Category Archives: Travel

The Fynbos, a unique community of plants

April 27th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
South Africa's national flower is the protea. Most of us are familiar with the king protea -- it's available in florist's shops around the world. But finding it in the wild is a totally different experience.Wild king protea growing in the fynbos, east of Cape Town.The area around Cape Town, South Africa, is the richest floral kingdom in the world. Protea abound, so many different types that I can't begin to identify them all. Identification is particularly tough because the varieties look so different, one from another. That difference accounts

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A Breakfast of African Trees

April 22nd, 2014 | 5 Comments »
For a week I've been out of the loop -- no internet, no email, no phone. (It's been frustratingly wonderful.) Instead of posting blogs, I've been touring game parks in southern Africa, seeing amazing animals and even more amazing trees and shrubs. Here's a sample of some of the vegetation -- a tasty buffet, as it were.Every good breakfast includes an egg. So the first item on our menu of African trees and shrubs is the wild gardenia (Gardenia thunbergia). From a distance, the oval fruits resemble nothing as much as

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Vertical Gardens: how high can they go?

February 24th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
Worth Avenue defines high end shopping in Palm Beach, Florida. High end appears in a different guise at a junction beside the avenue, where a vertical garden clothes a bare wall. Eleven different types of plants make up this wall. Late day shadows make the wall look less interesting than it is, but a close-up shows some of the variety of textures and shades of green that create the 840 square foot wall. In total, almost 11,000 plants create a stunning curvilinear design. Four textures and four shades of green.

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Ann Norton Sculpture Garden: a garden review

February 17th, 2014 | 8 Comments »
Combining sculpture and a collection of rare palms, the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden offers a quiet retreat from the up-scale social whirl of Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach, after all, was (and in some cases still is) home or vacation playground for many of the world's rich and famous, from the Kennedy and Pulitzer families, to Donald Trump, Bernie Madoff and Conrad Black. Ann Norton was a sculptor who married one of these wealthy men, Ralph Norton, an industrialist and an art collector whose collection became the foundation of Palm

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Do flowers make a garden?

February 9th, 2014 | 21 Comments »
Must a garden have flowers? Must it have trees and shrubs? Must it have plants at all? I think most people would say yes. But consider England’s great landscape gardens. Some of those designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the late 1700s had few if any flowers. And what about that masterpiece of garden art, the Ryoan-ji  garden in Kyoto? This garden from the late 1400s contains only sand, rock and small islands of moss. This image of the Ryoan-ji's Zen garden is from Wikipedia. So, is “garden” simply a word to be defined

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Observing and learning

January 12th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
A few months ago Don Stratham, a New York state garden consultant, wrote a blog post about garden mishaps, or learning from failures in the garden, in his blog called Rooting for Ideas. He listed some of his mistakes -- and what they had taught him. But what his post made me think of was the importance of observation itself, and of taking note of what you observe. I saw this forest scene a few years ago and was immediately struck by nature's artful composition. The contrast between the upright

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The Royal Botanical Garden, Sydney Australia

December 9th, 2013 | 26 Comments »
Sydney's Royal Botanical Garden is smack dab in the center of this vibrant and energetic city. Farm Cove, the first farm in Australia, was located on the site, which means its European-influenced history dates back to 1788 when the first fleet of convicts arrived from England. Traces of this convict past are still visible in the Macquarie Culvert, a drain or channel crossing built in 1816 by convicts from handmade sandstone bricks. Now the culvert forms the foundation of a small bridge over a stream that runs through the Gardens. Apparently this is

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Another side of Tasmania

December 2nd, 2013 | 4 Comments »
Tasmania has a wild side, where native vegetation flourishes. It also has a cultivated side, full of bits and pieces of a colonial past. Some of those pieces are idyllic, like this riverside scene that could, at a glance, be almost anywhere in England.. A riverside scene at Nant Distillery, where very good whiskies are produced. Others pieces are less salubrious, despite their English look-alike gardenesque appeal. The formal garden at Port Arthur: no convicts allowed The photo above comes from one of Tasmania's grimmest locations, the convict settlement at Port

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Tasmania: lots of flora and a fauna

November 24th, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Looking at the photo below, it would be easy to think you were in Canada or somewhere in the mountains in the United States, walking alongside a clear, untroubled lake. For a moment you might wonder at the colour or the patterning on the bark of the fallen tree, but any differences from normal would be easy to overlook.  A typical mountain lake: but where is it? If you walked a short distance beyond the lake, you'd come across vegetation similar to many high altitude areas, where winds sweep the ground clear

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The Guggenheim Bilbao: more than a Puppy

October 6th, 2013 | 4 Comments »
Jeff Koons is not my favourite artist. In fact, I don't really like his work. But I do like his Puppy. And I loved the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, inside and out.Koons' Puppy is suitably festive outside Frank Gehry's trademark gay curves.In the plaza next to the museum, towering over pedestrians, Koons' highland terrier is a patchwork of colours so bright that it lifts the spirits on a cloudy day. And lifts the corners of the mouths of everyone passing by, as well.A slightly different angle confirms it: this Puppy is BIG.I saw

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