions’. The garden museum was conceived to give visitors an experience of the Seine valley on the impressionists trail and to complement the art gallery experience of viewing impressionist paintings. The museum building is described as “topped by roofs landscaped in heather…inscribed into the natural slope of the land, allowing the minimum of opague walls.”

For the garden traditionalist there is the Musee Rodin in Paris which captures something of the atmosphere of the outdoors indoors and has a an inspiring sculpture garden.

Perhaps an even more interesting possibility with this trend is the potential for the museum-in-the-garden. The museum of life and science in North Carolina demonstrates the potential of the museum outdoors.

Where better to experience and learn about art, physics and the natural world?

The view that changed the world and its gardens: what Petrarch saw from Mount Ventoux

View from the summit of Mount Ventoux

View from the summit of Mount Ventoux

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), known Petrarch is said to be the first man since antiquity to have climbed a mountain for pleasure alone. His ascent of Mount Ventoux, on April 26 1336, is described in his letter, below, and the view is shown in the photograph above (image courtesy Mark Madsen). The results of this famous climb include (1) humanism (2) renaissance literature and science (3) a re-birth of mimesis as the dominant theory of art and as a zest to ‘imitate nature’ (4) the change from inward-looking medieval gardens to outward-looming renaissance, baroque and romantic gardens (5) the tourist industry – Petrarch is known as the first tourist, in the sense of a man who travels for the pleasure of study, learning and views.
“To-day I made the ascent of the highest mountain in this region, which is not improperly called Ventosum [Mount Ventoux]. My only motive was the wish to see what so great an elevation had to offer. I have had the expedition in mind for many years; for, as you know, I have lived in this region from infancy, having been cast here by that fate which determines the affairs of men. Consequently the mountain, which is visible from a great distance, was ever before my eyes, and I conceived the plan of some time doing what I have at last accomplished to-day. The idea took hold upon me with especial force when, in re-reading Livy’s History of Rome, yesterday, I happened upon the place where Philip of Macedon, the same who waged war against the Romans, ascended Mount Haemus in Thessaly, from whose summit he was able, it is said, to see two seas, the Adriatic and the Euxine…. At first, owing to the unaccustomed quality of the air and the effect of the great sweep of view spread out before me, I stood like one dazed. I beheld the clouds under our feet, and what I had read of Athos and Olympus seemed less incredible as I myself witnessed the same things from a mountain of less fame. I turned my eyes toward Italy, whither my heart most inclined. The Alps, rugged and snow-capped, seemed to rise close by, although they were really at a great distance; the very same Alps through which that fierce enemy of the Roman name once made his way, bursting the rocks, if we may believe the report, by the application of vinegar. I sighed, I must confess, for the skies of Italy, which I beheld rather with my mind than with my eyes. An inexpressible longing came over rne to see once more my friend and my country.
Happy the man who is skilled to understand
Nature’s hid causes; who beneath his feet
All terrors casts, and death’s relentless doom,
And the loud roar of greedy Acheron.

PS apologies for using the hackneyed ‘changed the world’ header for this post.

Sericourt – A Garden for Remembrance Sunday

The Yew Army at Sericourt

The Yew Army at Sericourt

The title of Yve Gosse de Gorre’s book about his Jardin de Sericourt translates as ‘Wisdom and Folly in the Garden’. The garden lives up to the name and is filled with deep thinking leavened with humour.

Like Jencks’ Garden of Cosmic Speculation it is concerned with the meaning behind the form, but less about the nature of nature, and more about the nature of man.

In the classic French manner there is much use of box and topiary, but not only to provide the framework of the garden as you might traditionally expect – here the evergreen sculptures provide the form, the content, the rythmn and the meaning of the garden. There is one early ‘mixed border a l’anglaise’ created in the 1980’s, but after that the garden is an intricate grid of pathways and allees, rooms and vistas, all exploring a concept, and all inviting intervention and interpretation by the viewer. Charles Jencks garden was criticised last year for having become a ‘monologue’ instead of a ‘dialogue’, but Yve Gosse does not speak so much as open the pages of his book for the viewer to make up his own mind.


The Council of War at Sericourt

The Council of War at Sericourt

The Council of War – monumental, menacing or amusing?

The Millenium

The Millenium Cross

Please visit the Jardin Plume before it becomes over copied

the Bassin Mirroir and Orchard at the Jardin Plume

the Bassin Mirroir and Orchard at the Jardin Plume

I vividly remember my sense of injustice and disappointment when a university tutor dismissed the French Romantic poetry I was raving about as ‘cliché’. I had only just met it, and I thought it was wonderful. Please then, go to see this wonderful garden before it becomes cribbed, copied, and eventually clichéd. It is so new and so original, yet the formula is old, because this garden takes the best principles of the past and applies them in a strikingly modern way.

Sylvie and Patrick Quibel are hortics who built the garden to promote their nursery. Now the nursery funds the garden, and the garden has been voted Garden of the Year by Those That Know.

It is on flat ground in the middle of farm land in Normandy, a climate similar to ours in England, so plenty of scope for copying. The Quibels based the design on the principles used at Vaux le Vicomte by Le Notre (a design so successful that the Sun King jealously imprisoned the owner, stole the chateau, and got the designer to do him Versailles). There are grand allées, formal hedging and tightly clipped parterres. The house is raised above the land, and extra land is ‘borrowed’ by carrying the eye seamlessly into countryside beyond. There is a potager as purely ornamental as Marie Antoinette’s, a pool to reflect the heavens, and secluded spots for indulgent reverie. So far so déjà vue, but what makes the garden modern is the way all this is done.

The raising of the house is by one sole brick step, and that is the only new hard landscaping to be seen. The allées are wide paths in an orchard, mown between geometric squares filled with tall grasses and colourful perennials. Thus French formality is wittily contrasted with the billowing grasses which play so well to the wind swept site .The Quibels saw them as undulating and continued the metaphor by clipping the formal hedges into waves.

The parterre in front of the house is filled with the Summer garden – a jumble of hot colours and tall shapes including over 8 different types of Helenium – on close inspection each bed of the parterre has a side missing, ‘to let in the air’. This looks out onto the orchard, and beneath an enormous apple tree, the reflection pool, which is a simple square cut in place of one of the grass cubes in the orchard.

There are traditional box balls in the Spring garden, but there are over twenty of them, of varying sizes and interplanted with mainly whites such as hellebore and solomon’s seal, astrantia and pulmonaria, all brought alive with the lightest scattering of Molinia ‘Fontane’ dancing above.

The Autumn garden is hidden behind hedges on the west side of the house, and Patrick describes how they built the arbour as this is the best spot to enjoy an evening aperitif. In front of the arbour an enormous ‘table’ of box separates the diners from the crowd of ‘vivaces’, a brightly coloured jostling jungle of perennials, with annuals and grasses, mostly over six foot tall. The Quibels site Dixter as an influence, and like Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garrett they plant in associations. They will try out groupings in situ until they are happy with a combination, when they repeat it again and again, so that the result is harmonious, whilst looking natural. In the spring everything is cut to the ground, weeds removed and, like Dixter, self-seeders scrutinised and allowed tenancy where they enhance the original planting.

The arbour and box 'table' in the Autumn garden at Jardin Plume

The arbour and box 'table' in the Autumn garden at Jardin Plume

As nurserymen the Quibels were influenced by Priona in Holland, and they propagate a huge range of new perennial style plants such as Aster, Cimicifuga, Veronicastrum, Circium, Epilobium Sanguisorbas and Thalictrums and wonderful grasses including their own self seeded Miscanthus ‘saturnia’, a luminous white flowering possible love child of Miscanthus ‘Silver feather’ which is similar but heavier.

It is this mixture of formal and natural, control and laissée faire, old fashioned structure and twenty-first century planting that makes this garden special. It is a very sensual garden, crammed full of colours, scents and movement, and the French are very sensual about their plants. Nursery catalogues talk of finding the plants that have ‘seduced’ you in the gardens, and to overhear the eager replies to Patrick’s question ‘Do you want it?’ (vous le voulez?) in the nursery, you can see why.

The Quibels will be speaking at the Garden Museum on October 20th To visit the garden see

Patrick Quibel in le Jardin Plume

Patrick Quibel in le Jardin Plume

The sky's the limit


Vauxhall Sky gardens:

As garden-in-architecture skygardens are new to the urban design agenda. I suppose what we are talking about here when considering the introduction of skygardens into the garden and architecture typology is a form of greenhouse or biodome in the sky. Vauxhaull it would appear is a semi-private garden akin to the penthouse suite or the executive boardroom. While Fenchurch Street seems to promote public thoroughfare and viewing…even though it is not a podium space but rather akin to  garden- as- observation- deck.

Other projects are shown on  and but it will be even more interesting as the type gains popularity and skygardens become a more developed typology….

20 Fenchurch street: