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Wow! I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post. I had good intentions of doing this religiously, staying disciplined, on target and on task. Ha! Why should blogging be any different than anything else in my life? Lately I’ve found it much more fun to read other blogs. There’s some very funny people out there. I feel like a bit of a stalker….you read one funny post, then you read the comments, and they’re funny too, so you link to one of the commenter’s blogs, and it’s funny, and so on and so on. You get to know some of the names, and you feel like you’re part of the group, but really, you’re just kinda spying. Oh well, it’s fun. Before you know it, your computer time is all gone and you haven’t even thought of a good excuse for not blogging. But I do have a good excuse, really I do. I wanted to blog about my garden, but my camera’s not working, so I can’t get any current pictures. My camera kicked the bucket on my recent holiday to France. My good friend lent me her spare camera while we were away, so I used that for the trip, but I still haven’t gotten around to getting the problem with my camera worked out. (I’ve been too busy reading other people’s blogs, for one thing.) So instead of doing a post about my garden, I’m going to do one about my trip. Oh yea, being on a two week trip is another excuse for not blogging.
Now, my trip to France was actually a garden tour! Yes, indeedy. I ran away from home with a girl friend, and left my hubby, boys and cats to fend for themselves. We went for two weeks on a tour arranged by Steve Whysall, a garden columnist for the Vancouver Sun. Steve and his lovely wife Loraine were the hosts on the trip, and it was fabulous. We saw many beautiful gardens, met a lot of nice people, sampled too many delicious pastries and too much ice cream, and washed everything down with a lot of wine.
The first garden we visited, on arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport, after an endless, crowded flight from Vancouver, with a two hour stop over in Calgary, and a long drive in Friday rush hour traffic in Paris, was Parc de Bagatelle. This is a park now owned by the City of Paris. I can’t remember too much of the story, because by this point we’d been up a very long time without sleep. We saw the sunrise over Greenland. This amazed me. Day meets night.
(Did you know that after 48 hours without sleep, your body releases a chemical similar to LSD?) The one thing I do remember, however, is that the chateau in this garden was built as a result of a bet. Marie-Antoinette (she of the “let them eat cake” fame) bet her brother in law, the Comte d’Artois (who bought the property in 1775), that the chateau he was planning on building (replacing the original, which had been torn down), could not be completed within three months. The Comte won the bet, completing the house in 63 days (or thereabouts, you know how french time works).
Before this new chateau was built, Bagatelle was a hunting and playground for the rich and famous of France (i.e. the Kings). The chateau and park barely escaped obliteration during the French Revolution. The City of Paris bought the garden in 1905 and entrusted its head gardener, Jean-Claude-Nicolas Forestier, with the restoration work. He set out to beautify the gardens without changing the harmony of the existing layout. He turned subsistence crops into beautiful displays of perennial flowers, and also designed the well-know Roserie de Bagatelle. It is in Bagatelle that classical concerts are often held, and the highlight of the year is in June, when the Rose Exhibition takes place, an international competition for new roses which has been held in the city of Paris every year since 1907.
In Bagatelle, the peonies were out in full force, and we rested on the benches that lined a lovely section of the garden that was filled to overflowing with all imaginable varieties. We snacked on yummy baguettes we had scored at a delightful Patisserie. We sat in the sun and felt the warmth on our pasty white Vancouver skin, and breathed in the most intoxicating air. Ah, simple pleasures are the best!
One side of the garden was lined by a very tall brick wall. It was here the climbing roses and clematis were trained up an amazing trellis. It was rose, after rose, after rose, each one a new favorite. A hot, sunny location, and these were all thriving.
The garden surrounding the pavilion was so picturesque. Beautifully groomed, with alliums blowing up everywhere.
Then we wandered into the formal rose garden. Here there were giant structures made out of rebar to support the climbing roses. (Of course this means I’m going to have scads of rebar sitting around my garage for the next five years waiting my attempts to copy same supports.) There were so many varieties, and everything was beautifully maintained. The building you see in the background is not actually the chateau (somehow I managed in my ignorance not to get any pictures of the actual chateau), but it might the the orangerie. Trust me, I’ve tried to research this further by Googling the garden and stuff, but most of the websites are in french, and Google Translate (much as I depend on it) basically makes a mess out of the translation, confusing me further. So, I might be making this up, but let’s say the orangerie is where they overwintered all the orange plants. It also would be a great place for a big party. One big room, lots of windows, overlooking a garden. Martha would definitely entertain here.
So there you have it. A new post filled with photos and semi-made up history. I never did find out what Marie and her brother-in-law wagered, but in a country where the guillotine was invented I’m thinking you don’t want to lose too many bets.
Saturday I was a bit of a bad girl. (If you’re picturing red bustiers, black fishnets and stilettos it’s not that bad, but hey, let’s humour me here!) I was all set to head out for a day of back-breaking, weed yanking, show no mercy pruning, and all round “let’s clean up this mess before it gets away on us again this year”gardening, but a friend called and wanted to go play. What the heck….it was one of those perfect Vancouver spring days that seem to be few and far between. The sun was bright, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, no cold breeze, and it was Easter weekend. Can you say “excuse”? Sure you can! So we decided to go visit an old haunt that we’ve neglected for far too long. One of this city’s hidden gems. VanDusen Gardens. Hooray! I knew I wanted to do a new blog post, and trust me, I knew there would be no shortage of garden porn on this trip. So camera in hand, we headed out for a great afternoon.
VanDusen Gardens is located in the middle of the city of Vancouver, but once you enter the garden, you feel like you’re a million miles away. The land was originally owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway. They rented it out to Shaughnessy Golf Course from 1911 until 1960, when Shaughnessy moved to a new location. The gardens opened to the public in August of 1975, and now this 55 acre space is home to over 255,000 plants from around the world. It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit the garden, there is always something amazing happening. They also have a charming restaurant called “Shaughnessy”, and a perfect little gift store, full of books and garden inspired goodies. The gift store opens onto a little patio area, where they have a small but inviting display of plants and other garden decor waiting for you to take home. (After paying, of course!) So the first stop of the day was to check out the offerings outside.
Once we headed out into the garden, there was no end to the surprises that awaited us. There were lots of areas where nothing much appeared to be happening, but there’ll be sights for us to see there on future visits. We did notice the hostas (cheesecake for slugs) ready to unfurl; big, high magnolia trees looking startling against the blue sky; beautiful ground coverings, such as the white trillium and fresh green clover patches accenting tall bamboo spikes. Some of the old, twisted vines (maybe wisteria?) looked interesting, and various types of Fritillaria were certainly glorious and just coming into bloom.
Seeing this beautiful garden certainly provided me with a refresher course in the delight that texture can bring to a garden scene. Even without colourful flowers, texture can create interest on its’ own. And of course we had to check out the maze. When our families were younger, my friend and I would come here with our husbands and kids for picnics. We would set out the quilts near the stream, where the young ‘uns were endlessly entertained by the running water, and by the mysteriousness of the maze. Needless to say, the kids loved the turtles as well, although I doubt the feeling was mutual. One was even out sunning itself, posing for my camera, so slow that even I could get a picture of it!
Winding down our tour of the garden, we were once again impressed with the height of the magnolias. Camellias then made an appearance, the perfection of their flowers nearing an end. Other trees in bloom sent out tiny snow showers with every hint of a breeze. Winding up back at the restaurant, I had to snap a close up of the sweet angel in the fountain. A little refreshment awaited us inside. What a perfect way to spend a sunny day on an Easter weekend. We’ll definitely not wait so long for a repeat visit!
See you again soon, my little cherub!