Gardening in Nice

Bang in the centre of this sophisticated and cosmopolitan city, Phoenix Parc Floral de Nice covers 7 hectares, yet it is only a stone's throw from the airport and the famous Promenade des Anglais.

Numerous Acacia dealbata cultivars (mimosa) hang heavy with yellow blossom over the sunken Astronomical Garden, with its sculpture celebrating the evolution of life, from the first fossil remains to footsteps on the moon. There is a rockery with monster cacti and other succulents, including spiky agaves, and aloes with their red-hot poker like flowers.

Interconnected gardens are planted with citrus, pots of pelargoniums, twisted olive trees and pillars draped with jasmine, wisteria and roses later in the season. In Le Jardin du Cure, with clipped box hedges, the aromatic medicinal and culinary herbs of Provence flourish in geometrical beds.

Throughout the park a 'country stream' winds through gardens planted with ornamental grasses, and there are other water features, ranging from a tiny formal pool, housing a lion's head spouting drinking water, to a huge lake with waterfalls and massive intermittent jets of water playing in elaborate patterns.

You can enjoy a visit no matter what the weather in a huge glasshouse, Le Diamant Vert, one of the largest and most technologically sophisticated in Europe, containing 2,500 plants from 7 different tropical zones.

Like the park, there is an abundance of water features in the glasshouse, including a lake with an impressive waterfall and a plethora of fat koi, a tiny pool containing terrapins and a butterfly house where zebra finches play in the fountain. The plants vary in scale from towering palms to banks of our houseplants, growing in natural shrubberies, including head-high Euphorbia pulcherrima, the red-bracted Christmas poinsettia, the shrimp plant, Justicia brandegeeana, spathes of the flamingo flower, Anthurium andraeanum, and the red beefsteak plant, Iresine herbii. Strelitzia reginae, the bird of paradise, shows its beak -like blooms amongst other flora including the Natal bottlebrush, Greyia sutherlandii.

Last, but certainly not least, the orchid house has masses of heart-stopping, gorgeous, wax-like blooms, from Phalaenopsis hybrids to ground hugging Paphiopedilum hybrids, known as Sabot de Venus, or, more prosaically, as slipper orchids to us.

The park opens from 9 am to 7pm from mid-March to mid-October and from 9 am to 5 pm thereafter. Admission is 40 francs for adults (30 francs for senior citizens and students) and 25 francs for children aged between 6 and 12. Smaller fry get in free, there are playgrounds, aviaries and exotic fowl to amuse them and, yes, refreshments are available!

Articles reprinted with premission from

Free Garden Catalog