The Fabulous Hanbury Gardens on the Riviera

It takes several days to discover all the beauties these gardens have to offer with a sumptuous décor and 7,000 species of plants.

The magnificent Palazzo Orengo in the Hanbury Gardens, near Ventimiglia, Italy.

 Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Giardini_Botanici_Hanbury_-_villa.JPG

In 1867, when returning from China where he made a fortune, Sir Thomas Hanbury was looking for a residence to escape the rainy climate of Britain. He discovers the Capo Mortola on the Italian Riviera, a few kilometers from Menton. The property includes a beautiful XVIth century mansion and is crossed by the antique Via Julia Augusta. With the help of his elder brother Daniel, a botanist and the gardener Ludwig Winter, Sir Thomas fits up the garden and plants as from 1868. Medicinal and sub-tropical plants as well as citrus fruits artistically ornate the park along with architectural elements and fountains. The Suspended Garden, the Australian Forest, the orange grove, olive and rose trees with the peonies harmoniously blend their fragrances around the Palazzo Orengo. This Villa was built in the XVIth century in the Genoese Style and became the property of the Orengo Family in 1620. Thomas Hanbury later added the elegant West wing. The park indeed is a dream come true.

You begin the tour with the ficus and aloes alley leading to this sheltered area where banana-trees grow at ease. Near the gazebo, you notice the American agaves. Further on, the zigzagged path leads to the amaryllis and cyclamen, in full blossom, just for you. To the right, you discover the extraordinary cycas, palm-trees and exotic pine-trees, namely the "Cupressus Lusitanica" from Guatemala.It was planted in 1868 close to the Palazzo Orengo. In front of the South façade, you find the "Giardino Pensile", the typically Genoese suspended garden.  Facing the portal, the Pergola welcomes you, you are so surprised with the Dragon Basin and the Fountain of the Jars. On your way to the odoriferous Australian Forest planted with several species of eucalyptus, you cross the arch over the Via Aurelia. It used to connect Rome with Arles in Provence. The part of the gardens on the seaside is more traditional than the upper park with the roses, olive-trees and orange grove. A small path takes you to the Moorish mausoleum of Sir Thomas Hanbury and his wife. You finally take another whiff of fragrant air in the newly created Scented Garden where all the plants are labelled with their names. Why not take notes and grow some of them later in your own garden? The "Thunbergia mysorensis" certainly will draw all your attention, it is  a sumptuous evergreen vine often reaching 6 m (20 feet), it attracts lovely hummingbirds.

These wonderful gardens, certainly one of the most magnificent on Earth, were devastated during World War II by bombings, troops and vandalism. They have been carefully restored since then and declared a nature preserve in 2000. The University of Genoa does here a remarkable work.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f1/Giardini_Botanici_Hanbury_-_general_view.JPG

The Pavilion.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/Giardini_Botanici_Hanbury_-_pavilion.JPG

The collection of cacti.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Giardini_Botanici_Hanbury_-_cacti.JPG

The tomb of Thomas Hanbury and his wife.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Giardini_Botanici_Hanbury_-_tomb.JPG

The Thunbergia mysorensis or "Clock vine" attracting hummingbirds.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/Thunbergia_mysorensis01.jpg

 A hummingbird.

Image source : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/Colibri-thalassinus-001-edit.jpg

The Genoese Villa in the Hanbury Gardens.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Demeure_Hanbury.jpg

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