Lisbon, Portugal

Rossio (or Pedro IV) Square, Lisbon, Portugal, ca. mid 20th c., by Estúdio Mário Novais, via Art Library of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Commons on flickr (under CC license).

The Rossio has been an important central Lisbon square since the 14th century. Rossio roughly means “commons.” Its current appearance, however, was formed in the mid (paving) and late (fountains and column) 1800s.

The distinctive paving — calçada Portuguesa — is made up of small irregular cobblestones of white limestone and black basalt.  In 1842, the governor of São Jorge Castle, Eusebio Furtado, set prisoners to work laying an unusual zigzag pattern on its parade ground. The effect was so popular that in 1848 Furtado was asked to use the same sort of design (and prisoners) on the Rossio Square.  After that, “Portuguese pavement” spread across the city and country and ultimately out to the colonies of Brazil and Macau.

Although beautiful, it’s said to be extremely slippery when wet.

The Sunday porch: Montgomery, Alabama

“Early dwelling, 222 S. Perry St.,” Montgomery, Alabama, 1939, by Frances Benjamin Johnstonvia Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The porch woodwork pattern is echoed in the little attic windows. Click to enlarge.

A huge vine is growing beside the steps, but it seems to go up into the tree on the left, rather than onto the porch.

The sidewalk is tiled in a simple geometric pattern. The effect, with the arches of the porch and basement windows, is a little Moroccan/Andalusian.

The house no longer stands.

By the numbers, Geneva

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We were traveling all last week in Switzerland and France, stopping for three days in Geneva.

Walking back and forth from our hotel to the city’s old town, I several times passed the floral clock (L’horloge fleurie) located near the spot where the Rhône River leaves Lake Léman. It was built in 1955 to honor Geneva’s watchmaking industry, and its design, formed by approximately 6,500 plants, changes seasonally. With a diameter of 5 meters (16.4′), the clock was said to be the largest in the world until 2005 — when it was surpassed by a 15-meter version in Tehran, Iran.*

It’s not a style of garden that I particularly like, but as I examined it, I had to admire the careful layout and clipping required to make it possible. (Click on any image above to scroll through enlarged versions.)

Floral sundials have been around since at least the 16th century, but the first-known floral display with mechanical clock hands was created in 1892 in the Trocadéro gardens in Paris. A second was constructed at Water Works Park in Detroit in 1893. By the early 20th century, examples could be found across the U.S., Great Britain, and Europe.

A number of these clocks were abandoned during WWI, but in the 1920s and 1930s, as motoring tourism developed, towns began to build them again as attractions.

How well the skillful gard’ner drew
Of flow’rs and herbs this dial new.  .  .  .
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckon’d but with herbs and flow’rs!

— Andrew Marvell, from “The Garden


*Geneva’s second hand is still the longest, at 2.5 m.