Travelogue Gallery

Gardens and Natural Wonders of PanamaMarch 20-28, 2015

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I met up with sixteen avid gardeners and nature enthusiasts in Panama City for an unforgettable exploration of the rich diversity of plant life, birds, mammals and reptiles, many unique to the forests of this narrow bridge of land linking Central and South America.

Our hotel was situated along the banks of the Panama Canal, in walking distance to the Bio Museo, designed by architect Fran Gehry. We started our tour with a visit to Panama Viejo, the site of the original Panama City, now in ruin. Indigenous tribes, Spanish conquistadors and padres - English buccaneers attempting to wrest control of the country in favor of the crown they served, wrote the history of Panama City. More recently, American and Spanish engineers and the various Caribbean workers employed to build the canal have helped shape this modern city of towering skyscrapers.

Our half-day journey on the Panama Canal was hot but memorable. We traversed two sets of locks and learned about the history and geology of this amazing feat of engineering. We also got a glimpse of the new canal, which is nearing completion.

We took a walk in Metro Park, a city park alive with toucans, tanagers and other colorful birds, and visited Summit Gardens, to enjoy the plantings and to see, the majestic harpy eagle that resides there. We also had a chance to visit some exquisite private gardens.

We left the city behind for a five-night stay at Canopy Lodge, set in the lush crater of an extinct volcano. Wake daily to the harmonious calls of colorful birds on their spring migration. Our stay afforded ample time to explore the foothills and cloud forests of El Valle de Anton and thrill at the sightings of birds, mammals, butterflies and amphibians, as well as the verdant jungle and exquisite gardens of the area. We were warmly welcomed to several private gardens, one of which had an amazing collection of Bonsai set among beautiful tropical plants. It was a wonderful visit to a remarkable country. I hope to return in 2017. Stay tuned!

Gardens of Vancouver and VictoriaJuly 14-21, 2015

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Twenty-two avid gardeners and travel enthusiasts joined Carlson Wagonlit Travel escort Sue Lawrence and me for an immersion into exquisite private and public gardens in Vancouver and Victoria. Our tour sold out in two days! We had an amazing trip visiting such memorable gardens as Bel’Occhio, the private retreat of Tom Hobbs and Brent Beattie, Pam Frost’s iconic Vancouver garden, and Richard Mosselmann’s oft-photographed urban oasis in downtown Victoria. We enjoyed private tours in four exceptional public gardens-Buchart, VanDusen, UBC Botanical Garden, and Horticulture Centre of the Pacific.

We also relished several special events, including dinner at Southlands Nursery, owned by Tom and Brent; shopping at Phoenix Perennials, with export permits and shipping pre-arranged by owner Gary Lewis; and we ended the tour with a farewell dinner at Abkhazi Gardens, one of North America’s most beautiful gardens. The ferry ride through the northern San Juan Islands was a treat as well. Thanks to all the garden hosts, and to may dedicated travelers for making this an exceptional tour.

Brazil: The Roberto Burle Marx TourJuly 19-31, 2014

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Brazil is a land of staggering beauty and unsurpassed diversity. It is also the birth place of Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994), one of the most influential and ground breaking landscape artist of the 20th Century. I traveled with twelve adventurers and garden enthusiasts to Rio and beyond to explore the landscape design genius of Burle Marx, the natural wonders of Itatiaia National Park, and the art, history, culture and cuisine of three cosmopolitan cities: Rio de Janeiro, Petropolis, and Belo Horizonte.

Burle Marx was a renaissance man of the 20th century. Not only did he introduce modernist landscape architecture to Brazil, he was also a noted painter, print maker, musician, ecologist and naturalist. He eschewed typical European geometrical landscape and brought to the Brazilian landscape (and to the world) the use of colorful native species in conjunction with abstract and cubist patterns. We visited Roberto Burle Marx’s home as well as many public and private gardens he created in Rio, Petropolis and Belo Horizonte. Laura Mourao, a student of Burle Marx who has renovated several of his gardens, joined us to provide insights into his design process.

In Rio we stayed on Copacabana Beach, a great jumping off point for exploration. Burle Marx designed the mosaics that run the length of the beach, as well as those at Ipanema. While in Rio we took the funicular up iconic Sugar Loaf and the cog rail to the top of Corcovado to stand at the foot of Crist the Redeemer. The Jardim Botanico was another highlight of our itinerary. The garden lies at the foot of the Corcovado Mountain and displays more than 6,000 different species of tropical and subtropical plants, including 900 varieties of palms. The astonishing Avenue of Royal Palms, boasting 134 trees, beckoned us the entrance into the gardens.

Petropolis, also known as The Imperial City of Brazil, is nestled among the Serra dos Órgos Mountains. Noted for its mild climate and beautiful surroundings, the main attraction is the former Summer Palace of the second Brazilian emperor, which is now the Imperial Museum. We visited the palace and also saw two remarkable private Burle Marx gardens, those of Gilberto Strunck and Rual Martin.

We then traveled to two coffee farms, transformed by Roberto Burle Marx into luxurious gardens, including the fabulous Fazenda Vargem on our way to Itatiaia National Park, Brazil’s oldest national park. This lush Atlantic Coast rain forest is heaven for birders (over 350 species of birds are found here). Here we stay at the all-inclusive Hotel do Ype, which provides opportunities to pursue diverse interests.

Bello Horizonte features a mixture of influential contemporary and classical buildings, and is home to several modern Brazilian architectural icons, most notably the Pampulha Complex. Oscar Niemeyer designed a complex of buildings surrounding a lagoon. The gardens designed by Burle Marx, paintings by Portinari and sculptures by Ceschiatti, Zamoiski and José Pedrosa complete the project. In Belo Horizonte, we also visited Inhotim, an art center composed of 87 acres of gardens with works of art displayed indoors and outdoors. The scope of this garden is monumental, and the art breathtaking.

We said goodbye to a few of our travelers, and the remainder flew to Campo Grande, and then on to our lodge in the Pantanl, Brazil’s Serengeti. We quickly settle into our digs at Fazenda Barranco Alto after a breathtaking flight over the vast flooded plain of the southern Panatanal. The Pantanal was the perfect place for a thrilling safari to see indigenous animals and an astounding number of rare birds including hyacinth macaws, the world’s largest parrot. Along with the macaws, we saw giant anteater, but alas no jaguar or tapier

Gardens of New York City and the HamptonsSeptember 10-15, 2014

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We started our trip in New York City, home of Broadway, Time Square, The Empire State Building and Olmstead’s Central Park. Twenty-two sojourners visited ten diverse private gardens along with public parks and historic estate gardens. In the Big Apple highlights included The Cloisters, landscaped gardens planted according to horticultural information obtained from medieval manuscripts and artifacts, and Wave Hill, a spectacular garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River, where we enjoyed a lavish private reception.

Patrick Cullina, former Vice President for Horticulture, lead us along The High Line, an elevated freight rail line transformed into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side. Horticulturist Lynden Miller escorted us through the Central Park Conservatory Gardens, as well as other choice city parks that she has designed in Manhattan. Her dedication to urban greening is legendary.

Out of the city, we visited Old Westbury and Planting Fields, two of Long Island’s “Gold Coast” estates. Then, it was on to The Hamptons, playground of the rich and famous and home to some of the east coast’s most spectacular public and private gardens. We enjoyed a leisurly stroll through Long House Reserve - a sixteen-acre garden with ornamental borders, plant collections and outdoor sculptures is the home of textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen. We even got a rare tour of the house! Other stops included Madoo Conservancy, home of artist, gardener, and writer Robert Dash, Bayberry Nursery, Landcraft Environments, and the Montauk Lighthouse.

The tour was filled with visits to spectacular private gardens including Barbara Slifka’s oceanfront garden designed by Eric Groft of Oehme, van Sweden Associates, fashion designer cum gardner Diane Benson, spectacular seaside garden of Alexandra Monroe and Robert Rosenkranz., and a visit to the garden of designer Edwina von Gal, where we enjoyed refreshments while overlooking the spectacular tidal marsh that surrounds her. We also visit the home and nursery of artist Ngaere Macray and landscape architect David Seeler. Their naturalistic garden envelopes an Asian inspired Adirondack-style house, which sits on the edge of a half-acre pond whose center island abuts the foundation of the house.

Our final evening was spectacular. Dennis Schrader and Bill Smith of Landscarft Environments welcomed us to their private garden for a tour, reception and delicious catered dinner. Plant collecting is front row center in their garden, a scintillating pastiche of hardy and tropical plants woven into a colorful tapestry guaranteed to overwhelm the senses. From entry through a clipped knot garden at the entrance, through rectilinear spaces and exuberant borders, to the wildflower meadow, the journey is filled with surprises. Though the tour was short, just 6 days, we managed to visit many of the best gardens in the area.

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