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gardens

Romancing the tulip in the gardens at Keukenhof

Romancing the tulip in the gardens at Keukenhof

The show gardens of Keukenhof open March 22nd, 2018 and close again on May 13th. That’s barely eight weeks… but what an eight-week slot. Each year the gardens receive well over 1 million visitors in that short period of time. There can be few tourist attractions where visitor numbers are that high in just under two months. Keukenhof was not always a show garden. In the 15th century, the area was still a piece of untouched nature, used only for hunting and to gather herbs for the castle’s kitchen, which is where the name Keukenhof originally comes from. In 1857, during the Romantic Period, the current English landscape garden was created. In 1949 it was chosen as the location for a showcase for the bulb-growing industry. Every year the 7 million bulbs are planted according to a theme. In 2018 the…

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The Impressionists in Normandy

The Impressionists in Normandy

It was a visit to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hampton Court Flower Show that inspired me to visit Normandy. Among the show gardens was one celebrating the Impressionists in Normandy that included the best-known elements of Claude Monet’s Giverny garden. In my research, I soon discovered that the group of artists known as the Impressionists were attracted to Normandy. Impressionism was less about detail and realism in paintings and more about an accurate depiction of light and its changing qualities. This was best done outdoors where they could capture the transient effects of light on a subject. The Impressionists were among the first group of artists who took painting outside en plein air. The advent of the railways along the Seine Valley from Paris to the coast, the quality of the light and the variety of landscapes all contributed to…

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My top places to go to see cherry blossom

My top places to go to see cherry blossom

Cherry blossom is very transitory. The clouds of delicate flowers in all shades from white through pastel pinks to the gentle magentas are at their best for only a few days in spring. Wet and windy weather in boisterous March often ensures the season is short. Most often associated with the culture of Japan cherry blossom features in several Far Eastern cultures. To the Japanese, the blossom of the cherry tree is an important symbol. The flower’s brief appearance symbolises the transience, and fragility of life. The blooming season is celebrated with hanami, a family picnic under the blossom-laden branches in the many parks all over Japan. However, Japan is not the only place to see cherry blossoms en masse. As the list below shows there are some surprising places to see the mass of flowering cherry trees. Japan – Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto…

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Galicia in a Show Garden

Galicia in a Show Garden

When I was at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hampton Court Flower Show I overheard Joe Swift, gardener and TV presenter, speaking to camera and encouraging us to “…put a little horticulture into our holidays.” I always try to visit gardens wherever I go as I feel it not only helps understand the culture I am in but gives me ideas that can be re-visioned and relocated into my own garden. At this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show there is a section devoted to World Gardens. I went along on Press Day to preview one of these gardens in particular and to chat with the designer Rose McMonigall. Following the success of the 2016 show garden ‘The Route of the Camellia’ the Spanish Tourist Office and Turismo de Galicia decided to exhibit again in 2017. They commissioned the same…

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Holland: Springtime in the bulbfields

Holland: Springtime in the bulbfields

Spring has officially started. Time to visit the bulbfields in The Netherlands. The Bulbfields With millions of flowering bulbs in bloom the landscape of the ‘Bollenstreek’ is a kaleidoscope of eye-searing colour interspersed with a gentler palette of muted pastel shades. Add a windmill and you have a quintessential Dutch scene. Surprisingly, considering the tulips place in Dutch imagery, the bulbfields are a relatively small area south and west of Amsterdam. What they lack in size the make up for in impact. The flowering season is short; mid-Arch to mid-May which is about 8 weeks. While there are narcissi and hyacinths early on it is the tulips that provide the vast range of colours. These tend to follow the narcissi in the flowering cycle so the best time to visit is in the small window when their blooming season overlaps around…

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Keukenhof, home of the tulip

Keukenhof, home of the tulip

It was back in the early nineties when I first visited Keukenhof. The trip was my first as a fully fledged travel writer. That was back in the days before iPhones and iPads and laptops, if you had one, weighed as much as a slab of concrete. The other day I discovered the VHS video tape I was given of Keukenhof on that visit and I don’t have anything to play it on. Never mind I have a memory stick with their promotional video on it that fits in my pocket. I remember that visit like it was yesterday. The sweet smell of hyacinths was all pervading with a hint of narcissi notes every now and then. Stretching away to a small lake was a palate of eye-searing intense colour. Tulips of almost every colour imaginable, narcissi of all shades from white…

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Autumn visit to Exbury Gardens

Autumn visit to Exbury Gardens

Regular readers will know that I occasionally write about gardens and travel on this blog. Whenever I travel I try to visit at least one garden. Sometimes, as in the post on the Gardens of North Devon, I will visit several on one trip. It is often the case that the places near to us get forgotten or we don’t realise the hidden gems almost under our feet. I am guilty of always looking for new horizons and neglecting what is on my doorstep. In an effort to remedy this woeful state of affairs I arranged a visit to Exbury Gardens in the New Forest. Just a few miles from home they are noted for their woodland gardens and the reason I wanted to visit was to see the stunning autumn colours. As a photographer I really wanted a day of…

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