Category Archives: plants

The Sunday porch: French Riviera

1 full view, Poincare Residence, Eze, France, ca. 1914, University Caen Basse…The property of M. [Raymond] Poincaré in Èze.  The gardens and the main entrance of the house,” ca. 1914 – ca. 1918, photographer unknown, via the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie Commons on flickr.

Èze is located on the southeastern coast of France, not far from Nice. The Mediterranean was just beyond the railings above.

Detail, Poincare Residence, Eze, France, ca. 1914, University of Caen Basse-Normandie

(To scroll through a number of larger versions of the photo, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.)

Raymond Poincaré was President of France from 1913 to 1920.  He had been both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (simultaneously) during all of 1912.

. . . I  decided this time not to go to Sampigny but to stay somewhere on the Mediterranean. After brief research, I rented, in the Alpes-Maritimes, at the foot of the small town of Saracen Eze-sur-Mer, a quiet villa, hidden in the pine trees. On a long terrace overlooking the sea, one can see the Cap d’Ail, the Cap Roux, the Cape Ferrat, and it has an incomparable view of the sea. By winning this early retirement, I am not unhappy to escape a little to the embrace of my job, but at least I have the impression that the state of Europe, while still unstable, allows me to breathe more freely. Peace seems restored in the Balkans. Our relations with all Powers are normal. Whatever the new influences acting on William II, France was determined not provide any pretext for war. It’s almost a feeling of rest and security I feel, when I’ll salute the French Riviera the spring of 1914.

— Raymond Poincaré, from his memoirs.

You can see an image of the long terrace of the house in April 1914 here.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under a garden in history, architecture, culture and history, design, French gardens, garden design, nature, plants, The Sunday porch, vintage landscape

Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna

Hundertwasser Hse., Vienna, by enclos*ure

This is the Hundertwasser House in Vienna, Austria, an apartment building designed and constructed in the early 1980s from the concepts of visionary Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

I had admired pictures of it before, but I had forgotten that it was in Vienna until I was leafing though a pamphlet at the tourist office there in early July. I found that not only was it in the city, but that we could get there via a quick ride from the Ring Road on the no. 1 tram.*

This is Kegelgasse,

Kegelgasse, the bermed pedestrian street below the photo above.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser** was a painter and later worked in the field of applied art, creating flags, posters, and stamps.

From the 1950s, he also wrote and spoke passionately about “an architecture in harmony with nature and man” — and in what he called “new values” of a “yearning for romanticism, individuality, creativity, especially creativity.”

He wanted forested roofs, “tree tenants” on balconies, and “high rise” meadows.

In 1977, the mayor of Vienna was persuaded to give Hundertwasser a chance to try out his ideas on an apartment building. An architect (and then another) was assigned to help him create the technical drawings.

The quiet ground-level internal courtyard of the building.

Beyond the fountain above, the quiet internal courtyard of the building.

In 1980, at a press conference about the Haus, Hundertwasser expressed his philosophy of “window right” and “tree obligation.” You can read it here.

Some of his other statements about the building are below.

"Windows in rank and file are sad, . . .

“Windows in rank and file are sad, windows should be able to dance.” — F.H.

Photos above and below: The facade of the north side. Hundertwasser believed that every tenant should have the right to choose the decoration around his or her own windows.

. . .windows should be able to dance.' - F.H.

A person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm’s reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm’s reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door.

— F.H. (more of his words on the “apartheid of window races” here.)

The Löwengasse side of the building.

Photos above and below: The Lowengasse side of Hundertwasserhaus.  It does not stand alone, but is closely surrounded by traditional 19th and early 20th century apartment buildings.  On this side, I could see why some critics called the work “kitsch.”

“Romanticism has been declared kitsch and so we have been robbed or romanticism,” wrote Hundertwasser. “May one not dream? . . . The absence of kitsch makes life unbearable.”

and so we have been robbed of romanticism. May one not dream?. . .

In a[n apartment] house, an individually different, organic design of the outer wall of each individual apartment is of fundamental significance, so that the resident can identify with his house from the outside.


The absence of kitsch makes life unbearable." - F.H.

[The terraces] open to the street are a gift for everyone . . . . [They] take away the house’s vertical aggressivity, street noise is lessened because the echo is no longer caught between the rows of buildings.

If the terraces are green and have trees on them, it is like a natural hill with people living in it. Walking through a city with ascending terraces is like wandering through a gentle, green valley.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos above: The pedestrian street along the north side of the building.

A lively, uneven floor in the public area means a regaining of the human dignity which man is deprived of by the levelling tendencies of urbanism. . . .

If modern man is forced to walk on asphalt, concrete FLAT surfaces, the way they are thoughtlessly conceived with the ruler in the designer offices, alienated from his natural relationship to the earth which goes back to the dawn of time, from contact with the earth, a crucial part of man is blunted, with catastrophic consequences for his psyche, his emotional balance, his well-being and health.

Man forgets how to experience things and becomes emotionally ill.

Thus, the flat floor becomes a true danger for man.


The building contains 52 apartments, 16 private terraces, 3 communal terraces, and 250 trees and bushes, according to Wikipedia.

To scroll through larger versions of the photos, click on ‘Continue reading’ and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.

*The 1 tram starts out in front of the Opera House and moves along the west and north sides of the Ring Road. Just stay on until it veers off east on Radetzky Street. Hundertwasserhaus is on Löwengasse — on the left — right after you cross Blütengasse.

**He was born Friedrich Stowasser, but changed his name in the late 1940s. His adopted name translates as “Peace-Realm Hundred-Water.” He died in 2000, after working on a number of architectural projects in the 1980s and 90s.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under a garden in history, architecture, art, design, garden design, landscape, life in gardens, nature, plants, travel

Streifzug 4: more blumen

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yesterday: a Blumen selbt schneiden or ‘cut your own flowers’ field, with an honor-system money box.

There were lots of calendulas and cornflowers, but only a few red poppies left in the Sommerblumen mischung or summer mix row.  In the next couple of weeks, we’ll have gladiolus and dahlias.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under design, garden design, landscape, life in gardens, nature, plants, working in the garden

The Sunday porch: Mechanicsville, Md.

Mechanicsville MD 2, Library of CongressMr. and Mrs. Herbert on their porch in Mechanicsville, Maryland, June or July 1942, by Marjory Collins, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (all three photos).

Mechanicsville MD, Library of Congress

All the elements of a good screened porch are here: a slipcovered glider and a wicker chair, a rocker with a cushion (because the caned seat is nearly gone), a Boston fern and an angel-wing begonia, a newspaper and a copy of Good Housekeeping.  Both Herberts are wearing summertime white shoes.

Only a little iced tea could make it any nicer. Judging from the way they are dressed, I would guess this is a Sunday afternoon.

Mechanicsville MD house, Library of Congress

The couple — Charles P. and Bessie D. — built their Queen Anne house in 1909, although, curiously, it appears that they only bought the land beneath it in 1914, according to a Maryland Historic Sites Inventory Form filled out in the 1990s or later.

Charles had moved to the the area to be an express agent for the railroad.  Bessie was the town dressmaker. They lived in the house until their deaths during the 1960s.

A photo attached to the Inventory Form shows that the screening on the east side of the porch was later removed and some lacy trim was added along the entire front.  I could not find the house in a current Google Maps satellite view, however.

As usual, I wish we could see more of the garden.

Marjory Collins took these pictures about six months after moving to Washington, D.C., to join the documentary photographers of the U.S. Office of War Information.  Her “upbeat, harmonious images” of that time “reflected the OWI editorial requests for visual stories about the ideal American way of life,” according to a biographical essay about her by the Library of Congress.


Filed under American gardens, architecture, culture and history, design, garden design, life in gardens, plants, The Sunday porch, vintage landscape, Washington, D.C., gardens

Our garden in July

How to convey the very, very discreet charm of our garden of rough grass and weeds?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I often think of this other bit of German ground painted by Albrecht Dürer.

Yesterday, a repairman came over to fix the window/door behind my desk chair. It turned out to be fine; I just did not know how to operate it properly. (German windows are wonderful, but this one is a bit over-engineered.)  He pushed the handle and pulled the frame and said, “And now you can go out into the beautiful . . . looks out, slight pause. . . garden.”

You can read about the beginning of my “garden without (much) gardening” here.

The middle of the month brings Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day (the 15th) and Foliage Follow Up (the 16th). Please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens and Pam at Digging to see what’s blooming and leafing out in July.

You can scroll through larger versions of the photos above by clicking on ‘Continue reading’ below.

I grow in places
others can’t,

where wind is high
and water scant. . . .

I make my humble,
bladed bed.

And where there’s level ground,
I spread.

Joyce Sidman, from “Grass

Continue reading


Filed under design, garden design, German gardens, nature, our garden, plants, working in the garden