Claude Monet’s Garden at Giverny

Visitors to Paris will see some splendid ‘grand avenue’ gardens which celebrate the status of France in the modern world and are quite spectacular.  But for those who like their gardens to be a more romantic experience, you cant go past a short train ride to Giverny, just 45 mins west of the capital.

Giverney Artful BulbsThese are the gardens of the great impressionist master, Claude Monet who lived here for 43 years and now attract over half a million visitors a year.

Its a place he was drawn to and found so much inspiration that he stayed the rest of his life here.  Monet once said “I am first and foremost a painter and a gardener, I’m not much use for anything else.”  Well, we all know what a great artist he was and now we know what a great gardener he was too.

Giverny Flower BedsThese gardens are his creation, though he did have some assistance, and are split into two parts by a road (which is a pity but doesn’t detract too much).

Monet's HouseThe charming pink and green shuttered house sits at the top of the property with sweeping views down across the semi-formal gardens that are intensely planted and chock full of areas of delight and colour.

Daffodil at GivernyThe gardener teams put a lot of effort into selecting the most Monet-reminiscent colours and also pay great attention to detail while retaining a very casual feel for a formal garden.

Monet's LakeA small tunnel takes the visitor under the road to the lake – probably one of the most famous pieces of water in the world, thanks to the great works of art that have been inspired here.

Monet's StreamA bubbling stream feeds the lake and plantings of bamboo provide a useful backdrop to keep the eye focussed within the garden grounds.  Again the plantings are intense and immaculate, always providing colour palettes to match the romantic nature of Monet’s work.

Monet's PansysFor those who like to know more about the man then the house is also open.  This provides a wonderful insight into life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in rural France and it is not difficult to imagine the gatherings of the ‘artistic elite’ who often met here to talk and exchange views.

Monet's Bedroom ViewMy only gripes would be the sound of traffic dissecting the garden now and again – and of course you do have to share these lovely grounds with a few other tourists.

See full Gardens of the World entry here.

Author: Bob Saunders (

Green Goddess – Ixia viridiflora

Ixia Viridiflora

Its a beauty isn’t it?  Delicate, unusual hues, but a certain energy in the shape and form.

Its common name is Green Ixia or Turquoise Ixia – I’d say its more a Duck Egg blue.

Easy to grow from bulbs that are generally available, yet this delightful, frost hardy spring flower isn’t all that common – which is a bit of a puzzle really.

Hence this blog entry – this is quite simply, a promotion for one of nature’s loveliest.

Ixia ViridifloraMore info here.

Author: Bob Saunders (

Patsy Durak’s Rose Garden

On a recent visit to Perth I was lucky enough to be recommended to visit a garden that will go down as one of the “Best Garden Days Out”.

Patsy Duraks Garden

The back garden of Kareela

This is not a huge tourist trap garden, but a specialist rose garden lovingly created and nurtured by Patsy Durak in the Gooseberry Hill region of the Perth Hills.

In 1988 she and her husband Ian Kirton bought Kareela, the old Archbishop of Perth’s house and promptly went about demolishing the existing garden to build a totally new one dedicated to roses.

Floribunda Rose Aspirin

Floribunda Rose Aspirin

They had such success that they then purchased the house over the road to extend the gardens even further.  Today Patsy looks after over 900 rose bushes spread over the two properties.  They include fabulous collections of Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, Climbers, Delbart and David Austin English roses.

Roses Radox And Carson

Floribunda Roses #1. Radox Bouquet #2. Violet Carson

Her dedication is apparent at every turn with all plants kept in tip-top condition – yet she manages to do this without spraying, just by being diligent in removing any signs of disease or infestation immediately and following best practice in garden hygiene.

Floribunda Rose Magic Fire

Floribunda Rose Magic Fire

She ensures all plants are promptly dead-headed (e.g. around 40cms worth removed) to minimise plant energy wastage, and regular fertilising plays a vital role as well in maintaining plant vitality – a healthy plant is less likely to succumb to infections or infestations.

Hybrid Tea Rose - Helmut Schmidt

Hybrid Tea Rose – Helmut Schmidt

Our visit was not perfectly timed, being at the end of one of the most scorching summers in recent memory, followed just days earlier by heavy rain and blustery winds – so the plants were not necessarily at their peak.  But if these blooms are considered a touch below par then I cannot imagine how good it would be to arrive on a perfect day.

David Austin English Rose Heritage

David Austin English Rose Heritage

Patsy donates a portion of the small entrance fee to the Cancer Council and in doing so has created excellent value for visitors.  There is a delightful shop at the entrance selling many of her unique products and she also serves wonderful Devonshire teas on the splendidly shady Old Colonial verandah.  But there’s also something extra useful you’ll not find in many open gardens – she has labelled most of the plants so if you like a rose you know what to look for in your local garden centre.

Patsy Duraks House

Devonshire teas served on the verandah.

The gardens are open every Sunday between 10am and 4:30pm from October through to May.  But she will, if possible, open up for you if you call in advance to request access on other days of the week.

Hybrid Tea Rose Lovers Meeting

Hybrid Tea Rose Lovers Meeting

The Perth Hills enjoy a mediterranean type climate which is ideal for growing roses due to the hot and dry summers.   But perhaps its the combination of ideal climate and dedicated gardener that makes Patsy’s garden such a delightful place to visit.

Grandiflora Rose Tournament Of Roses

Grandiflora Rose Tournament Of Roses

Here’s her website to help you plan your visit:-

Author: Bob Saunders (

Money Plant – Location, Location

Crassula ovata is a succulent plant native to South Africa but it has become a big favourite amongst the Chinese because it is reckoned to be very auspicious – in money, health and friendship.

Crassula OvataIt is commonly known as Jade Plant, Money Plant, Friendship Tree or Lucky Plant and is a popular ‘Gift’ plant due to these associations – but especially to bring financial benefit to the owner.

Crassula Ovata Money TreeThe concept is that if you plant one (or place one in a pot) by your front door then it will encourage money into your household.  

However the reverse comes into effect if you plant one by your backdoor (or have a potted one in the same location) – that then encourages money to flow out !

Money Tree FlowersWhether you buy into this or not, it is a great plant for pots or gardens, is almost indestructible and can take sun or shade in any quantities.  It also has flushes of delicate white flowers at least once a year, sometimes more if its happy (and when they appear good fortune is due for the owner at that time).

So my question to those who know is…… as the number eight is a powerful omen for prosperity, if you plant four on either side of the path approaching your front door, should you go out and buy a lottery ticket next day?

P.S. I am not superstitious but I have two, one on either side of my front door, simply because I like them – and yes I’ve had quite reasonable financial fortune since they have been there !


See more on how to grow and maintain the Money Plant here 

Author: Bob Saunders (

Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

Hortus-CurvesAmsterdam seems to be famous for many things . . with the exception of botanic gardens, yet ‘De Hortus’ was the world’s first, so I’m especially delighted to visit.

Hortus-Botanicus-AmsterdamIt is probably the smallest botanic garden I’ve ever been to, but at 1.2 hectares it remains a tranquil and refreshing oasis in the midst of a busy city, thanks largely to the curving layouts, always focusing the visitor inwards.  It also reeks of authenticity, probably because it is was originally scientifically motivated, though today aesthetics have been added that make it a delight to wander through.

Lily-PadsVarious glasshouses hold important collections of exotic species, including Agaave in the impressive Palm House and Butterflies and Cactus also have their own enclosures.

Tropical HouseAnd a three climate hot-house would have you believe you are somewhere near the equator rather than chilly northern Europe.

Palm-HouseOriginally created in 1638 as a medicinal herb garden to supply the local apothecaries and medics, this very centrally located garden has grown to now contain over 4,000 different plant species from all over the world.

Hortus-VenusThis was initially due to the connections with the Dutch East India Company which brought back untold botanical delights from far flung shores and needed some knowledgable people to nurture them.

The most famous case in point being the Coffea arabica plant.

Koffee-SignHaving built a lucrative trade in coffee beans with Arab traders the Dutch decided to cut out the middleman and grow their own, starting here in the De Hortus greenhouses, then exporting young plants to Batavia (Indoneisa) to grow large scale plantations.

The coffee craze was sweeping Europe and a gift of coffee bushes was made to Louis 14th of France who then exported cuttings to colonies in the Americas, where it eventually found its way down to Brazil.  The rest, as we say, is history.

CoffeeSo as we sit and enjoy our double-shot espresso in the elegantly imposing Orangery cafe, we remember that  it all started here at Hortus Botanicus, over 375 years ago, just outside the old walls of Amsterdam, on newly reclaimed land in the world’s first botanic garden.

As they say here . . “Dank U Well,” or thanks a lot.

P.S. the Dutch are also to be thanked for bringing so many natural delights to the world apart from coffee – like tulips, carrots and a plethora of shrubs, flowers and bulbs.

Author: Bob Saunders (

A Callistemon Worth Cultivating

Callistemon are very popular garden plants being easy to grow, producing wonderfully colourful blooms and they are also great at attracting birds.

Popular Callistemon

1. Callistemon citrinus Endeavour 2. Callistemon Anzac White 3. Callistemon Reeves Pink

They come in many colours though most tend to be shades of red.  Callistemon citrinus and Callistemon viminalis are the two main species that have helped established the plant as a garden favourite over the past 50 years.

Many cultivars have appeared in recent years including Calistemon viminalis ‘Little John’ which is prized for it’s compact form and lovely grey/green foliage.

There is one, however, that has not yet achieved great market acceptance yet deserves to due to its outstanding blooms of deep red with golden tips that appear throughout summer.

Callistemon PearsoniiCallistemon pearsonii is an absolute stunner, relatively easy to grow and it is quite hardy to drought and borderline tolerant of frosts.  The recently introduced cultivar ‘Rocky Rambler’ is more compact and low growing only reaching 30cms high by around a one metre spread, but still just as spectacular.

They go extremely well in borders and rockeries but take care (as with all natives) to keep phosorous rich fertilisers away.  A light sprinkling of blood and bone once a year is really all they need.

Click here for more information on this plant in the GardensOnline Plantfinder.

Author: Bob Saunders (

Australian Native Christmas Trees

As a native northern European I was brought up with fir trees at Christmas time.  Even though Prince Albert imported the idea from his native Germany to make him feel more at home with Queen Victoria in London, the Brits embraced the concept quickly.

Then because of Britain’s huge global influence at the time, the concept of decorated Christmas fir trees (Abies or Pinus) spread far and wide.

Now in the southern hemisphere we celebrate Christmas (which is also the summer solstice) with a symbol of German mid-winter. It is a notion that has always puzzled me as no matter where you are in the Southern part of the world, there are wonderful natives that are in full bloom – celebrating in their own way the height of the summer season.

Now I’m no Grinch – so people should do what they feel represents their roots best, but for me, here are two of my local favourites at the holiday season.

Ceratopetalum gummiferum

Ceratopetalum gummiferum – NSW Xmas Bush

The NSW Christmas Bush starts off with creamy coloured flowers in November that turn a bright red around Christmas time.  Early settlers cultivated it as it reminded them of the red berries of the English Holly and their homelands.  Admittedly it is a bit ordinary looking the rest of the year, but it is worth having one around just for the 4-6 weeks of glorious blossom as we approach high summer.

Corymbia ficifolia

Corymbia ficifolia – red flowering gum

The Red Flowering Gum on the other hand hasn’t been cultivated domestically so much in the past due to its unreliability of colour and size but is gaining in popularity now thanks to more compact and predictable varieties becoming available through hybridisation and grafting.

The Eucalyptus genus has had a rather tumultuous time recently being split into three groups, which still confuses many people brought up with the simple, all encompassing Eucalypt.

The wonderful Angophoras get their own genus, then some remain as Eucalypts while the rest become Corymbias.

Both Corymbias and Angophoras are terminal flowering – that means they hold their flowers at the end of the branches unlike other Eucalypts that produce flowers within the leaf canopy.  If the flowers are bright then they make an even more spectacular display if they are terminally located.  Most of the current offerings of Red Flowering Gums found in garden centres across Australia are a cross between the Corymbia ficifolia which originates from southwest WA with Corymbia ptychocarpa from northern Australia.

One way or another, these two spectacular flowering shrubs/trees herald the coming of summer, holidays, family fun and general good times – and that’s definitely something to celebrate.

Author: Bob Saunders (