Rothschild Cactus Gardens

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 visible from the house, i.e. the French garden.

During the war, Cap Ferrat was vacated by all its inhabitants and mined. The Villa was left unmonitored and its garden abandoned for two years. On his return in 1945, Louis Marchand resumed his work on the gardens, which were badly damaged, and rapidly restored them to their pre-war splendour.

Formerly called the Mexican garden, the exotic garden was nearly destroyed during the heavy frosts of 1985. It is the kingdom of succulents and gigantic cacti. The various species of agave, with smooth or prickly leaves, have achieved an impressive size over the years, and so too have the barbary figs that collapse under the weight of their flowers in the spring and the echinocatus with their spiny barrels known as “mother-in-law’s cushions”. The clusters of orange flowers on the aloes accentuate the flamboyant character of this garden, a sharp contrast to the subdued atmosphere of the neighbouring rose garden. Its steep and winding paths truly transport you to a different world.

The various paths of the Provençal garden are bordered with olive and pine trees bent by the wind, lavender and agapanthus



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2 thoughts on “Rothschild Cactus Gardens

  1. Reblogged this on Rhymes with Linnaeus and commented:
    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.


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