Destination- Giverny Claude Monet’s Garden

gautier-salles-YzyhU3D1YSU-unsplashPhoto by Gautier

The gardens of the renowned Impressionist Artist Claude Monet is situated at the village of Giverny, Northern France where Monet painted his famous works of the Japanese bridge & water lily pond.

The gardens are separated into two areas, the gardens in front of Claude Monet’s house & the pond garden with the Japanese style bridge across the other side of the road, they are known for their wide range of beautiful highly fragrant flowers which come to life in spring, in a range of colours and shapes that becomes more scented when they are lit up by the rays of the sun. Monet’s flower garden has the occasional splash of vivid colours like in an impressionist painting, Peonies were said to be one of Monet’s most admired plants and grew many rare peonies from Asia in the gardens, as well as tulips, dahlias, fox gloves, poppies, clematis, sage, chrysanthemums, Japanese anemones and love lies bleeding among others.
The strongly scented captivating fragrance of the hyacinths in various colour combinations are charming in Spring, especially as one walks past the flower beds full of these lovely plants. Many fragrant roses of all colours are also present in the gardens which trail up archways and trellis.

At the water garden the beautiful array of purple and white blooms of the wisteria reflects over the sepia water of the pond above the simplistic Japanese style bridge where colourful shrubs surround the pond. There is also a smaller bridge which is situated over a canal which at one time used to flow into the pond, it has wisteria growing above it and has similarities to the larger bridge. The pond contains water lilies koi carp and also smaller fish such as ruds, perch and pike as well as various wildlife. Lovely colourful shrubs, bulbous plants and annuals surround the areas of the pond such as tulips, iris, azaleas, tall fox gloves and peonies.

Near to the pond is a large beech tree which shades the ground on warm days and was planted by Monet.
Claude Monet decided to remain in the village of Giverney from the late 1800s when he caught sight of it out of the window while passing on a train. His house and gardens are now very popular with tourists and artists worldwide & when he claimed ownership of the house and gardens in 1890 he transformed it completely by planting 100,000 flower varieties in the front garden and across the road from his house a pond was added while gradually adding the Japanese style bridge, wisteria and other flowers and shrubs & of course the water lilies.

The land in front of the house was originally an orchard and was sloping, it has a multitude of different sized flowers, shrubs and trees to add volume and colour as well as iron archways for growing trailing roses. Claude Monet died n 1926 and after its decline after the second world war the house and garden was restored to its former glory, such as the amazing brightly coloured yellow dinning room with red terra cotta & beige tiles.


Flower of the month- Pelargonium citronellum

citronellum pic

Pelargonium citronellum also known as the lemon scented pelargonium because of its strong lemon scented palmate leaves which have elaborate veins on the underside and are covered by hairs also present on the stems.
The flowers are pinkish purple with darker veins on the upper petals and can grow to about 200 cm in height, its is similar to Pelargonium scabrum which is also lemon scented ,but the leaves & flowers are much larger in size and the scent is stronger.

P. Citronellum is native to the South Western Cape, on lower areas of the Langeberg mountains. It is
ideal for scented gardens or in large pots in full sun and sandy loam soils, PH neutral preferably close to water or near the coast and is great for flavouring food and beverages, added to pot pourri especially when the leaves become more fragrant in the Summer months and can also help deter insect pests and mosquitoes.

Pelargonium Mabel grey is suggested to be a hybrid between scabrum & hispidum and it is said to be the strongest lemon fragrance of all the lemon scented pelargoniums with pale purple flowers and is the original ancestor to a variety of Lemon scented hybrid pelargoniums.
Another lemon scented leaf pelargonium is P. crispum native the the Western cape which has fan shaped leaves and white to deep pink flowers.

Scented gardens


Photo by Jannine

Scented flowers and leaves have many benefits for your health, well being, positive energy and also for providing beauty and fragrance to your home & garden.
Flower petals and scented leaves can be used to make perfume, essential oil, pot pourri, soap, rosewater scented candles, incense, a bouquet of flowers as well as for food and beverages. Recent research have shown that the aroma from scented leaves and flowers can influence our feelings and mood, by reducing stress, anxiety, fatigue and to improve memory and relaxation. The purpose of the flowers fragrance in nature is to attract bees, butterflies and moths, & the scented leaves to deter insects away from the plant.

Whether you choose to grow your scented plants near to the house, along a walkway in the garden which releases fragrance as you pass by, in a container garden on a patio, on steps, close to a dinning area, a pot full of herbs or grown along a wall or trellis they can bring great joy and pleasant aromas to your surroundings.
Planting aromatic lily bulbs in deep containers near to the home, or by a doorway or window box can be very inviting to your friends and neighbours with its strong sweet heavenly scent like the L. regale, L.henryi, L. longiflorum, blanca, . L. auratum, L. candidum, L. hansonii and various oriental lilies.
Scented flowers and herbs which have been cut and taken indoors to be dried in spring or late summer, are edible and can be used in cake making, tea, in desserts and drinks as well as for sachets, bath water, potpourri, dyes and candle & paper making such as marigold, violas, lavender, cornflowers and roses.
Fresh edible flowers such as hibiscus, honeysuckle, lavender, lilac, nasturtiums, pansies, citrus flowers, roses, violets and daisies can also be used for cake decoration, desserts, liqueur, mousse, salads or as a garnish. The flowers usually have a delicate flavour so it will not effect the overall taste of the food and can also look appetizing & artistic.
An arrangement of freshly cut scented flowers in a vase can not only lightens up a room with its array pastel shades or exotic colours but also emits a delightful fragrance.
Other scented plants ideas for creating more fragrance within your garden space include a Lavender hedge, sweet peas for their scented flowers or a rose garden.

A garden full of pleasantly rich highly scented plants can be captivating & uplifting, especially when they fill the air with perfume bringing tranquillity and relaxation to your surroundings while encouraging wildlife and creating a peaceful environment.

Scented plants can be grown not only in the garden by the side of a walkway, in a flower border or low growing varieties around stepping stones but they can also do well in containers & window boxes which is especially lovely grown close to a window, doorway or gate or archway
Frangipani has a very strong beautiful rich sweet fruity floral fragrance which come in a choice of pastel colours of pinks, white, yellows and oranges and is associated with love & romance which can also be used for essential oil, skin care and perfume, It originates from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, so it needs a hot & sunny position and in cooler countries it may need a green house or conservatory.
The Lily of the valley (convallaria majalis) has sweet scented delicate bell shaped flowers which is used for perfume, for bridal bouquets and has medicinal properties. In Greek mythology this plant was discovered by the god Apollo and is also the national flower of Yugoslavia and Finland. Gardenia has large white flowers with a strong sweet fragrance and is used for essential oil and perfume, it has been customary
in France to use the flower for decoration on tuxedos and suit jackets and also as a garnish for Tiki cocktails in bars in the South Pacific. but the downside is that it requires humid conditions in acidic soil as it is native to tropical regions.
The peony flowers range in shape with colours of purple, pink, red, white or yellow and some are more strongly scented than others usually with a sweet delicate rosy scent which is used in perfume, skin care, and has medicinal properties. The petals can also be used for making peony water, tea, salads, drinks and is also popular for cut flowers, and is a symbol for the twelfth wedding anniversary. Sweet peas have a rich intense fragrance & pastel coloured flowers of purple, blue, white or have two colours, the scent can range from low to very highly scented and is used for bouquets, essential oils, perfume & skin care and has medicinal properties. Lathyrus Odoratus ‘Matucana’ is said to have the strongest perfumed flowers of the sweet pea.

Having the luxury of growing beautiful & colourful fragrant flowers in your garden or in containers can be captivating, but they can also be used to add beauty and taste to your food and beverages such as syrups, cakes, iced drinks, teas, ice cream, salads, cocktails, jams, desserts, mousse, lemonade, stew, with cheese or simply for decoration especially if they are grown naturally without the use of pesticides.
Scented leaf pelaroniums like the P. tomenosum mint scented leaf, P. citronellum lemon scented leaf and P. capitatum rose scented leaf can be used in cake making, jellies, desserts, to flavour drinks and ice cubes more. Anise Hyssop has lavender coloured flowers which has a light liquorice like taste and is related to the mint family, this plant alone is said create up to 90,000 flowers which attracts bees and butterflies, the leaves have medicinal properties which has been traditionally used by the native Americans and the flowers can be used in hot tea, iced tea, salads, pies and sweets. Carnations are believed to be originated from the Mediterranean when it was described by Theophrastus an ancient Greek botanist 2000 years ago. The native colour is purple pink but are also available in colours of white, yellow, red, blue & green and the flowers and scent is often used in beer, wine, vinegar, sauces, salads, yogurt, cakes and desserts. Lavendula is a very popular culinary herb because if its very strong feminine floral fragrance which is also used for essential oil, L. Angustifolia ‘Munstead’ is the most usual lavender for its use in cooking which include cupcakes, sponge, scones, dressings, desserts, salads, buds in tea, honey, marshmallows, jam and can be mixed with rosemary in savoury dishes. Elderberry has white or cream colour flowers usually in clusters with a fruity floral scent and is part of the honeysuckle family, the berries when cooked are used to make wine, juice, dye and for the treatment of cold & flu. The flowers are used to flavour jam, ice-lollies, cake, desserts, marshmallows, honey and is used to flavour the french liqueur ‘St Germain and ‘Halland Flader the Swedish distilled spirit known as Akvavit.
Flowers which are used for food and beverages include Angelica, Bee balm, Begonia, calendula, carnations, Chamomile, chicory, Chives, Chrysanthemums, Clover, Cornflowers. Daisy, Dandelions, Day lilies, Elderflower, Apple/Pear/Plum or Citrus blossom, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Marshmallow, Lilac and Nasturtum.

Freshly cut fragrant flowers picked straight from your garden for an elegant bouquet arrangement for your dinning area, living room or bedroom can be exquisite especially when they fill the air with their heavenly scents while adding beauty with many colour varieties to your living space area,
Flowers such as Chrysanthemums, Sweet pea, lily, sunflower, tulips, gladiolus, roses, corn flower, peony, carnations, dianthus and gypsophila, eucalyptus and succulents can be grown from seed, bulbs or plants from a garden centre or nursery, When you cut your plant for a bouquet it is best to cut the stems at an angle so that the ends will not settle at the base of the vase and to remove any leaves and branches from the stems which will go in water, Place the flowers up against the vase and measure the length, cutting the correct size you desire, the flowers will last longer if the vase has been cleaned frequently after use with the removal of previous plant debris. Spread out the flowers evenly around the vase removing any dead blooms, the primary flowers are the ones you wish to show up the most in your arrangement such as large or colourful ones and the secondary flowers are usually smaller in size, you also need to add interesting plant leaves to create a balance of flowers within your bouquet. Place the flowers into a vase which has been half filled with water add a table spoon of sugar or mix in plant food to your vase to help to preserve the flowers for longer and it is advisable to change the water every three days.
Zinnia, which is part of the daisy Asteraceae family with brightly coloured flowers of white, yellow, orange, red and lilac, native to North & South America and is said to be the longest lasting flowers in a bouquet, followed by orchids ,carnation, delphiniums, chrysanthemums, alstroemeria and gladiolus.
Succulent types such as Scabiosa flowers that forms a rosette shape in various colours of purple, red, Pink and orange, goes well with roses in a vase. Echereria are greyish blue succulents that has flower stalks with brightly coloured rosettes which can make a bouquet look more sculptural and elegant, another is Aeanium a low growing succulent with leaves that form a rosette also know as the house leek, there are a number of species and cultivars some with dark reddish brown leaves.

Highly scented fresh flowers and herbs can be used to make essential oil from your own garden for treating a range of aliments, relaxation and massage.
Flowers such as chamomile, geranium, clary sage, jasmine, juniper berry, lavender, rose and more are made for floral scents so you can make your own face or body cream, soap, face mask, massage oil for aromatherapy or to add it to your bath water.
Collecting fresh flowers, leaves or herbs from your garden and adding them to a steam distiller with water which is heated from underneath, the steam from the plants goes through the chambers of the pot and then drips out as essential oil, it can be purchased in a range of different sizes.
Cold pressed essential oils are made from citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes which are peeled and placed in a cloth, then crushed to release the essential oils.
Maceration is when the flowers are infused in a carrier oil such as sunflower or almond, then placed into a copper pot and heated underneath for a few hours and the remaining essential oil is filtered.

Enfleurage is the oldest method where essential oils are extracted using the hot or cold method for more fragile flowers like jasmine and rose, this can be done by using a glass frame with a coat of animal fat or fatty oil, the frames are stacked on top of one another and after a few days to weeks the flowers are replaced with new ones, later alcohol is added with the fat and then separated to create essential oil.
Blue tansies are perennial herbs with yellow flowers that resemble a button in shape, the essential oil is dark blue and has a fragrance similar to apple which is great in skin care for delicate and irritated skin and making it look more glowing. It is also used as an insect repellent and to flavour sauces, omelettes and puddings & the Cherokee also used this plant for medicinal uses.
Ylang Ylang also know as the perfume tree is native to tropical Asia and is part of the custard apple family. The leaves are oval and shiny with yellow star shaped flowers which face downwards. Essential oil is pale yellow beige in colour with a custard like fragrance and a dash of jasmine & neroli, used in perfume and aromatherapy.
Jasmine meaning ‘gift from god’ derived from the Persian word Yasanen is popular for its highly scented flowers and is part of the olive family, the flowers are white or pale yellow and grows as a shrub or vine. The essential oil has a sweet exotic floral scent and is used for perfume, aromatherapy, for favouring tea and for religious ceremonies. Other flowers include helichrysun (sweet rich fragrance), bergamont (floral citrus), neroli (sweet spicy floral), rhododendrom (fresh light scent) and yallow (fruity herb).

Flower of the month- Pelargonium echinatum


Pelargonium echinatum also known as the prickly stemmed pelargonium has lovely showy white, pink or purple flowers with darker markings on the upper petals on long flower stalks which contains around 3-8 flowers and encourages bees and other insects, The leaves are slightly hairy, greyish green and heart shaped. This plant has a tuberous root and a greyish swollen stem with a number of grey branches with thorny stipules and if cared for well can have a 20 year life span.

The name echinatum is derived from the Latin for spiny stipules which are on the stems of this plant and is native to South Africa mostly from the Northern Cape and in areas of the North of Clan William in dry rocky, stony and sandy areas. P. Echinatum is deciduous in Summer and during this time can absorb the sunlight through its stems instead of the leaves. There are a number of different flower colour types in its native habitat and also a few new species or hybrids derived from them such as “Miss Stapleton” which has purplish pink flower petals and suggested to be a cross between P. Echinatum and P. cortusifolium.
Pelargonium echinatum is said to be one of the loveliest pelargoniums to flower during the winter which also grows well in a pots or planted in the garden. It prefers sandy, loam & clay soil, PH neutral in semi shade or full sun.
This plants flowering times can vary depending on if it is grown in the wild or in cultivation, in the wild it can flower from May to November and in Cultivation from June to October.

Destination-Jewel Changi airport, Singapore


Photo by Jansen Jang

The Jewel Changi airport connects our urban surroundings with the beauty of nature. It contains the largest indoor gardens in Asia which features a Shiseido forest valley containing 3,000 trees, 60,000 shrubs and 120 tropical plants, The rain vortex which is the worlds largest indoor urban waterfall at 40 meters in height created from rain water, a topiary walk & petal garden and many more features.
It was designed by the Safdie architects which covers an area of 3,5 hectares with a dome shaped facade made of steel and glass in order to bring together a market place and a urban park in one building.
Moshe Safdie also designed the Marina bay sands, the Asian university for women, and the national gallery of Canada, Moshe is an Israeli Canadian architect and urban designer who studied at Mcgill university in Montreal, Canada and later became a director at the Harvard university graduate school of design 1984 to 1989. Peter Walker and Partners were the landscape architects for the Changi airport, who worked along side Moshe Safdie and also with the creation of the Marina bay sands.

The breathtaking Shiseido forest valley contains four levels of 3,000 indoor trees, so people can do their shopping or eat food surrounded by a magnificent urban forest, it covers an area of 22,000 sq ms and also has two foot paths to the East and the West to admire & explore until you come to the impressive waterfall and mist. There is also a multi sensorial project known as “sense” which is to reconnect your mind to the senses such as with touch, smell, sound and sight and part of the project is combined with the forest valley in which each level is associated with a different sense, during the night colourful glowing lights of bright purples, blues and greens are lit up among the trees with the sound of the forest breathing and other music, this is to create a calming and revitalizing experience for visitors.

The amazing waterfall of the Rain vortex is the tallest and also the largest in the world in which rainwater is recycled from the stunning toroid shaped glass dome roof and then flows through a circular opening to a pool below at the basement, which looks fantastic as one enters the airport. There is also an automated driverless sky train close to the waterfall with wonderful views which travels to seven different stations including border gates for easy access for passengers.

The canopy park contains a topiary walk and a petal garden followed by mazes, bouncing nets and mist for enjoyment and entertainment within the top level of the airport which covers an area of 14.000 sq m. The topiary has trees which have been clipped into realistic animal shapes such as apes and chameleons in bright colours around the garden.
Also in the canopy park is the petal garden with beautiful all year round flowers in many shapes and colours from different regions of the world. There is also a canopy bridge in this area which is 23 metres high with glass floor panels in the centre for lovely views of the waterfall and mist at the start and the end of the bridge.
The rest of the park has a hedge maze in which the hedges reach up to 1.8 metres high, a mirror maze with surrounding and overhead mirrors, a bouncing net and a walking net for activities for children and more.

Urban gardening


photo by Chuttersnap-

With the growth of cities and expansion of towns, growing plants in these areas can help improve the environment & air pollution.

People living in an urban environment can also benefit from growing and caring for plants, flowers and also vegetables, they not only provide beauty to the surroundings with colourful, fragrant flowers and herbs but they can also improve the air quality, reduce pollution or block unwanted views or noise as well as getting better connected with nature, reducing stress and improving mental health.

There are many ways that you can grow plants in an urban setting, whether you have a small balcony, limited garden space, a roof garden, pots and containers around the house, an apartment or if you grow plants indoors.
Growing plants in containers is ideal if you have limited space in your garden, or if you have a small patio area or balcony. Containers can be placed on steps, outside a doorway or in the corners of a balcony or patio to make room for a sitting out area for relaxation. Edible scented leaf pelargoniums can be grown in containers preferably in a sunny area within easy reach so you can add them to food and beverages as well as growing herbs, vegetables such as lettuce, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, parsley and editable flowers such as nasturtiums and violets.

Trellises can create a more private area on your balcony, patio area or roof garden which can be easily attached to the wall where you can grow climbing plants with lovely fragrant flowers such as roses, honey suckle, passionflower, jasmine or simple runner beans. Vertical crates can also be used as an alternative to trellis or for something more elegant balcony flower planters with trellis attached which can also be purchased online or in garden centres.

Hanging baskets are great not only for balconies & patio areas but also if you live in an apartment without a garden or balcony, you can simply attach them to the wall outside your window or door way, on the walls of your balcony or on railings, with plants such as pelargoniums, colourful flowering blooms or vegetables & herbs. Vertical gardening also works well by fixing containers to the wall or growing plants onto the wall itself using a special frame.
If you have a flat roof you could consider creating a roof garden, by using light weight containers and soil. Fixing trellis to areas of the roof can help reduce wind gusts and also protect your plants, but you will also need to add a water system to water them regularly.

Growing plants on the balcony or patio

Balconies and patios are ideal for urban living by getting you more involved with growing and caring for plants, gaining a feel for nature and the outdoors, while providing a private area for relaxation or pleasant views. Depending on the number of hours of sun you have during the day can determine the type of plants that would be ideal for your balcony or patio. If you have hot sun most of the day you could consider growing more succulents, herbs or exotic plants, or if you have a busy life you could try self watering pots, hydroponics or by adding more shade to your balcony or patio with trellis, bamboo shading, shade cloth or retractable awning. For balconies and patios with shade part of the day you could consider plants like morning glory, marigold, pansies, chrysanthemums, verbena, fuchsia, ferns, fruits and vegetables or various types of pelargoniums such as P. tomentosum, P. denticulatum and P. quinquelobatum.
Plants require about 12 to 16 hours of sun light per day, so if you have low light on your balcony you could try using artificial lighting such as lamps or led lights to improve growth and the overall health of the plant.
If you have mostly pot plants it is recommend to use good quality soil which is rich in nutrients for healthy growth and longevity in small containers and also the use of Fertilizer.
Shrub like plants may take up more room unless it is cut back frequently or if it is kept like a standard or a bonsai, so small or tall upright plants may be a better opinion for providing extra space on your balcony for other plants or furniture. There are many ways to brighten up the look of your balcony or patio, no matter what the size, Adding rugs, cushions and folding tables and/or chairs can give a homely feel, as well as making it easy to store them away quickly when you need the space. Lighting is great for the evening and night time, there are various types that are ideal for balconies which include string lights and bulb string, Led string lights, paper lanterns or lamps.
Adding hanging baskets or containers to the walls of your balcony or patio is another way of bringing more plants without taking up too much space, as long as they drainage holes at the base. A few plants which are ideal for hanging baskets on a balcony include tangled heart vine, dwarf morning glories (evoluvlus), sword fern, devils ivy, dwarf jade plant(portulacaria afra) and inch plant Tradescantia zebina

Roof gardens

Many cities around the world are now thinking up new ways to go green, by growing organic vegetables, creating a meadow of flowers or a garden with grass and trees and plants on rooftops, such as the Brooklyn Grange in New York which has the largest roof farms in the world, and grows a large number of their own produce, including organic vegetables such as leaf greens, salad mixes, rocket, radishes, turnips kale and chard, fruits, edible flowers and fragrant herbs & selling them to communities in the city, which are grown naturally while supporting the ecosystems and also have around 20 beehives on the roofs around the city.
Roof gardens are not only great for providing you with fresh vegetables and fruits, flowers and herbs which you can enjoy at home, but also the benefits of reducing the amount of heat which is built up round the city caused mostly by concrete buildings, roads & pathways which absorbs the heat of the sun and increases the temperature, as well as car engines and air conditioning units. Plants can not reach a surface temperature higher than 5 c , it absorbs water from the roots which moves throughout the plant known as transpiration, so growing more plants around the city will help reduce the temperature and also reduce smog and pollution which can lead to respiratory problems.
There are a few different urban methods which are used on roof gardens these include hydroponics when plants are grown without the use of soil but in a mineral and nutrient enriched water at the roots which is pumped and moves around in pots, tanks or tubs or plastic hydroponic reservoirs. Aeroponics is when plants are grown without the use of soil in an enclosed space by spaying the roots with air or mist which contains nutrients often by using a Aeroponic plant support device. Green roof is a living vegetation such as moss, grass, perennials, herbs or shrubs which grows on top of a roof or building by using layers of waterproof membrane, filter, drainage and a growing medium.

Containers are probably the most easiest and most affordable for growing plants on roofs, such as pots, tubs, barrels or hanging baskets which are especially good if you have limited space, light weight pots such as plastic is recommended, so not too much weight is on your roof top (unless you have strong winds), as plants will become heavier as they grow and it is advisable to make sure your roof is strong enough if you wish to place many pots on your roof. You will also need good access to a water hose, electricity for lighting and to think about how you will get plants and other items up on to the roof. A water butt could be used with a hose attachment or drip irrigation. Trellis, hedging, screens or fencing maybe good for reducing wind or hot sun on the roof top.
Low growing trees, shrubs, herbs and vegetables can grow well on roof tops but If you have hot sun most of the day on your roof it maybe best to get drought tolerant plants.
Raised beds is another alternative, when the soil has been raised in a container such as a frame or box, this can improve the soil quality especially when mixed with organic matter such as from a compost bin, the soil will also provide better drainage but may need more water during the summer, although because of its small size watering shouldn’t be much of a problem, drip irrigation is also a good and easy way to water them. Raised beds are fairly simple to make by creating a frame which can be made out of wood, stone, brick and in any style you require whether you like a modern, traditional or rustic feel.
Outdoor dinning & relaxing furniture, pergolas or even a shed can also improve the overall look of your roof garden.

partly from the July newsletter

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