The Sunday porch: Newport, R.I.

Wakehurst, Newport, RI, 1950s, via Library of Congress:The Sunday porch-enclos*urePorch at the residence of Margaret Brugiere, Wakehurst, in Newport, Rhode Island, August 6, 1958, by Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The house was built in 1887 by James J. Van Alen as an exact replica of 16th century Wakehurst Place in West Sussex, England.

Margaret, or “Daisy,” Brugiere was Van Alen’s daughter-in-law (widowed and remarried), and she kept the place going in a high style until her death in 1969.

At some point, the family must have wanted the comforts of an American porch and created one with awning.  Its interior style seems inspired by Naples — both the city in Italy and the one in Florida.

Wakehurst porch, Newport, RI, 1950s, via Library of Congress:The Sunday porch-enclos*ure

The property exists today as the student center for Salve Regina University.

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La Vallée Suisse, Paris

“The plants have taken over. The gardener has gone home.”
— Gregory Ross, from Hidden Parks of Paris

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The verdant, sunken Garden of the Swiss Valley is a true “hidden garden” of Paris. Unless you know to look for the little green wire gate just past the very large and silly memorial, “The Dream of the Poet,” on Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt, you will walk right by it on your way to the Seine.

But if you do know to stop and then enter the gate, you’ll descend over a dozen faux bois steps to a “stone” arch (also constructed of concrete, as are all the other stones in the garden).

Stepping through the archway, you’ll cross an artificial pond fed by the Seine (and reputedly inhabited by carp) and look down the single path of the long narrow space. Mature trees, shrubs, and perennials cover and obscure the valley walls; some dip into the water, including a 100-year-old weeping beech.

Elaine Sciolino, writing in the The New York Times, called this garden “a tiny stage-set.” With its fake rock and old-fashioned common garden plants,* it is not really “naturalistic,” yet is still a little wilderness — its arrangement seemingly having moved beyond planting design and maintenance.

When I visited it one morning in early September, a slight haze of dust and seasonal decay hung in the air. The only other person there was a homeless man sound asleep on one of the benches, and I tried not to bother him as I walked back and forth taking pictures.

At one end of the path, a faux bois pedestrian footbridge crosses overhead. At the other, green doors signal the entrance to a Climespace plant, which — 30 meters further underground — cools the surrounding buildings with circulating chilled water.

The Swiss Valley is one of the many garden spaces along the Champs-Élysées credited to Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand, an engineer who directed the construction of many Haussmann-era parks. Whether he actually designed it seems lost to history (on the internet, at least). I have read that the Valley was created for the Exposition Universelle of 1900, but perhaps it was the 1889 World’s Fair, as Alphand died in 1891. How Switzerland or a Swiss exhibit comes into it is also not really clear.

The little park is now called the Garden of New France because of nearby Place du Canada. At least half its 1.7 acres are above the valley garden, level with the street — an ordinary assortment of shrubs, grass, and gravel paths.

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*Including maple trees, bamboo, wavy leaf silktassel, Mexican orange, viburnum, nandina, lilac, jasmine, white hibiscus, ferns, ivy, roses, daylilies, smooth hydrangea, smokebush, Japanese anemones, and Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’.

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The Sunday porch: Queensland

Queensland porch with shell, ca. 1895, via State Library of Queensland“Decorated corner of a veranda,” Queensland, Australia, ca. 1895, photographer unknown, via State Library of Queensland.

The shell of the giant clam (Tridacna gigas) pictured above was probably taken from the waters around the Great Barrier Reef.  Today, the mollusk is a “vulnerable” species due to overharvesting.

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The Sunday porch: paint and vines

Ste-Catherine, Brussels, Sept. 2015, enclos*ure

These are not really porches, of course, but two café doorways and a storefront.

They caught my eye while we were walking around the Sainte-Catherine or Sint Katelijne neighborhood of Brussels, which is just northwest of the Grand’Place and La Bourse.

Rue de Flandre, Brussels, Sept. 2015, enclos*ure

The one pictured above is on Rue de Flandre.

Rue de Flandre, Brussels, Sept. 2015, enclos*ure

I believe I snapped this blue café, above, on Quai au Bois à Brûler, facing the site of the old Saint-Catherine Bassin or canal port, covered over since the 1870s.

Ste-Catherine, Brussels, Sept. 2015, enclos*ure

I like the way the ivy is used as both a decorative windowbox planting and low privacy screen.

A vine-covered storefront, also along Rue de Flandre.
Above, a mass of vines shades a closed storefront, also along Rue de Flandre.


Detail of photo above.

Rue de Flandre is a good street on which to find an interesting restaurant.  We liked Viva M’Boma (old-fashioned Belgian food, emphasis on meat/offal) and Domaine de Lintillac (dishes from the southwest of France, emphasis on duck).

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Marais garden, Paris

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The “hidden garden” of  the Musée des Archives Nationale in early September.

A quiet place to retreat to while exploring the popular Marais section of Paris.

I particularly liked the row of wire grid columns just inside the entrance from Rue des Quatre-Fils.  They enclosed upright pyracantha bushes and were underplanted with fountain grass.

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