On Location—The Garden Steals The Show

Rippon Lea House & Garden

Elsternwick, Victoria, Australia

My local PBS station is promoting a new Australian series in the fall lineup, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries set in 1920’s Melbourne. Miss Phryne (Fry-nee) Fisher returns from England after serving in the hospital corps in WW1.  Phryne, an independently wealthy, independently spirited, glamorous lady detective speaks multiple languages and seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything. I find period dramas remain endlessly fascinating as the characters recreate the dress, manners, and behaviors of another time as the setting reinforces the story.

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Signaling Welcome

“Signs, Signs, everywhere there’s signs,

messin’ up the scenery, breaking’ my mind.”

(The Five Man Electrical Band) 

Public gardens welcome curious visitors from all over the world. They enter eager to learn about the land, plants, trees and rocks of a particular place. Many gardens proudly highlight the entrance with an eye catching sign, often nestled among a beautifully landscaped bed of flowers.  Once inside,posted signs act as the voice speaking directly to visitors. When it comes to signs everywhere, some are creative offenders and a few are just plain offenders.  

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Celebrating Garden Travels

This month begins the ninth year of A Traveling Gardener, wandering, wondering, noticing. . . and I want to thank all of my readers who have been encouraging, interested, and appreciative of my garden stories. I hope you have been inspired to visit more gardens when you travel.  I went into my archives and found the first story of exploring the world through gardens. My enthusiasm has only increased as I travel to these wonderful places. I am sharing that original article with you and including update resources for finding gardens all over the world.

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Gardens of Awe and Folly


A Traveler’s Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening by Vivian Swift

Visiting gardens wherever I travel is my greatest delight, yet friends ask, “Why? Don’t you see the same plants over and over?”   Vivian Swift in her new book Gardens of Awe and Folly, has the best answer to this question. She writes, “If all you ask of a garden is What?, then all you’ll probably get in reply is a planting list.  But ask instead, Why? How? When? and most of all, Who? and then you’re in for a nice, long conversation.”

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Around the World in 80 Gardens

August is a hot month in my Arizona garden and the heat is so constant it drives me inside.  Recently I’ve been busy researching gardens in New Zealand for our upcoming trip this fall.  By chance I found a Youtube program featuring Australian and New Zealand gardens.  The program was part of a 10 part series produced by the BBC2, Around the World in 80 Gardens with Monty Don, the host of “Gardeners’ World”. After one episode I was hooked and I’ve been traveling the world visiting gardens in Mexico, Cuba, India, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, China, Japan, South Africa, Thailand, Singapore, South & North America.

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Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, Bishopville, South Carolina

In 2006 PBS showed the documentary film “A Man Named Pearl.”  The film was about a topiary artist’s garden in South Carolina.  Seeing the film made a lasting impression on me so much so I recently headed to Bishopville to see Pearl Fryar’s topiary garden.  Arriving at his home there are no gates, no posted hours, just a welcome sign with a donation box.  A homemade kiosk holds a small brochure with information about the garden.  Rich and I walked right into Pearl’s garden, and by the end of our visit we had met Pearl, wandered through his garden and left feeling grateful and inspired.

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Audubon Swamp Garden Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, SC

As an Arizona gardener I don’t deal with much mud and I don’t own a pair of rubber boots.  So I can’t imagine gardening in the low country of South Carolina, where there is water meandering  through the landscape nearly everywhere. Yet when I learned of the Audubon Swamp Garden, I knew I needed to wander through. I was assured by Christopher at the ticket window that we would be walking through on a raised wooden walkway, safe and protected from alligators.  After winding my way in the Swamp Garden for several hours on small board walks spanning the muddy places and navigating around the protruding tree roots I wasn’t sure Christopher had set foot in the garden.

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Kudzu Baskets

Visiting Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Ga I arrived just in time to take in the Dogwood Festival. I love street art fairs. I feel so inspired as I wander through seeing the original creations made by artists who see the world in a unique way creating powerful expressions of their view.  The Dogwood Art festival began in 1936 and it is hard to imagine how many incredible new art creations have occurred in all the years of this event.

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Parks & Gardens, History & Beauty

This year is a celebration for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the law founding our National Parks Service.  In February a 3D IMAX film, National Parks Adventure, narrated by Robert Redford was released. The film flies viewers over canyons, red rock arches, and walks them into ice caves near Lake Superior. Highlighting 30 of the 58 national parks, there are moments where you feel the urge to reach out and touch the ice crystals and rock walls. Seeing the film will inspire you to “Find Your Park” which is the theme for the yearlong celebration.

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