Rothschild Cactus Gardens

Funny how cactus can look like sea creatures and exploring a garden of succulents in the shimmering heat will bring on a delicious light-headedness, sans acqua-lung. This posting about a visit to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, located at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera, captures that feeling well. I love the cacti that look like big, green and gnarly, multi-fingered fists. Fittingly, the inspiration for the design of the villa and its 9 gardens was a ship with the ocean providing a deep blue backdrop.

not at home

The Villa Ephrussi Rothschild is surrounded by nine magnificent gardens decorated with patios, waterfalls, ornamental ponds, flowerbeds, shady paths and rare species of trees.

The gardens took seven years to complete, from 1905 to 1912. The site chosen for the Villa, with all the grandeur of its dual aspects, was not however particularly conducive to the establishment of a garden. In fact, the creation of a landscaped park on this rocky promontory covered in trees and battered by gusts of wind would be an amazing feat. But that was no obstacle!

All they had to do was to dynamite the ground and bring in enormous quantities of earth to make it flat. Hundreds of Italian workers were hired for these colossal excavation works. In 1912, on the day the Villa was inaugurated, the four hectares of garden were still not completely landscaped:  Béatrice Ephrussi gave priority to the areas that were…

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