Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring Travels 2015 - Part 1: Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

On our trip to France a few weeks ago we visited a number of gardens, the first among them being that of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the little peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat just outside Nice. Completed in 1912 for the immensely wealthy Béatrice de Rothschild (1864-1934), the villa is a lot like the famous mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, from the American Gilded Age - large, ostentatious, intended to be used for only a relatively short part of the year, and chock-full of very old and very expensive - and often very ugly - art bought up seemingly indiscriminately from former royalty and the aristocracy of days gone by. However, aside from the tackiness of the mansion's interior, which in its own way is still worth seeing, the estate is absolutely beautiful. The location is stunning, on the highest point of the narrow peninsula with views over other villas and lush grounds out onto the Mediterranean in almost every direction. Extending around the sides of the house and in a long axis in front of its south façade - the overall layout is meant to resemble the deck of a ship - are a series of themed gardens, all immaculately maintained. 

A view towards the south front of the villa along the central axis of the garden

A view out over the bay towards the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer

A stone trough planted with Primula obconica in the entrance area

 A staircase and fountain clothed in creeping fig (Ficus pumila)

A fountain in the entrance court surrounded by velvet groundsel (Roldana petasitis)

In touring the grounds, one first enters the Spanish Garden, a lush space that evokes the Moorish gardens of southern Spain with pale yellow arches and a rectangular central water feature. Adjoining the Spanish Garden is the Florentine Garden dominated by sombre cypresses. Further on is the Stone Garden, a shady area where Béatrice de Rothschild arranged her collection of stone carvings - friezes, window arches, and the like - amidst azaleas and camellias.

View from the Spanish Garden towards the Florentine Garden

Arches and greenery in the Spanish Garden

More arches and flowers

An Italianate staircase

 A camellia (Camellia japonica cv.) in the Stone Garden

After the Stone Garden comes a shady, manicured Japanese Garden, followed in turn by a garden of succulents.

In  the Japanese Garden

More of the Japanese Garden, looking in the other direction

Into the garden of succulents

After the succulent garden at the very tip of the property is a large formal rose garden. However, since the roses were just beginning to break dormancy there was not really much to see and I did not take any pictures. At other times of the year, though, the rose garden is supposed to be one of the highlights of the property. 

For more information on the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild you can visit its website here.


  1. Oh, such lovely foreign greenery and architecture. Always fun to look at. No roses needed.

  2. That's really beautiful garden! So inspiring! Thanks for sharing


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