— Visiting Le Jardin Exotique de Monaco

Narrow paths and spiny edges don’t make for an easy walk, especially when you are on a steep rocky hill while constantly being distracted by breath-taking views of a spectacular harbor. This is not a good place to fall.

A few readers know I have a small collection of succulents, some of which have been with me for more than 10 years. The fascination with this family of plants was born out of necessity and not innate passion: as I learned about – and caused to die – many bonsais it occurred to me I needed to deal with hardier species, which would not pass out if you forgot to water it for one week. In time I became genuinely interested in these plants.

During a recent trip to Monte Carlo, an afternoon meeting was cancelled and I took the opportunity to visit Le Jardin Exotique, famous worldwide for its collection of succulents. It was an eye opener.

The difference between homegrown plants and plants evolving in their natural habitat is immense. Size, color, shape and age all combine to strain your eyes to recognize common genera. As an example, here’s my 3-year-old Myrtillocactus Geometrizans:

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and here’s one of them – among many – in Monaco:


Can you spot the difference? Naturally the one in Le Jardin is much older, but I guarantee you no amount of time is ever going to get mine even a tenth the size of its natural brethren.

The botanical garden is constructed on a vertical slant of rocky terrain and meticulously organized. It is maintained by people whose job I am sure is underpaid, especially considering the hazards and restricted spaces they work in: a few inches in the wrong direction and you are done for the day. A little like working in the kitchen of a busy restaurant. Some of the plants, arranged around narrow paths descending several meters towards the sea, are so big and so old that have become “terrain” for non-epiphytic smaller plants, which somehow manage to grow roots at the base of branches, like in the plant right behind the standing woman in this picture:


Many a guidebook is full of recommendations for a visit to this absolutely marvelous creation. It’s worth a trip to Monaco just to visit Le Jardin.

Narrow paths and spiny edges don’t make for an easy walk. Nor do they make for easy money: market conditions today resemble the unusual walking conditions encountered in Le Jardin. You have limited lateral flexibility and many opportunities to get hurt, and of course spectacular views of fancy returns in the immediate future. While we know exactly how and where to get out of Le Jardin, I defy anyone to paint a picture of where we are going to be in 5 years and in what conditions. This is not a good time to fall.


Photo sources: own photos.