Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Western Isles

 Eight islands in the Hebrides visited
by air
and land

We flew to Edinburgh, travelled north to the Kyle of Lochalsh, and crossed the sea bridge from the Scottish mainland to Skye. 
We encountered traffic jams along the roads
and curious looks from the locals
A profound sense of remoteness 
peace and quiet
and timelessness
stunning scenery

A unique culture
and ancient history

Monday, 14 July 2014

July Garden

Catalpa bignonioides "Aurea" - Golden Indian bean tree - a favourite tree - medium sized deciduous tree bringing luminescent sunlight into the garden
Callistemon citrinus 'Splendens' bottlebrush shrub - not supposed to survive severe winters in the UK but this plant is a teenager and has always lived in the garden. The leaves give off a lemon scent when crushed 
Almost collapsing under the weight of its blossom 
Have you ever noticed the pretty, plush, purple, pods that tiny lavender flowers pop out of?
Evening sunlight producing a pink tinge to the lavender
Containers of mixed flowers in the porch - unsophisticated, and gaudy but welcoming
Papaver somniferum - Opium poppies
Meconopsis cambrica - Welsh poppies
All the poppies above are self seeded
However, that is not the case with these dainty French Poppies only just beginning to open. Each one has a different centre and delicate tissue paper like petals ranging in colour from purest white through many variations on the pink spectrum to red.  Their seeds arrived in my garden from the beautiful island of Öland in Sweden courtesy of lovely Titti
Thank you Titti I am thrilled with them
Not sure which Clematis this is, it was labelled 'Nelly Moser', but isn't. I actually prefer this to Nelly
Lots of planters full of last summers Geraniums - no need to buy any this year, this is the first time I can recall them all surviving the winter outside 
I am pleased with my packet of "kiss me quick" morning glory seeds. They are turning up in a variety of shades from palest pink and blue to dark magenta and indigo

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Answer

The flowers of the Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip Tree, a member of the Magnolia family are a lovely buttery colour with orange markings. Liriodendron is greek for "lily tree". Even though I have shown the blossom in life size they are difficult to spot hidden amongst so much lush green foliage. Fossil evidence shows that the trees have been around since the Cretaceous period - may be dinosaurs dined out on their leaves!!!
A very tall deciduous tree which can grow to more than 50m (165 feet). In the UK they usually start flowering during June, and continue sporadically through to August. 
Those who got it correct in the order they arrived are:-
Rod Lutes 
Well done & a big thank you to everyone else who tried
You can judge how tall the tree is from the rooftops of the nearby houses

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Flower Quiz

Dear friends - it is many, many moons since I last did one of my flower quizzes. The answer will be given on Saturday evening but until then I will switch on 'comments moderation' and retain any answers that guess the flower correctly in order to give everyone a chance. The flower is blooming at the moment, I took this photo today - I have probably been over generous in the amount I have revealed, but do please give it a try.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Paris suburb

Le Vésinet is a short walk from eldest son's home, a commune in the Yvelines department, Île-de-France, which is classified in the Historic Sites inventory. It is barely a 20 minutes rail journey west of the Arc de Triomphe. 
One of the wealthiest suburbs in Paris known for its wooded avenues, mansions and lakes 
In 1837, the first railway line travelled across the ancient forest of Vésinet and Alphonse Pallu, an entrepreneur, along with the famous landscape architect Count Choulot decided to create a village in the middle of nature. 
Five lakes were constructed with small connecting rivers thus laying the groundwork for a unique and beautiful setting on which to build. The residents still abide by very strict guide lines in order to preserve and maintain their unique environment exactly as Pallu and Choulot envisaged it. 

Many personalities were seduced to settle in Le Vésinet including musicians Bizet, and Faurè, painters Vlaminck and Utrillo, the poet Apolinaire, and the philosopher Alain.
Building work first began in 1861, and one of the houses built subsequently became the home of Josephine Baker, the famous black American who wowed Parisians at the Folies Bergère in the 1920s. 
Josephine Baker in her famous banana costume
Her home, Le Beau Chêne was designed and built by Louis Gilbert, the fashionable architect of the day. It encapsulated the aspirations of the period when the bourgeoisie strove to emulate the lifestyle of the aristocracy.
Josephine bought the house in 1929 when she was by then the highest paid entertainer in Europe. Her ten bedroomed neo-Gothic château is where she lived for 18 years along with her menagerie of chickens, rabbits, goats, ducks, Ethel her chimpanzee, and her beloved cheetah, Chiquita. 
There is an eclectic variety of domestic architecture to be seen in Le Vésinet ranging from the modest to the stately - the neo-Gothic château to Art Nouveau splendour, Arts and Crafts houses to Belle Epoch mansions, all set along tree lined boulevards.
I am a great fan of Hector Guimard, the French Art Nouveau architect, who designed many of the iconic entrances to the Metro Stations in Paris. The one below can be seen at Porte Dauphine, the western terminus on Line 2.
What a delighted, therefore, to be pointed in the direction of Villa Berthe by my DiL, designed by Guimard in 1896, and showing all of his hallmark iron and stonework designs that I enjoy seeing so much.
The home of Maurice Utrillo, painter, who specialised in Cityscapes. He was born in the Montmartre quarter of Paris to Suzanne Valadon, a bohemian painter and model. He moved to Le Vésinet in the mid 1930s, hence the style of the house. I wonder if that little room at the top was his studio?
The following is an apocryphal anecdote related by Diego Rivera to Ruth Bakwin (an American collector of his work) concerning Utrillo's paternity "After Maurice was born to Suzanne Valadon, she went to Renoir, for whom she had modelled nine months previously. Renoir looked at the baby and said, "He can't be mine, the colour is terrible!" Next she went to Degas, for whom she had also modelled. He said, "He can't be mine, the form is terrible!" At a cafe, Valadon saw an artist she knew named Miguel Utrillo, to whom she spilled her woes. The man told her to call the baby Utrillo: "I would be glad to put my name to the work of either Renoir or Degas!" courtesy
View from the house in Le Vésinet by Maurice Utrillo   
I was fortunate to get the picture of Utrillo's house, hidden from view by a very high gate, as seen in his painting. Just as we arrived two boys from the house returned home on their bikes, and following a conversation with my DiL they kindly, but briefly, left the gates open.
Just a glimpse of The Cottage in the Wood which is hidden almost entirely by trees and entered by a large wrought iron gate. 
The cottage was lived in until fairly recently by a member of the original family who had it built. Subsequently the last owner left the house to Le Vésinet and it is now open from time to time for visits throughout the year.
Assembled in a very rustic style it was one of the first properties to be built. Whole oak logs and branches  were used for the roof and walls. Originally the roof was thatched in the so called 'English style'. However, here we would probably classify this as a Folly rather than a Cottage. 
The étiquette at the court of Louis XlV in Versailles was extremely strict. To have a retreat for himself and his maîtresse en titre of the time, the Marquise de Montespan, he built a small palace called the Grand Trianon within the grounds at Versailles. It was also a place where invited guests could take light meals with him in a more relaxed environment.
In Le Vésinet there is a pastiche of the Grand Trianon where it is known as the Palais Rose (Pink Palace).
Made of pink marble it was built by shipowner, Albert Schweitzer, cousin of Dr. Albert Schweitzer. By the time it was finished he was declared bankrupt and the Palais Rose was sold at auction. It was bought by an Indian Parisian businessman, and legend has it that he funded the purchase by selling two pearls and an emerald. He found that he had no use for it and sold it after two years to the poet Robert de Montesquiou
Although it looks quite modest in size it actually extends a long way to the rear. It is built on a mound allowing for the building at the back to be double height.