Botanical Gardens

Posted on Jan 13, 2014

Botanical Gardens floating begoniasIt’s warm here for January.  The expected high is 72° F.  I just sent my poor kid back to school in New Jersey where it is 2° with a -17° wind chill.  It got me thinking…about botanical gardens.

Don’t ask why my mind works the way it does.  The Girly (aka my daughter) and I often laugh about how we get from one random thought to another.  Still, there’s something about cold weather, even if I’m not in it, that makes me want to garden, to think about things growing and blooming, to let my mind run wild with thoughts of beautiful gardens and what-might-be.  That got me thinking about botanical gardens {I’m trying to help you follow my train of thought here}. Can you imagine being able to live in a place so intensely gardened and maintained?  I feel like I did at my last house!  Haha!  It really is the stuff of royalty and the exceptionally wealthy, but with so many Botanical Gardens at least we can all go for a visit and enjoy.

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens

I’ve been to a few.  Probably the first was Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in the United Kingdom.  It was lovely.  I went with fellow students from the Landscape Architecture department at Cal Poly Pomona.  We were there, frolicking around the gardens on the Fourth of July. The irony was not lost on us as we made a human pyramid in celebration. Yep, right on that grass outside the Palm Pavilion.

Kew Royal Botanical Gardens Palm house

 

Versailles

The next was probably Versailles.  Definitely not a botanical garden, but clearly the stuff of royalty.  We visited on that same trip.  I never even went inside the palace: there was too much to see on the extensive grounds.  I loved the Orangerie, the fountains, the French Pavillion (every room has windows on three sides- my dream house!), and of course Marie Antoinette’s hamlet- where she reproduced a quaint village to get away from the tedium and insincerity of palace life- granted it was much nicer than any real village in France or anywhere. Kind of reminds me of Disneyland it’s so perfect.  (see…it’s hard to stay on my thought-train!) I went back 11 years ago.  It was January and cold and I went inside this time.  I still like the outside better.  Regardless, it’s one of my favorites and I have emulated elements in different landscapes over the years (I had a “petite” orangerie at one house).

 

The Huntington

The first official botanical garden I ever went to was Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, CA.  It’s right near where the Rose Parade is every New Year’s day in Pasadena. I went as part of a Landscape Architecture field trip.  The place was stunning!  That time I did go inside and saw “Pinky” and “Blue Boy”, those famous paintings that everyone had in the 50’s. They are part of the permanent collection.  But what I really remember are the gardens.  Roses, water lilies, the Japanese Garden, the Chinese garden, all stunning in their own way for how they make you feel (settled, a part of something, comforted, relaxed, joyful), and all laid out in a pleasing way to stroll through and take one’s time.  Versailles light in Southern California.

 

Atlanta Botanical Garden

My daughter used to swim competitively and one spring we found ourselves at a several-day swim meet with extra time in Atlanta, GA.  To help keep her relaxed, she suggested we go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, also known as Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  It was still early in the year so there weren’t a lot of flowers ( or leaves, for that matter, but it we could tell the bones were beautiful).  We spent hours in the massive conservatory where they have the largest collection of orchids in North America-maybe the world.  Thankfully we both had digital cameras at the time because, between the two of us I think we took something like 2000 pictures!  It was so beautiful, though and we wanted to capture every unique variety, like precious gems that we could carry home. That was a really good day…

 

The Butchart Gardens & Filoli

I’ve also been to the extraordinary Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay, BC, Canada as well as Filoli in Woodside, Northern California, both former family homes turned into exquisite gardens.  I’ll never forget the size of the tulips we saw at Filoli, 6 inch cups, maybe? They looked fake.  My friend tried to convince one of the grounds keeper to give her the fading bulbs, to no avail. “They’re just going to throw them out!” she argued.  I also loved the double flowering wisteria on the front of the building.  Scrumptious!  What’s not to love about Buschart Gardens?!  It is the Disneyland of flowers!

 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden & Winterthur

There are two botanical gardens I would still love to see, Winterthur and Brooklyn Botanic Garden, aka, Brooklyn Botanical Garden.  Winterthur because I’ve heard so much about it and have received their catalog for years and Brooklyn Botanical Garden because I remember seeing an article about it being decked out for the holidays.  In all my travels I had never seen anything so stunningly beautiful as those photos.  I can’t remember the magazine, it was years ago, but I think they mistakenly called it the New York City Botanical Gardens.  I went to New York on a girls’ trip and kept asking about the New York City Botanical Gardens and the closest I got was directions to Central Park.  Um, no. On a recent trip back to visit my daughter we ran out of time before we could get there, but we made it to a botanical garden in Queens, I think.  Actually, what I remember is we were race-reading the last “Hunger Games” book, trying to see who could read it first.  We even missed the first train out because we decided last minute to dash to a book store a couple of blocks from Grand Central Station to pick up the just-released book.  The train was pulling away as we ran onto the platform.  So we sat and race-read for an hour until the next train came.  When we got to the gardens we enjoyed the grounds and then sat on the grass reading our books.  It was lovely.  See how easily I digress?

Still, I will get to both one day.  After looking at all these pictures I want to go now!  There will be new memories to make while I am there. I think I will wait for the weather to get warmer, though.  -17° doesn’t sound like botanical garden weather anywhere!

 

 

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