Jardin Exotique de Monaco

On our return to Nice airport Phil and I decided to stop off in Monaco to see the Jardin Exotique. The story of Monaco’s Jardin Exotique begins with one of the principality’s municipal gardeners, Augustin Gastaud, who had amassed a collection of cacti and succulents. Prince Albert, enchanted by Gastaud’s large and unusual collection, hired the municipal engineer Louis Notari to create a magnificent ‘hanging’ cliffside garden in which to permanently display the plants. Notari’s chosen spot for the gardens was a steep cliff face with an extraordinary view out over Monaco and the French and Italian Rivieras. The site had the perfect microclimate; sharing Monte Carlo’s temperature range of 12 to 24 C the site is sheltered from north winds on one side but open to the east and west winds, bringing rain and sun respectively. Notari adorned the cliff face with large steel-mesh and concrete ‘boulders’; around these bridges, vaults and belvederes were built, adding character and providing a labyrinthine route around the garden enabling visitors to see each plant from almost every angle imaginable. Although Gastaud’s collection formed the basis of the planting in the garden, it wasn’t until Dr. Marcel Kroenlein became director in 1969 that Jardin Exotique’s cacti and succulent collection really began to expand and to become of international importance. Dr Kroenlein went on a number of plant hunting expeditions and has added over 2,000 plants to the garden. Today the Jardin features over 1,000 species of cacti and succulents, including an impressive collection of euphorbias, aloes, ferocactus, mammillaries, gymnocalysiums and pilosocereus.

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