Garden Adventures

Park Güell, Barcelona

Mr. Disney is going to be owing some serious royalties on the other side for “borrowing” such obvious inspiration from Gaudí.

Park Güell was named after its original owner Eusebi Güell, who commissioned Gaudí to design this wealthy estate property on Muntanya Pelada (bare mountain) in 1900. This highlight experience from a recent trip to Barcelona was a crescendo of innovative architecture and gardens all wrapped up the way it should be. Considering the context of time, and surprisingly fantastical, Park Grüell is the height of whimsy, creativity and wonder. From the building stock, to sculpture, to hardscaped paths and bridges set in the heart of a beautifully-designed garden park, perched high above the city, this is one special place.

The plan was to build some sixty houses on the development, along with common services for the residents: porter’s lodge, visitor reception, a large square, market, a chapel and a surveillance service. Nature was to play a prominent role, and the conditions established for building stipulated that each house could only occupy one-sixth of its plot; the garden would occupy the rest. Park Güell was a failure as a real estate venture, and only two of the sixty houses planned were actually built. Work stopped in 1914 and the residential area was never completed.

UNESCO declared it a Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1984. If you have the good fortune to turn up in the architecturally astounding city of Barcelona, Park Grüell is a must see. Here are a few memory snaps from my afternoon visit – enjoy.


The Porter’s Lodge at the gates of Park Güell.

Share Land, Share Life

A friend of mine, Armin Gottschling, had the idea that maybe someone might want to make use of the generous space in the backyard of his urban home to create a vegetable garden this summer. How things unfolded was actually quite remarkable, providing one of the most unique garden experiences of all my adventures so far. He contacted a local group online called the Newcomer Environmental Club, formed as part of a joint initiative between FutureWatch EDEP and Conservation Halton, connecting new communities in the area to their natural surroundings. The result was a bountiful harvest that was rewarding for all.


Kevyn Bashore’s Garden Sanctuary

Usually “Garden Adventures” are my garden adventures, but this time I’m featuring a Facebook friend, Kevyn Bashore’s garden project in Pennsylvania, designed as a tribute to his parents. I’ve only visited it virtually, but thought it made a great story of a garden being a gift of love and honour.

before and after

Harold Porter Garden (South Africa)

Not to be confused with Harry Potter, this is one of a country-wide network of nine botanical gardens administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute. It was founded in 1958 and is situated between the mountains and the sea in Betty’s Bay, within the Kolberg Biosphere Reserve, a floral hotspot in the heart of fynbos region. My visit took me there well after peek blooming season in their late summer/early fall, but the gardens and setting still provided an unforgettable experience. Our itinerary got shuffled leaving me short of time to visit the renown Kistenbosch Gardens near Cape Town and while quite disappointing, this provides a good reason for a second visit to South Africa.


Grande Provence Wine Estate (South Africa)

300 years of history, surrounded by 47 acres of lush vines, near the quaint village of Franschhoek, Grande Provence boasts being one of the top ten restaurants in South Africa. From our experience it should be in the top 3. A spectacular place to spend time and breathe in tranquility. We sat in the garden outside under umbrella’s eating the finest lunch you might imagine and admiring the stunning reality around us. The art collection and gallery shop featured many talented South African Artisans. Right near the place we stayed just outside Cape Town was a great discovery. Set up on the hill overlooking Table Mountain is DeGrendel. The dinner here was so exceptional we cancelled a night in Camps Bay and went back again. A remarkable dining experience and uniquely attractive estate.


Tokara Wine Estate (Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Established in 1994, Tokara is relatively new compared to many of its neighbouring wineries. The maturity of the property and presentation provides a fresh modern vision to the wine tradition of Stellenbosch. It’s named after the children of the owners, Tom and Kara. The estate, its buildings, art, vineyards and olive groves are right out of Architectural Digest. Great effort has been made to complement this spectacular setting in the mountainous Stellenbosch countryside.


Neethlingshof Wine Estate (Stellenbosch, South Africa)

An exceptional landscape demands nothing less than the best garden one might imagine and design. I recently had the privilege of visiting one of the most spectacular places on earth, South Africa. The wineries of Stellenbosch and Cape Town region rival the finest in Provence, Tuscany and Napa. Even if you’re not into wine, the dining, art, gardens, architecture and vistas are well worth the visit. I didn’t anticipate such beauty when we planned our wine tour. I can’t resist sharing some of the photos I took of these special places. Neethlingshof Wine Estate dates back to 1705. With such a long history of wine making they have made a rich contribution to the wine culture of the Stellenbosch region.


Walnut Farm

A mini adventure really. A weekend at Walnut Farm near Georgian Bay and the Beaver Valley. My sister-in-law and her husband have a 19th century farm and some lovely garden specimens. Thought I’d share these with you.



Cheekwood Botanical Gardens (Nashville)

I’ve just returned from a business trip to Nashville, one of my favourite American cities. The charm of the city extends well beyond my favorite pockets like The Gulch, Belle Meade, Green Hills, Hillsboro village and 12 Avenue South, to off the radar spots like Franklin and Liepers Fork – a couple of my two favourite haunts. Neighboring the famous Belle Meade Golf and Country Club of Nashville is the Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art. This is the original Cheek family home and estate, of Maxwell House Coffee fame, which is now a public destination. It is serene and picturesque. A good place to spend a morning or full day if you have children.




Best time of the Year!

This spring has been toggling between quite warm and quite cool. Not a lot of rain, but the plants are coming up beautifully nonetheless. I love this time of the year because of how fertile and lush the garden looks. All of the new growth adds a vibrant green to the existing palette. Everything is fresh and in bloom, not yet fatigued by summer heat.