I’ve traveled cross-country from Arizona to Indiana and back multiple times over the years and each time the goal is to find a different way to explore. If your travels find you driving through the heart of this country, Powell Gardens or Wichita in Kansas are excellent stops. In Illinois, Allerton Park or the Champaign Prairie Walk are great for stretching your legs. If you take a southern route don’t miss both the Dallas and & Ft. Worth Gardens in Texas, or in Missouri the Botanical Garden in St. Louis. However, I would propose there is no prettier mid-point stop in a drive across the continental US than Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha Nebraska. Located along the Missouri River where the soil is rich and fertile, gardeners have worked magic in 20 thematic spaces.
Napier, NZ is a remarkable cityscape of Art Deco architecture. As beautiful as it is, its very existence is the result of a great destructive tragedy. In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake lasting 1:31 minutes demolished the city, rearranged the sea coast and forever changed the topography of the area. During our seven week visit to New Zealand, we experienced a brief 10-second rock and roll aftershock of the devastating Akaroa earthquake in 2016. I found it a sobering glimpse of what an earthquake means to a community. For Napier in 1931, the added economic weight of the Great Depression would seem to dash any hope the town could rebuild itself. Commercial buildings and homes all needed to be rebuilt. But within two years Napier did rise from its destruction and as a result built a modern, artful city.
The Tucson Botanical Garden (TBG) is a green oasis in central Tucson. Spring is a wonderful time to visit, the aloe alley is in bloom, the barrio garden bright with spring color, the world class cactus collection is flowering and the blue and white garden is flush with the new growth of herbs.
Fantastic Flowers, Written & Illustrated by Susan Stockdale Children’s nonfiction/nature, Ages 4-94 222.peachtree-online.com
Learning to see involves looking closely and learning the language to describe what is right before our eyes. Fantastic Flowers is a perfect introduction for budding gardeners to explore the blooms in the flower beds of the world. Susan Stockdale’s beautiful illustration of the shapes of flowers that look like upside down pants, prim ballerinas, or wild baboons introduces early readers to an imaginative view of nature. A flower is not just a flower but can be compared to the shapes of other known objects. A hybrid Osteospermum spirals out in the shape of spoons, the hybrid Calceolaria represents a purse with a flap. Teaching children to name what they see helps them remember and will spark their curiosity to look more closely at the beauty of the world.
During 2016 Rich, my husband, driver, and photographer, and I, flower fanatic, writer, and gardener, visited 134 new gardens. We traveled in the west to Seattle, San Francisco, Cheyenne, Boulder, and Ft. Collins. We did a tour through Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and a small area of northern Florida. We traveled seven weeks in New Zealand visiting 102 gardens. Viewing the world through the lens of a garden has given us a further education in history, geography, sociology, botany, art, and cultures, especially horticulture and agriculture.
If you want to visit gardens in NZ, as the locals would say, “Good on ya!” This is a country of gardeners. New Zealand’s soil and climate make for beautiful gardens and everything seems to grow here.
Wellington Botanic Garden, NZ
In the capital of New Zealand, Wellington Botanic Garden is a remarkable public space. The beautiful grounds include a significant collection of plants and trees. A small Peace Flame Garden is found just inside the entrance. I found this space emotionally touching. A bronze plaque tells the story, “This Peace Flame is the preserved fire from the atomic holocaust of Hiroshima, 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, 9 August 1945. The Flame calls attention to the indiscriminate and uncontainable nature of nuclear weapons which kill beyond borders and generations. It implores us to honor the Principles espoused in the United Nations Charter of settling all disputes by peaceful means.”
Plant Exploring The Botanical World Phaidon Editors, C 2016
My Christmas gift to myself is this glorious compilation of botanical art, all 350 pages of brilliant renderings of the plants of the world. I judged this book by its cover, it was so beautiful I wanted it for the art piece alone. The idea to pull together the oldest of illustrations of plant life to the newest technology renderings from artists, photographers, illustrators and scientists all in one volume was bold. The enormity of the work to select and arrange these is inspiring.
If you are ready to travel to gardens here are my go to resources to help you find these amazing places:
The American Horticultural Society http://www.ahs.org/gardening-programs/rap
I’m not gardening with all native plants! Life is too short to limit one’s garden to plants that are “indigenous to a given area in geologic time.” Sure there are lots of benefits for that approach in gardens but I’m diversifying. Every garden travel adventure introduces me to new plants. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Tropico’s plant database reports “Botanists have published more than 1.2 million plant names since 1753,” so there is no way I will ever see all the genus, species, and hybrids. Just thinking of all the possibilities for my little piece of earth makes me do a happy dance. When I find a Bat flower (Tacca chantrieri) blooming in the shape of a flying bat or the African turtle plant, (Dioscorea elephantipes) that grows a big woody base resembling the shell of a turtle, I get curious, I get excited, I want to see if I could grow it in my garden.