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The Grumpy Gardener – Cactus and Succulents In Monaco
The 82-year old Jardin Exotique de Monaco is a particularly interesting botanical garden on the Mediterranean given over almost entirely to cacti and succulents and worth a visit at any time of the year.
Its privileged location and extensive range means some of its varieties can always be depended on to be in flower whatever season you may visit in. There are more than a thousand different species on display, drawn from south-west United States; Mexico; Central and South America; South Africa; East Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula and as with everything else in this tiny but wealthy principality, the gardens are in pristine condition.
Just before Christmas your gardener and his family enjoyed a short visit to France’s gilded Riviera and of course we couldn’t miss Monaco. For Monaco which, as everyone knows is a charming but outrageously expensive haven of the mega-rich, is now of course an added attraction for South Africans since Charlene Wittstock, the former South African Olympic swimmer, became the Princess of Monaco through her marriage to Prince Albert II.
So it came to pass after we eventually found parking near the famous casino, the two ladies of my life decided that they would spend their time window shopping, fully aware of course, that on my gardening income there was very little chance of them actually be allowed to buy anything in the Monaco mink-belt.
Indeed recently, I had made the not unsurprising discovery that neither my wife nor my daughter hold me in very high esteem as a shopping companion. Apparently comments such as “you’ve got to be kidding me” or “no one in their right mind would pay to wear something like that” are not considered helpful. Also less than appreciated and considered to add nothing to the ladies shopping experience, is the very male approach of noticing the prices before even looking at the goods. Indeed it seems that up until now, my resigned and dejected presence has been tolerated mainly on the basis that I am a useful pair of hands for all their shopping bags.
Given that as mentioned I had made sure the credit card was well and truly wheel-clamped before we set out across the almost invisible border into the tiny 2 km2 territory that clings to the rocks overlooking the Med, my bag carrier role on this occasion was clearly going to be redundant and so i was dispatched for a wander about. Thus it was that with half a day to explore, I found myself in the precariously-perched Jardin Exotique de Monaco.
The Jardin’s landscaping, on very steep terrain, is superb and plants are clearly labelled which is something I always appreciate. There is nothing more frustrating than discovering an interesting new plant and then not being able to establish its name. As an added bonus the gardens offer some of the best views of Monaco as well as the nearby French and Italian Riviera. Many of the Monegasque buildings have impressive roof gardens and if, like me, you are unlikely to ever be arriving by helicopter the gardens are just the place to get a good glimpse of some of these lush creations.
Many people don’t like succulents. I have memories of sad and withered looking specimens that seemed to stand neglected gathering dust in office blocks where they looked more like mummified instruments of torture than plants of beauty. In fact they have come to be more appreciated over recent years and there are now so many shapes and varieties on the market that there are bound to be one or two to turn the hearts of even the most fervent cacti hater. I have found on recent travels that my appreciation of succulents is expanding even though I am not particularly adept with house plants and as a result of prolonged inattention my poor indoor companions tend to suffer high attrition rates.
Succulents, on the other hand, seem to thrive on such inattention and indeed appear to perform even better when I am not around rather, I hesitate to say like my wife and daughter on their shopping sprees.
If you would like to know more about cacti and succulents try these websites:
- British Cactus & Succulent Society
- Cactus and Succulent Society of Australia Inc
- Cactus and Succulent Society of America
- Au Cactus Francophone
- Audissou Succulent Plants
- Le Cactus Alpin
- Cactus Landes
- Henri Kuentz et ses cactus
- Plantemania Caudiciforms & rare plants
- Plantes miniatures
Our Grumpy Gardener has been gardening professionally in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.
Writer: Mike Alexander
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