Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Magnolia Plantation

September is not the best time to visit a magnolia plantation. 

But I was so glad we did.

The main flowering period for these plants is Spring or early Summer but since this was part of our holiday trek, and our only chance to visit, we went anyway. 
Just look at the size of the Magnolia grandiflora shown above. 

A bit of imagination was needed to visualise how the whole place would look in full bloom - and that would be stunning, given the size and age of the trees.

A plantation in the original sense of the word there were reminders of slave occupation everywhere.

But there were also plenty of lovely landscape views and sights, with Spanish moss romantically draped everywhere.

Bridges across swampland were not just functional

but beautifully constructed with an artist's eye for the surroundings and strong visual impact.

Not all pretty and peaceful though as in part of the grounds lurked water snakes and alligators in addition to the usual voracious mosquitoes. 

Must have been a tough place to live and work.

Some of the original barrels can still be seen, standing by the wharf waiting to be loaded with cotton and shipped down river to Charleston.

Since I have an inherent dislike of anything that slithers, or bites, I was so glad to get back to the boat in one piece! 

Apart from the bits the bitey things had.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Salem Massachusetts

This was another of our East Coast stopovers.

A delightful town but with an overly heavy emphasis for me on the 1692 Witches trials. 
There's more to Salem than this as it has a wonderful historical and sea faring past which seems to have been sidelined.

The town itself is pretty and compact and thanks to the help of the two lovely ladies of the Tourist board I managed to find two very different but gorgeous gardens to visit.

The first was Ropes Mansion garden.

How elegant does this 1727 building look?

Fronting the street with the garden primarily to the right and rear, the house was sadly closed when we visited (it is now a museum) but it was possible to get into the garden via a pergola to the right hand side. 

A classical formal layout greeted us with plenty of plant interest, some I had never seen before and still cannot identify.


Anyone any ideas?

But the real show stopper of the visit was the garden at the House of the Seven Gables.


Can you imagine sitting outside on a lovely summer's day with the backdrop of the whole of Salem harbour at your feet?

And what a joy to garden there. 

The kind of place you would choose to be for all eternity (provided tea and cake or a glass of good wine was thrown in too).

Loved the metal garden furniture which was thoughtfully placed around the garden so you could sit and just look - and I did.

These chairs and tables have a strong French influence but others, shown below, date from the late 1600's and were specially commissioned by the then owners.

Don't go expecting to see rare plants or horticultural supremacy but do go for the sheer delight of the vista and how the garden's traditional layout exudes charm and timelessness.

And the gardeners are happy to chat too! Well done them.

Definitely a place to visit........or re-visit.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Charleston South Carolina

Charleston is beautiful.

 Elegant buildings everywhere, some originally dating from the 18th Century and luckily spared from the devastation of the American Civil War.

Others more modern but with a sense of belonging.

Love the wrought iron work which is so in keeping with this Southern heritage.

Charleston oozes charm, character and history. 
I loved it.

Shame it rained (a lot) when I visited and the humidity was a real shock.

No wonder I had visions of mint juleps - a la Gone with the Wind, until I discovered the main ingredient is bourbon - Yuk!!

But the tiny town gardens made up for my disappointment and were truly  delightful. 

And I love snickets, alleys or ginnels depending on your origins. 
They just beg to be explored.

How romantic and mysterious do these look?

Take a walk down these back in time to long frocks and good old Southern ways.

So atmospheric. 

Or maybe I just got carried away?

Sunday, 22 November 2015

More of the High Line

So much of New York is overwhelming in terms of scale, noise and greyness.

The High Line addresses some of these issues and in doing so has had many effects on the surrounding area.

Not only providing a green and pleasant island in a sea of skyscrapers it has encouraged developers to re-purpose empty commercial buildings into residential properties. 

Any flats or apartments with a view of the Line are now very "des res". 

The flat dwellers themselves have "greened up" their own outside spaces which contrast sharply against the high rise backdrop. 

I loved the murals (or graffiti depending on your point of view) on surrounding buildings.

A rainbow of colours.

And anything which makes people smile has to be good.            

Another blast from the past but how lovely is this artwork. 


           And into the space age.

The way the whole of this linear space has been treated, retaining the historical link by clever division, use of materials and plants is brilliant.

Designated areas, secluded or mass seating just flow from one section to another. Genius.

The cafe area and local art market in a tunnel through one of the buildings.
There's a tangible buzz and an excited feel all along the Line.

But it's the trees, shrubs and plants which bring it all to life. 
They embellish and anchor the design with vibrancy, form, texture and colour and make it a "must visit" place.

So much of the High Line is simply magic. 

No self respecting tourist can ever claim to have seen New York without visiting here. 

It will stay in my heart for a long long time.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The High Line

Another New York stop was the High Line.


This is something I've wanted to see for ages. 
The fact that it was saved from demolition and turned into a hugely popular and publicly accessible facility is nothing short of amazing.
Probably the most unique above ground level park anywhere.

It's a redundant elevated freight line running between Gansevoort Street and 30th Street and has become, for me, one of New York's icons.

Raised section over 20th Street

Strange our taxi driver neither knew of it nor could he find it despite our precise directions!  
It stands around 30 feet above street level, is green, has trees and plants growing on it, with people walking and jogging along. 
Difficult to spot really!! 
Better believe the stories about NY taxi drivers!

The undeveloped section facing the River Hudson

 It's clearly visible from state highway 9A which runs parallel with the River Hudson, passes the Twin Towers memorial and leads to Battery Park. 
An interesting and lengthy journey!!

It's lush and dramatic and makes frequent nods to its rail heritage whilst incorporating art works, a market, drink and eateries, view points, an abundance of seating, a children's adventure area and an interactive Lego build. Wow!! All that and free access.

Look at the amount of detail in the loungers. 
The construction is reminiscent of the freight cars and don't you just love the bogie wheels! 
Within this short stretch of track you can position them wherever you like. 
With comfort clearly guaranteed.

Exuberant naturalisitc planting with all year round interest is a strength and works fantastically well.

The clear and knowledgeable hand of Piet Oudolf can easily be detected with many of his signature plants, but  blended here with some native American species too.

I loved this so much I even joined "Friends of the Highline" and treated myself to a book outlining the design, plant selection and specifications plus technical constraints encountered.

Just a work of art in itself and my kind of bedtime reading!!

This deserves at least one more post........so be warned!

Monday, 2 November 2015

From Old York to New York

I was recently lucky enough to have a trip to New York and an opportunity to visit a couple of gardens. 

In this first post, I want to share the delights of Paley Park.

Not what one would normally imagine a park to be but a very valuable public open space in overbuilt and overpowering midtown Manhattan. 

Almost at the 5th Avenue end of 53rd Street this is described as a pocket park and was designed and built in 1967. That it still exists and functions as a refuge from busy New York life is a testament to the success and ingenuity of the design.

The waterfall masks the traffic noise and urban hustle and bustle. 
The trees bring shade in summer and a more human scale to the buildings which surround it. 

The floorscape is interesting. 
From the street to the gates are modern flags. From then on in more traditional and timeless setts have been laid giving a feeling of longevity.

The park is essentially square, with a full time janitor/caretaker's hut on the left as you enter and a hugely popular cafe on the right. 

Meticulously clean, the space is inviting, calming and just wonderful.

Predominantly the colours are green or white.
Green, which is so restful on the eye and white, for a touch of brightness.

 Pots, planted to reflect the seasons provide additional splashes of colour and the white metal seats give an extra airy spacious feel to the space. 
And real birds!

Severe neck cricks from looking up to try and see the sky!  
What the photos cannot convey is the peaceful and tranquil feeling of this space. 

This is simply one of the best designed, most exquisite spaces I have ever visited. And tea (or coffee) on hand whenever you want it!!