ISABELLA GARDNER MUSEUM – PART 2

COURTYARD’S SEASONAL DISPLAYS

 

This is the second part of a Post I published last week Isabella and her love for Art and Gardens, on it, I talk about the amazing life of the Gardner family, its trips, and their lifestyle that lead them to build the Isabella Gardner Museum.

Isabella Stewart Gardner was passionate about art and culture, she became interested in the gardens she saw while traveling all around the world and wanted to leave her legacy through art; this Museum is the accomplishment of those interests, with, of course, her personal and intimate touch.

Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice, 1894, by Anders Zorn (Oil on canvas, 91 x 66 cm)

Her museum is a mix of styles, gothic, renaissance, roman and byzantine, famous because of its great art pieces, nevertheless, the garden courtyard is also an essential part of the building, with floral exhibitions of new and full-grown plants that change constantly during the year, according to seasons and blooms.

Every month the courtyard has a floral theme and color, therefore it has become as essential and iconic as every part of the museum.

The Courtyard


Before we start talking about plants, here are some curiosities about the courtyard and it’s care:

  • Every seasonal display in the courtyard contains 300 to 500 plants.
  • Each plant is placed in the courtyard for around 7 days, after that, they have to replace it with another identical one; there’s a lack of sunlight in the courtyard, caused by the tall walls so close to each other and the plants can suffer having low light.
  • The most traditional display is the long Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) hanging from the third-floor balconies as Gardener used to in the early 1900’s.


That being said, here’s the list of displays during the year

 

Winter tropics (January – February)

Tropical and subtropical plants fill the courtyard: lots of Orchids, norfolk island pine (Araucaria heterophylla), tree ferns (Cyatheales), fishtail palms (Caryota), areca palms and ferns.

This display is inspired by old images of plants placed by Isabella.

(You can also grow this plants at home, in a room with indirect light and high humidity).



Orchids (February – March)

Exotic orchids native to Southeast Asia and Africa, like slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) with maroon and green flowers, Leopard orchids (Ansellia) with yellow flowers and brown spots, nun’s cap orchids (Phaius tankervilleae) and other groups, all of these, surrounded with calla lilies.


Hanging Nasturtiums (April)
The most traditional display in the museum.

As Isabella did in the late 1800’s, hanging nasturtiums keep making a dramatic appearance above the courtyard. Cascades of flowering nasturtium vines grown in the Museum’s greenhouses, they require continuous care to ensure the dramatic length.

Hanging nasturtiums above the Gardner Museum courtyard

 

Spring blooms (April – May)

Time to talk about color! After the Nasturtiums (also colorful), they place azaleas, blue cineraria, ivory and cream daffodils, and pines. Another Gardner Museum’s signature is the Clivia miniata. Flowering maples used to flank the steps and the statues.

This is the most famous and labor intensive of the courtyard displays.


Hydrangeas (April – June)

The most notorious and common are the Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea quercifolia, and Hydrangea paniculata among other specimens grant life and color to the courtyard. Violets, deep blues, and whites of the hydrangeas complement the delicate yellow oncidium orchids.


Summer blues (June – July)

Late-flowering hydrangeas are a great source of color and create a nice environment in summer. Mophead Hydrangeas and H. paniculata ‘Grandifolia’ fill in the courtyard and stand out among the statues, then, they introduce Agapanthus blue blooms.

Agapanthus at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Bellflowers (August – September)

As the courtyard has small dimensions and tall walls, it remains fresh during warmer months, ferns and fountains’ water help maintain it that way. At this time of year, chimney bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis) appears in the courtyard. The Museum’s horticulturists grow this plant as a biennial, from seeds; it takes two years to get Campanulas to maturity (1,80m tall) and thrive in the courtyard.

Campanula piramidalis at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Chrysanthemums (September – November)

Late September is chrysanthemums’ time, different colors and species. It’s known that Isabella grew many chrysanthemums varieties, as a matter of fact, a pink-tinged chrysanthemum was named for her.

Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum
Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Holiday Garden (December – January)

Holiday traditions at the Gardner Museum showcase flowering jade trees (Crassula argentea) raised in the Museum’s greenhouse for many years, the oldest ones are 60 years old, with trunks around 10 to 15 cm in diameter and 90 cm tall.

Crassula, holiday courtyard

Other plants thrive around the Museum like jade trees, like silver dusty miller, green aloe, and amaryllis red winter blooms.

 

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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Part 1

ISABELLA AND HER LOVE FOR ART AND GARDENS


Last year, we decided to take a trip to the USA, 
my first trip to the USA.
It was fun, cold, hot, windy, special, interesting, fulfilling and everything I never thought it would be.

We met a lot of crazy –yet lovely– people and learned a lot from them and from their culture and surroundings.

Talking to a group of friends, we started a conversation about landscaping and how gardens have become a passion and a way to relax for a lot of people, including me.  One of them listened closely, not everybody is interested in talking about plants with a stranger, but he was and he mentioned this Museum, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; he said it was his favorite and that I should go and take a look.

At first, I was unsure, I don’t know much about art (nothing, to be fair), and I didn’t quite related plants with painting, but I listen carefully and he repeatedly mentioned plants, Italian architecture and other things that sounded good, so I was then interested.

By the end of the conversation, I was like: “ok, it is time for you (me) to learn about art and even if you (me) don’t understand a thing, just GO!!!”… So I listened to myself, and I did.

When I entered to the Museum everything I was expecting wasn’t there, everything I imagined had nothing to do with this building, do not get me wrong, it was beautiful, like a piece of Italian Renaissance in the middle of Boston.

Some lines about Isabella

Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent (1888)

I’m not going to tell you the whole story about her, let’s say Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924), came from a wealthy family, married John “Jack” Lowell Gardner Jr. another wealthy man. She was intelligent, elegant and eccentric.

They had a rough life with a series of losses, including their child. Isabella became extremely depressed and her doctor advised her to travel. Their elegant adventures began around 1867 when they travel to Northern Europe, Russia, Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia.

Isabella kept elaborate journals of her visits; their love for art, books, and culture grew with every travel and people they met.

The building

My personal impression of the museum: A small Villa with a courtyard, flowers, water, and art; it had a presence, an elegant and peaceful presence. I instantly felt comfortable, like I was visiting somebody’s home, Isabella’s home.

The building has her style, her taste, her soul.

In 1884 Isabella and Jack Gardner first visit the Palazzo Barbaro, a Venetian palace which became Isabella’s source of inspiration for her museum’s design.

Exhibition room
Ground hall with garden courtyard views

The museum is a mix of gothic, romantic, Venetian style; it also has that something, or, everything that Isabella wanted it to be.
A combination of styles, materials, spaces, colors, architectural elements and this is what makes the place unique. On their trips to Italy, they purchased columns, windows, and doorways to adorn every floor of the building, as well as reliefs, balustrades, capitals, and statuary from the Roman, Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance periods.

Exhibition room with one of Isabella’s paintings by John Singer Sargent (on the right corner)

The museum has had different interventions through the years. For the last changes at the Museum, Architect Renzo Piano was hired to design the New Wing, he emphasized the external gardens’ views through glass walls around the new area. He made the new building a piece of art that coexists with the historic building and share with it the same architectural importance.

“Gardens, both interior, and exterior are an integral part of the Gardner Museum experience today. When Isabella built the Museum, she created an experience that was as much about flowers and plants, artfully arranged, as it was about masterpieces of art. The culmination of that vision is the courtyard but botanical images can be found throughout the Museum.”

The Courtyard

In this museum, every space was carefully designed and the courtyard was no exception. Isabella was present in every step of the design and construction, she managed to mix different architectural elements and periods and created a beautiful harmonious space, worthy of a true collection, she transformed an exhibition place into a natural, delightful area which made me feel (again) that I was in her home.

First-floor courtyard view


The country yard was designed by integrating Roman, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance elements like stonework arches, columns, and walls.

Isabella’s passion for gardens inspired this area, the place where nine seasonal garden displays change throughout the year. Most of the plants for the courtyard are grown in the Museum’s temperature-controlled Hingham greenhouses and trucked to the Palace location where they are rotated in to keep the displays in peak condition.

Cool things about the garden displays

  • Every seasonal display in the courtyard contains 300 to 500 plants.
  • The average time for a plant in the courtyard is around 7 days, after that, they replace it with another identical plant, so they don’t suffer the lack of sunlight in the courtyard. It is a small courtyard with tall walls so direct sunlight is very poor.
  • The most traditional display is the long Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) hanging from the third-floor balconies as Gardener used to in the early 1900’s.

For those who know it and for those who don’t, this is a small but very rich space and there’s a lot to say about it, in terms of design, art, architecture, lifestyle, details and of course PLANTS!. I decided to separate this post into two parts, so I don’t leave behind the things that matter to me the most and that I want to share with you: Architecture and Garden Design.

Hope you enjoy this post and stay tuned for the next post, I’ll be talking about all the plant displays during the year in the museum’s courtyard.

The link to the Isabella Gardner’s page https://www.gardnermuseum.org/

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My first video & more info about Grass-like plants!

Grasses are one of my favorite shrubs to decorate a garden, there’s a vast list of varieties for every taste; small, big, golden, silver, rounded, tall, adapted to damp or dry soil, shady or sunny areas, and the list goes on.

Ornamental grasses can be the focus element on most gardens, I find them so elegant and graceful, especially the tall ones, because of its “fountain” shapes and subtle movements when the wind blows.
They can also be the perfect complement flowering plants to highlight its color and structure, some of them will grow perfectly in containers, so they’re pretty much perfect for any situation.

Ornamental grasses mostly like sunny and bright positioning, but, they tolerate well a wide range of conditions. They need moist but well-drained soil and, the most important thing about them is that they are super low-maintenance plants, you just need to “feed” them with fertilizer in spring and that should be enough for them to do the rest.

After giving you a quick summary of Ornamental Grasses, I wanted to talk to you about the Elegia tectorum, a gorgeous grass-like plant which was the inspiration for my first video in Cape Town.


Elegia tectorum

Common names:

Cape thatching reed, deckreed, dakriet (Afrikaans), restios.

 

Yep, this is <clearly> my first video, I explained a bit of this gorgeous plant in the middle of a windstorm, apparently XD (kidding, that’s normal weather in Cape Town o.O).

So here’s the rest of the information for this ornamental shrub that I hope you like as much as I do.

Restionaceae

 

Elegia tectorum or restios are a superficially grass-like shrub endemic from the Western Cape Floral Kingdom or Fynbos, which is the smallest and richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms per unit of area. They grow together with proteas, pincushion, and ericas among others.

Restionaceaes grow in greater variety in fynbos, they have symmetrical shapes and tufted red-like appearance.

They have thin dark green stems and brown flowers, male and female flowers grow on separate plants branched inflorescences; female blooms are protected by golden brown bracts.

They grow in sand dry soils in full sun exposition and plenty of air movement.

Protected area in Kommetjie, Cape Town – South Africa

Maybe you can find this shrub at home, maybe you don’t, there are other plants which can give the same effect and I’m sure you’ll know about them here.

You can find an example of a garden with grasses on my Low-Maintenance Garden post, there I show you how to use them also in small spaces.

Hope you enjoy it!

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Italy’s Beautiful Gardens: Villa del Balbianello

We are in beautiful Italy, it’s summer, it’s sunny and there’re big quantities of gelato.

Last Sunday I decided to visit Villa del Balbianello in Lake Como (North Italy), somehow I always thought about this kind of places to be full of tourist and I rather go first to the “local” places, but, obviously, there’s a reason why they are so famous, and I’m glad I finally did it (after a long time, may I add).

Villa del Balbianello is part of the Italian National Trust (Fondo Ambiente Italiano – FAI) which owns a list of awesome historic buildings and gardens. Villa del Balbianello had existed since the 13th century and its firsts residents were Franciscan Monks. In 1785, the Villa was purchased and the changes in the building and gardens started, along with new owners until 1988, when its last owner died.

Guido Monzino, the last owner, was a renowned Milanese businessman, art collector and a passionate traveler who left the Villa, the Gardens, the furnishing to the Italian National Trust; He also donated a dowry which still helps to cover the Villa and Gardens maintenance.
Since then, they have renovated the Villa and partly turned it into a private Museum with Monzino’s art collection, memorabilia from his famous expeditions to the North Pole and the Everest (between 1971 and 1973) and, they’ve also renovated the Gardens.

Villa del Balbianello

The Gardens

This time I only entered the Gardens, the thing I love the most and what I wanted to show you.

The gardens frame the Villa, they’re developed in different floors and paths, as they follow the rocky mountain shape. From the beginning the big shaped Platanus acerifolia stand out, a nice Magnolia and alternating Hydrangeas follow the paths. Then, as you keep walking, the Lake takes control of the view, it just blends with the gardens like a perfect painting.

The most interesting thing about this garden is that, because of the rugged terrain, they couldn’t design a formal “Italian garden” nor a romantic “English garden”, so, they had to work and create paths around the Villa and make a unique space that gives you the opportunity to enjoy the lake from different angles. You really get to discover different scenarios just by descending the paths.

They made a pact, between the formality of the design and the “informality” of the nature when they design the Gardens.

Numerous statues guard the surroundings of the Villa and get to watch the Lake through every season.

Plant Selection

  • Wisteria sinensis: full of color in late spring and early summer
  • Hedera helix: covering some walls facing the lake
  • Agapanthus: that welcome you if you arrive by boat
  • Buxus sempervirens: elegant and a formal icon from antique gardens

You can use some of this plants to make your garden a “Royal Garden“, it’s always worth to invest in some strong and long-lasting plants, you’ll get your reward, trust me.

Agapanthus

Also, you probably recognize the name of this Villa because of its appearances on Hollywood films since 1990, like:

  • A month by the Lake (John Irvin – 1995)
  • Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones ( I said “probably”. By George Lucas in 2002)
  • Casino Royale (Martin Campbell – 2006)

Quick tip: if you don’t like crowded places, like I do, just try to go early in the morning, there’s basically no line, your photos will be better and the lights are really favorable in the morning, plus, if you want a summer selfie, your face won’t be all shiny and sweaty 🙂
You have to walk/hike (nothing complicated) a few minutes to arrive to the actual Villa.
Also, I took the bus to get to the Villa; It’s about 45min from the Lake Como’s bus station and the price was around 6$ round trip. Lenno is the name of the village and the bus stop.

 

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Marrakesh discoveries: Majorelle Garden

This time, I’m trying to give my blog a new and fresh direction, so today, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite trips I took this year. The destination: Morocco.

Last spring we (my partner and I) decided to go for the first time to Africa, this sunny and kind continent that we knew nothing about, its people, its food, culture… we knew nothing, so we booked a flight to the nearest and convenient place for both of us. I mean, I wanted to see some gardens, my BF wanted to do some surfing and both of us needed to eat some good stuff.

So, we arrived into chaotic Marrakesh, where we were welcome with some mint tea and amazing cookies (already in love with the city).
I dedicated myself to find some good green spots (very difficult, especially the “green” part) to visit while relaxing at the Riad near to the city center, although, the riad had some vines, cactus and rose smell that make you feel in a natural place from the moment you arrive.

Our first visit was to the Majorelle Garden and it was so worth it! here’s why:

Majorelle Garden is a Villa where a Botanical Garden take place along with an Archaeological Museum. It took us about an hour to visit the gardens but you can bring a book and relax sitting in the shade of their palm trees and bamboo selections.

A public open space diverse from others in Marrakesh, with nice refreshing and shade areas designed by the French painter Jaques Majorelle, passionate about botanics and gardening, who put heart and soul to the gardens and it shows.

Jaques Majorelle bought the villa in 1923 and also, a rare variety of trees and plants for over 40 years, creating this unique and relaxing space.

Plants from the five continents:

– Cactus,
– Palm trees,
– Agaves,
– Bamboo,
– Coconut palms,
– Thuyas,
– Willows,
– Bouganvilleas,
– Tree ferns, among others.

This was the first time I saw a plant selection like this in the harmony of a real open garden, it was different, eye-catching, beautiful and surprisingly fresh.

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought the Jardin Majorelle in 1980. They renamed it Villa Oasis, and undertook the restoration of the garden in order to “make the Jardin Majorelle become the most beautiful garden – by respecting the vision of Jacques Majorelle.”.

Automatic irrigation systems were installed, adjusting the distribution of water according to hours during the day and to the specific needs of each plant. New plant species have been added since 1999, increasing the total number from 135 to 300. A team of 20 gardeners once again began working to maintain the garden, its ponds, and fountains” – Jardin Majorelle

Few of the most interesting species in the garden:

  • Echinocactus grusonii: known as golden barrel cactus or mother-in-law cushion (pretty funny), is a spherically shaped cactus, endemic to east-central Mexico. It can reach 1m tall with sharp spines from yellow to white colors. It looks great in rock gardens, it obviously needs its space and it blossoms after 20 years old, so, if you like it, buy it for the beautiful shape.
Echinocactus grusonii (left) and Agave macroacantha (right corner)
  • Pilosocereus azureus: columnar Cactaceae with beautiful blue stems, hairy areoles, and golden spines. It’s very interesting for indoor spaces because of its slow growth, blue color and big flowers that cover the stems during the summer.
Pilosocereus azureus (Pinterest research)
  • Carnegia gigantea: known as Saguaro, you probably relate it to western films (I do), it is a tree-like cactus with white flowers from April to June and it goes from 12m to 21m tall. Very flashy.
Carnegia gigantea (Pinterest research)

 

Other views of the garden

Quick tip: go early, that way you can take good photos and relax if you want to 🙂

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About “Fresh Lemonade Gardens” and some Green Love

When I think about Gardens, I immediately think of some open space, full of plants (it’s summer, obviously), maybe some white Hydrangeas, private area, seating comfortably with a cold, super fresh glass of Lemonade in my hand.
That’s it, talking about gardens always takes me to that place, that green and refreshing place where I drink Fresh Lemonade all day (apparently).

So, Fresh Lemonade Gardens represents a window for those green lovers, like me, who want to feel good and comfortable in their own gardens and green (indoor) rooms; in other words: having a nice space to relax with plants around. 

This is also a place designed for those who want to learn how to take care of their plants, take the first step or several more in their gardens, or simply, for those who want to keep their plants alive with no effort.

We can help you transform your space with:

  • Tips and ideas on social networks (like Instagram) to show you how to organize your space with the use of plants.
  • Information about specific plants and how can they light up your space.
  • Personalized design for your own space: each month, we will publish images about green and fresh solutions for yours or others home, real examples of real homes.
  • Short “one-on-one” sessions (30min max.) via Skype, where we’ll talk about your project. In each session we will dedicate time to facilitate yours and your plants life.

To sum up: We will help you transform your space, with personalized solutions, examples, images and a list of things you have to do to, we can have Skype talks to guide you through the process and answer any questions you have. Easy right?

Each proposed solution will be public, this way, everyone can have access to the information and use it as an example to create their own environments. We will try to get everyone to learn how to organize their own space with real examples.

We would love to help you design your garden, terrace or balcony, living room  or kitchen, lounge, workspace… you name it! We have got your back and your plants’.

 

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