A Grand Tour of Gardens
Traveling in Beauty through Western Europe and the United States
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of South Carolina Press
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List of Illustrations
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My family and friends have inspired me to bring my Charleston Mercury articles together as a book. First, I am deeply appreciative to the editor of the Charleston Mercury, Charles Waring, who granted permission for the use of my travel essays. My husband, Professor Fred LeClercq, has been an indispensable travel partner. ...
Prologue [Color plates follow page 2]
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Many of the essays gathered here were published originally in the Charleston Mercury, a news paper published twice a month; I have served as news paper’s chief garden and travel correspondent since 2004. My husband, Fred LeClercq, and I have traveled frequently in Europe, with gardens and art as a major focus. ...
Part 1: An Overview: Visiting and Enjoying Gardens
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Visiting and enjoying gardens is a trea sured inheritance that came to me from my mother, Emily Whaley. She summed up her garden lore in her book, Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden. Her insights and rules for creating and perfecting her own garden became mine as I conversed, gardened, and spoke to different groups with her over the years. ...
Gardening as Art and Entertainment
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Create a garden, and you are instantly immersed in an entertaining and artistic experience. You become enveloped by the sense of sight, sound, touch, and smell. A garden is a delight to the eye, allowing our spirits to soar through deftly controlled spaces. A tuneful garden echoes with the sound of water, birds, frogs, and wind. ...
Rules of the Road When Traveling and a Visit to Dunrobin Garden
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Indeed it is a challenge for an American to stay on the left-hand side of the road in Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland. The deeper question is how does one arrange a harmonious trip? We are all so used to our daily work and home patterns that a trip can pose significant challenges that might ruin the anticipated adventure. ...
Part 2: Italian Gardens: From Renaissance Inspiration to Romantic Intuition
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Italian gardens find inspiration from the classical model of Rome as revitalized by the Renaissance. In the following ten essays we visit every part of the Italian peninsula, from Sicily in the south to Lakes Como and Maggiore in the north. Italian gardens epitomize a mood of clarity and potency. ...
Finding Inspiration and Art in the Gardens of Palermo, Sicily
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March comes in like a lion, and in Sicily torrents of rain, high winds, and snow proved the proverbial nostrum to be true. Fred and I arrived in Rome, rented a car, and headed to Naples to take the ferryboat overnight from Naples to Palermo, Sicily. That evening we boarded a huge ferry loaded with tractor-trailer rigs and found our snug cabin. ...
Visiting Shops and Gardens on Lake Como
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There has always been something elusive to me about summertime. I remember packing my bags for Camp Pinnacle when I was sixteen and stashing over ten novels into vacant corners in the suitcase. As we grow older, those days of summer fun, summer innocence, and summer leisure seem to disappear. ...
Italy: Gardening and Dining by the Sea
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Gardens by the sea have special challenges. Wind, salt spray, sun, and aridity allow only the hardiest plants a chance to grow and flourish. Italy with its extensive coast line has a long history of gardens by the sea. On a recent trip we enjoyed four special gardens, all on seaside promontories. Each had a veranda for dining. ...
Discovering Lucca, an Italian Walled City
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Plain black shoes just do not do it in Lucca, Italy. Everywhere I looked there were stylish Italian ladies in pink silk shirts and pink leather walking shoes, or green turtlenecks and green high-heels. Long ago my son, Ben LeClercq, advised me to spare the white tennis shoes in Paris or be identified immediately as an American, sans gout. ...
Ninfa: A Romantic Italian Garden
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South of Rome and north of Naples, the garden of Ninfa is situated below the escarpment of Norma and the Lepini Mountains. It has been described as a Medieval Pompeii. The garden was laid out in the 1920s among the ruins of the small medieval town of Ninfa founded in the eighth century. ...
The Amalfi Coast: Positano, Ravello, and Capri
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I recall so vividly sitting in Positano on a promontory under a lemon-scented arbor, and watching a luminous pink and gray Mediterranean ocean. The air was scented with jessamine and orange blossoms, while my eyes were bedazzled by the red and violet hues of bougainvillea and geraniums. ...
Italian Renaissance Gardens: A Day Trip from Rome
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I inherited a love for Italianate gardens from my great-aunt Emily Roosevelt, whose garden at Gippy Plantation, in Berkeley County, South Carolina, had all the elements of an Italian garden. Emily had traveled in Italy and brought back graceful urns and dignified marble statues of Mercury, Diana, and Venus. ...
Visiting Gardens near Florence: Villa Le Balze, Villa Gamberaia, Villa I Tatti, the Boboli Gardens, and La Pietra
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The Boboli Gardens in Florence form a magnificent public space. Boboli is an old Italian word for forest. Begun in 1549 by Duke Cosimo de’ Medici and his wife, Eleonora di Toledo, the garden is grand in scale and very much a part of the Pitti Palace. Entry through the Pitti Palace leads into a spreading amphitheatre ...
Tuscan Gardens: Villa Chigi Cetinale and Villa La Foce
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In May the sopes of Mt. Amiata near Siena look like a checkerboard with patches of deep green fields beside the lighter green of newly mowed swathes of grass. White dirt roads, edged by black green cypress, snake up the hillsides, beckoning one to explore the unknown. ...
A Tale of Two Cities: Taormina and Venice
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Several years ago, while visiting my son Kershaw LeClercq at the Leysin School in Switzerland, I discovered why my suitcase was unexpectedly heavy—my mother, Emily Whaley, had selected several small marble stones from a roadway for the stream in her “secret” garden in Charleston and stuffed them in my suitcase! ...
Part 3: Switzerland: The Art of Seasonal Gardening
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Idiscovered Switzerland through the American School in Leysin, a mountaintop haven above Lausanne and Lake Geneva. Each summer students from all over the world gather to learn French and to enjoy hiking and biking across mountain pastures and slopes. ...
Summer Gardens in Switzerland
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You might say that all of Switzerland is a garden. Its cow-filled pastures stretch green and velvety as far as the eye can see. Yellow, pink, blue, and violet flowers be deck this green sward. As I walked through these pastures, I asked myself, “When did weeds become flowers?” ...
The Swiss Alps in July, with a Surprise Visit to Lake Maggiore, Italy
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For a wordsmith it is perplexing, even irritating, to suggest that there are times when words fail. We all know those times: intense grief, overwhelming happiness, great beauty. The last is the predicament I touch on here. Place: Faulensee, Switzerland, on the Thunersee. In front of me are the magnificent mountains of the Bernese Oberland ...
Part 4: French Classical Elegance
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French gardens have an elegance that is reminiscent of a beautiful Persian rug or an intricately embroidered lace tablecloth. The inspiration for these patterned gardens stems from André Le Nôtre (1613–1700) and his garden creations for French royalty in the seventeenth century. ...
The Joy of French Gardens: From the Dordogne to the Île de France
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From the giant landscapes of André Le Nôtre at Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte to the small public gardens in every town, French flair with color and design inspires a feeling of joy. A visit to French gardens provides the fun of exploring the widely diverse geography and climate of France. ...
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Finding Giverny from routes other than Paris can be a challenge. We had spent the previous night in Chartres to enjoy the exquisite stained glass windows of this 1193 cathedral. We then headed north to Dreux and Evreux, both in the direction of the Seine River. France in early spring is a checkerboard of plowed fields, brilliant green fields of wheat, ...
France: In Our Own Car [Color plates follow page 74]
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My great-grand aunt, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Sinkler Coxe (1843–1918), journeyed to Provence from Paris “in her own car” in 1902 accompanied by her brother Wharton Sinkler of Philadelphia; her son, Eckley Brinton Coxe, of Drifton, Pennsylvania; and her two eighteen-year-old nieces, Emily Sinkler of Belvidere Plantation, South Carolina, ...
The Atlantic Coast of France: Off the Beaten Track
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I know the sour side of the French, the Parisian waiters who denigrate my Charleston-accented French! How delightful then to discover that off the beaten track there are happy, smiling, accepting French. The virtues of French culture were on display during a recent June visit to the Atlantic coastal region. ...
Part 5: A Plantsman’s Paradise: England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland
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The British Isles are redolent with bloom from early spring to late autumn. In the following essays we visit gardens as far north as Dunrobin in Scotland and as far south as Muckross in Killarney, on the most westerly tip of Ireland. When I think of gardens in the British Isles, I think of color. ...
Chewton Glen and Exbury Garden, England
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Chewton Glen in Hampshire, England, is recommended by the Relais and Château Hotel group. It is much more than an elegant place to stay; it is a great destination for visiting England in May to relish the sweet smells of lilacs and wisteria and to witness the colorful abundance of rhododendron and wild azaleas. ...
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Buscot Park, and Waddesdon Manor, England
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Elegance is a term that has multiple and sometimes diverse definitions. It generally implies a quality of being refined, stylish, or, perhaps, in the fashion of the day. But elegance can also imply a sublime level of comfort and an inviting freshness. Such a comparison might be made between Waddesdon Manor, the 1877 chateau of Ferdinand de Rothschild ...
Stourhead and the Danesfield House Hotel, England
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London is surrounded by exquisite estates where the countryside has been landscaped to include towering trees, rhododendron in profusion, and lakes that mirror the sky and temples. We were lucky to find the best of these, Stourhead, for a walk in an ideal setting during May. ...
Gravetye Manor and William Robinson, England
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The “wild” meadow that fronts Gravetye Manor was at the heart of William Robinson’s vision of a natural yet cultured landscape. I was meandering down a grassmown trail to the lake edge. A carpet of iridescent bluebells spread under the blooming apple trees, all redolent with the sweet aroma of May. ...
West Dean Gardens and Lainston House Hotel, England
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May in England is a time when lilacs bloom in a sweet profusion of white, lavender, and purple. We drove across the Sussex Downs from the gardens of West Dean. On the other side of Winchester, we came to Lainston House, a substantial fifty-bedroom brick mansion of the William and Mary era. ...
Mapperton House, Montacute House, and Barrington Court, England [Color plates follow page 98]
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Never underestimate the time it will take to find your destination when driving on English country lanes. From the chalk cliffs on the English Channel to the Quantock Hills at Taunton, Wessex, there is a diverse region of moors and hillsides. We set out one sunny day for the Devon coast in Torquay and the Palace Hotel, ...
Newby Hall, Castle Howard, and Middlethorpe Hall, England
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What makes English gardens so redolent with sweet blooms? Each of us has an answer, including such things as soil, sun and rain, plant selection, and a long tradition of gardening. My answer was found on a bright day in Newby Hall garden in Yorkshire, England. My answer that day was gardeners. ...
Levens Hall and Sharrow Bay Hotel, England
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Levens Hall, in the Lake District of England, is a house and garden with a seventeeth-century feel. We entered Levens through a gate and were amazed by the flock of Bagot goats with their brown necks and faces. The gardens merge imperceptibly with the surrounding pastures, protected from the grazing herds of brown cows by a moat called a haw-haw. ...
Edinburgh and Prestonfield House, Scotland: A Base for Discovering the Borders
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Scotland fascinates Americans. It is a heritage that includes men wearing kilts, the male bonding of the haggis ceremony, and the eerie lilt of song and bagpipe. It is also a country that bursts with beautiful gardens, verdant golf courses, and vintage castles. ...
Broughton House, Culzean Castle, and Hill House, Scotland
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Our trip began in beautiful Galloway at Kirkcudbright, where we stayed at the Selkirk Arms. Gusty winds, downpours, black skies, and a penetrating cold had blown in from the sea. The inn had a bright coal fire, and in June! The next day in sunnier weather we toured lovely Broughton House, the home of the Scottish artist Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864–1933). ...
July Gardens in Scotland
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Travelers abroad are hoping for inspiration. I am always looking for gardening tips that I can incorporate into my own garden, which sits on a hillside peninsula at Lake Summit, in Tuxedo, North Carolina. Whether it is an old-fashioned patterned garden, an Arts and Crafts walled garden, a landscape garden, ...
“Oh, My Ireland of Dreams!”
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Memories of Ireland fueled the explosion of nostalgic songs that tell of American Irish yearning for their homeland. Hum along to the tune of “Methuselah”: “Methuselah, Methuselah, your warm arms are saying that death is a dream and love is forever . . .”; or sing Danny Boy, ...
Bodysgallen, Bodnant, and Powis Castle, Wales
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Just when I feel that I have learned all there is to know about the English language, I come upon Welsh, where “ll” is pronounced as a “cl.” Wales is unique, with its ancient flavorful Celtic language, sympathetic and friendly people, and rolling, sheep-filled green pastures. ...
Part 6: Germany: From the Island of Rügen to the Bavarian Mountains
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I learned to love Germany, its diverse landscape, and its welcoming people while living there in the spring of 1992. Our base was Bonn, which was still the capital of Germany and which was where my husband, Fred, was teaching law at Kaiser Wilhelm University. ...
Inspiration for a Fall Garden: Insel Mainau and Lake Constance
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Fall in North Carolina is apple-picking and dahlia season. My own garden comes to fruition with lavender, gold, red, and yellow dahlias of all sizes. Facing south, it is backed by a granite stone wall. In winter the southeast exposure to sun creates a microclimate so the bulbs come back season after season. ...
A Summer Visit to the Island of Rügen on the Baltic Sea [Color plates follow page 130]
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When the weather is hot and humid in Charleston, the question often arises as to where to go for a cool and refreshing visit. Many Charlestonians flock to Flat Rock, Saluda, Blowing Rock, Aspen, or Maine. If the goal is to practice a foreign language and take in a different culture, northern Germany, and especially the island of Rügen, should be considered. ...
Berlin: The Heart of the New Germany
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I have had the good luck to watch Berlin become one city and begin to shine. In the process it has been a city under intense construction with dug-up streets, monuments in various stages of rehabilitation, and shining new glass towers next to ugly, cheaply constructed structures of the Communist regime. ...
Germany: Schloss Linderhof, Ettal Cloister, and Oberammergau
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From time to time, I have the pleasure of seeing the humdrum parts of my life in a startling new light. Sometimes an old voice sounds like the first time I heard it, or the ten thousandth view from my back porch reveals a new bird’s nest. So it is with travel. Going back in a different season to the same old place brings entirely new sights and feelings. ...
Part 7: Iberia: The Moorish Influence
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The gardens of southern Spain reflect their Moorish influence, aridity, and the imaginative use of water. The gardens of the island of Madeira evoke its year-round temperate climate and its remoteness in the Atlantic Ocean from the Iberian peninsula and the African continent. ...
Christmas in Majorca
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East wind, gray skies, and chilly December days in Charleston make me long for an adventure in the sun. The island of Majorca, a part of Spain in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, has held a fascination for me since reading George Sand’s A Winter in Majorca. The island is bucolic, filled with groves of orange and lemon trees. ...
The Spanish Costa del Sol: Marbella Club Hotel and a Side Trip to Granada
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We arrived at the Malaga train station from Madrid on a fast Talgo train called Ave. The train pummeled through the black night, while the twinkling lights of homes disappeared instantly. We found our rental car and were off in the fresh night air for the Marbella Club Hotel on the Spanish Costa del Sol, an oasis by the sea. ...
Traveling to Madeira
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One blustery gray day in March we set off for Lisbon and Madeira. We were traveling in the footsteps of my great-grand aunt, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Sinkler Coxe. Her trip had begun in February of 1902, on a slow steamer from New York City, with a brief layover in Madeira for refueling. ...
Part 8: Discovering Garden Spots Closer to Home
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My mother, Emily Whaley, used to say that Charleston in June was like a spring bride all decked out in her best finery. Indeed Charleston is in bloom every season of the year. May, June, and July dazzle with pink and white oleander and pink, lavender, and white crepe myrtle. The city is lush and green. ...
Biltmore, North Carolina: An Estate for All Seasons
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Many city dwellers never fully thrill to the excitement of the change of seasons. The Biltmore Estate is an enclave where each season comes and goes slowly and immerses you in the rhythmic cycles of nature. August is the height of the summer season, with roses brilliantly blooming in the formal garden in pink, white, red, and other vibrant colors. ...
The Orchard Inn: A Mountain Destination in Saluda, North Carolina
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The Orchard Inn in Saluda, North Carolina, is a fine destination in spring, summer, or fall. Returning to the Orchard Inn is like a homecoming. It is always packed with friends, or friends of friends, from all over the South. Guests gather in the fall on comfortable sofas before the welcoming and roaring fire. ...
Beyond Miami: Coral Gables, Vizcaya, and the Biltmore Hotel
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Beyond the cultural hodgepodge of Miami, there is a green oasis that George Merrick (1862–1942) created in the 1920s. His family’s house was made of coral and was capped with gables, hence the name of the town he founded, Coral Gables. Merrick envisioned a new Spain, giving streets names such as Granada, Toledo, and Sevilla. ...
Beyond Disney: A Taste of Florida’s Orlando
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Date palms waved in the breeze off grand lakes. Nearby, queen palms danced, luring me to join in their fun. Orlando is a great place to look for the charms of early 1900s Florida and to bask in the sun and tropical environment of our southernmost state. ...
An Adventure in Art: Cà d’Zan, the Ringling Estate in Sarasota, Florida
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The gulfside estate of John (1866–1936) and Mable (1875–1929) Ringling (married in 1905) is a multilayered experience in art. Exploring each of these vibrant facets provides a fun-filled adventure. On a blustery, sunny day, we entered the Gothic portal. The entrance pavilion was alive with visitors from all over the world. ...
Touring the Hudson River Valley in Fall
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What better way to see the famed Hudson River Valley than with the Historic Charleston Foundation? Friday dawned brilliant, and on arrival at Newark we set out for Mohonk Resort, the remains of the ten-thousand-acre Quaker Preserve in the Shawangunk Mountains. The six-hundred-room Victorian castle sits atop a mountain ledge. ...
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Two of my books, An Antebellum Plantation Household and Between North and South, are as much about Philadelphia as Charleston and the South Carolina low country. Philadelphia of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a place of culture, distinction, and money. ...
Finding an Angel in New Orleans, and Diversions along the Way
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Yes, Johnny Cash, an auction in New Orleans is a good crap shoot, a fine gamble, and exciting, especially when you can “just walk away” from Neal’s Gallery with a “Guardian Angel.” Neal’s guardian angel fit well into the iconography of good angels, not the fallen or Lucifer type. Its spreading wings offer protection to a vulnerable mortal. ...
Epilogue: Stories and Memories
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My mother, Emily Whaley (1911–1998), liked to say that we have a gardening gene in our family. My spin on our gardening proclivity is that, from generation to generation, the women in our family have loved the land and sought beauty and inspiration by designing and cultivating gardens. Our men tilled the land; we turned the land into gardens. ...
Suggestions for Further Reading
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012