A green Grand Tour along my personal favorite (and most beautiful) gardens and parks in Europe. Built by artists and art lovers. From the Garden of Gardens and an example of much that was created elsewhere, the Giardino di Boboli in Florence opened to Parc Payager, the LUMA landscape park in Arles, which opened last summer. All equally inspiring, wonderful and these months at their best. France annually celebrates the Festival International des Jardins, Italy has the Garden Route Italia, the Grandi Giardini Italiani and the Appuntamento in the Giardino. After all, I now wonder if our country is not even ready for something new that goes beyond a Keukenhof or Floriade? Get inspired and a thousand ideas will flourish.
1Monet Giverny’s Gardens
Nowhere did I see a wisteria blue, a yellow iris more yellow or water lilies more numerous than in the gardens at Giverny. Monet’s masterpiece. Perhaps the most beautiful garden and truly a work of art in itself. I wish everyone here a moment with Monet alone, but unfortunately that will not be possible soon between the 600,000 visitors each year. However, tourism from Asia is not returning to its old level this year. In any case, be prepared for a long queue or arrive early. Or visit Giverny outside the summer holidays as this garden is beautiful in all seasons and blooms from early April to late October. This is where Monet painted her wall-sized water lilies scenes and sizzling late works. The adjoining studio and home are among the best historic interiors I know. ‘Claude has just left’, it seems. The majestic dining room with golden yellow walls, ceiling and furniture, the generously set table, the French doors and the French sun make you never want to leave.
2Henry Moore Studios & Gardens Perry Green
In 2006, I first visited Perry Green, between London and Cambridge, to visit Henry Moore Studios & Gardens. That same year, Kunsthal Rotterdam presented the well-attended exhibition about his work, and in 2013 I repeated the trick, this time outside in the Rijksmuseum’s new gardens. For Henry Moore to be the best, go to Perry Green. Here, the Henry Moore Foundation organizes an annual exhibition both inside the former studios and outside on the 30-hectare plot. Equipped with Wellington boots (rather wear rubber boots when wet), a walk along Moore’s monumental bronzer through this gently sloping English landscape between the statues and the sheep is the ultimate symbiosis of art and nature. And how fascinating to discover how this artist found his inspiration in nature. Everything falls into place here and you can see how organic shapes can result in meter-high abstract images.
3Giardino di Boboli Firenze
“It’s good to play and spend a lot of money” (‘Convien giucare e spender bei quattrini’), according to the motto of Lorenzo de ‘Medici nicknamed il Magnifico. He was a descendant of the banking dynasty that stood at the cradle of the Renaissance. What money and good taste can do. Leonardo and Botticelli, Donatello and Michelangelo, they all worked for the Medici. Around Florence is a network of villas with gardens, rightly Unesco World Heritage, which together are worth a summer holiday. In Florence itself, the Medici had the Palazzo Pubblico and the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno. Years ago, I walked through the covered Vasari corridor, the mile-long secret connection between the two buildings, to finally enjoy the greenery of the walled Boboli Garden. A beautiful shell cave, statues, citrus trees, fountains, Giardino di Boboli are in many ways the source of inspiration for our parks.
High above all in Arles, a shiny building has appeared since last year. Conceived and funded by philanthropist Maja Hofmann, the dull French city was thrown directly into the 21st century. Architect Frank Gehry once again created a spectacular piece, not his best design, if you ask me, but LUMA as a whole is certainly world-class. I was there last summer, the park had just been laid out, and the additional 500 trees planted were still taking root. The design is by the Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets, and LUMA is especially recommended for Dutch administrators who do not know what to do with former industrial areas. While we in our country are endlessly thinking, planning and consulting (and waiting just as long until the next crisis strikes) about a Hemterrein, Suikerunieterrein, Marineterrein or M4H area, an exemplary conversion to a first-class park was created here. .
5Villa Liebermann Berlin
Berlin is a city full of contrasts, and nowhere do I feel it sharper than on the lovely Wannsee, the city’s lake on the outskirts of the German capital. Here are two destinations right next to each other that Berlin-goers do not visit on their first or second visit, but only later. Two beautiful villas, both designed by the same architect Paul Baumgarten. Stately and glorious on the water, built for a pleasant stay, entertainment and pleasant relaxation. Villa Liebermann is known for its resident, the painter Max Liebermann. During the Third Reich, Villa Marlier became a guest house of the Sicherheitsdienst, and its fame comes from the meeting held here on January 20, 1942, which went down in history under the name Wannsee Konferenz. All of its minutes would have been ruined, except for one version that reads the scary lyrics that make you gasp. A little further on in Liebermann’s garden, the comforting splendor of flowers testifies to the fact that his widow was forced to sell everything in 1940, to an improbable life force. It is the healing power of Mother Nature.
photos Getty pictures