Published Dec. 17, 2012, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Gardens of inspiration: The next time you go on a trip, you might want to seek out the nearest public garden”
By Barb Gorges
One side effect of family scattered around the country is travel and this has been a banner year for Mark and me. In addition to looking for national parks near our destinations, I’ve been finding public gardens.
These gardens are primarily meant to be enjoyed. Most have educational programming. Some preserve botanical history or serve as a laboratory. And a few began as personal plant collections that over decades became municipal property, and urban oases.
These garden showplaces often push the envelope of what can be grown in their climates, featuring exotic species from other continents, so they don’t give you much of an idea of local native or garden vegetation. But all are wonderful intersections of the horticultural arts and the art of arranging landscapes, providing inspiration of many kinds.
Wherever your next travel destination, check out nearby gardens.
Here are the gardens we visited, west to east. Admission fees mentioned are per person for non-senior adults, at the time of our visit.
Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Island” of the state. Its rainy side is very lush. We visited Allerton Garden, part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, http://www.ntbg.org. The formal gardens between the parking lot and ticket booth are free, but to see more of the 83 acres, the “rooms,” including sculptures and water features, pay $35 for a two and a half hour tour. Our guide included the history of the garden and plants, provided taste samples of unusual fruit and showed us where segments of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Jurassic Park” were filmed.
But for no cost, look for the Moir Garden, http://kauai-kiahuna.com/moirgarden.html, which surrounds the Plantation Gardens Restaurant and Bar by Po’ipu. Developed by the plantation manager’s wife in the 1930s, it has a spectacular display of orchids, cacti and other flowering exotics spread over several acres.
On Hawaii, the Big Island, we visited the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, http://www.htbg.com, our second time, but again in October. Our son, Bryan, said there are more blooms in June, but there were certainly enough extravagant tropical flowers from all over the world to keep shutterbugs happy. The garden, in a valley, stretches down to the sea, but a ride back to the top is available. Admission is $15 and includes use of an umbrella for the frequent rain showers.
Our younger son, Jeffrey, took us on a walking tour of downtown Seattle and the University of Washington campus, through the experimental herb gardens and the Washington Park Arboretum. Mid-October was saturated with colorful trees, shrubs (ever seen a strawberry tree?) and roses. Between the UW Botanic Gardens, including the Center for Urban Horticulture, http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg, and the Seattle Parks and Recreation gardens, http://www.seattle.gov/parks/parkspaces/gardens.htm, there is a lot more which I hope to see on our next trip. All appear to be free.
Let’s not forget our own Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, http://botanic.org, set along the shores of Sloans Lake in Lions Park. It includes a tropical greenhouse, rose garden and other themed areas, and the Children’s Village, where you can see the 1000 Faces of Santa display right now. It’s a great place at any time of year. And it’s all free.
If you live here, you may want to become a volunteer. If you become a member, check out discounted admission at associated gardens around the country.
We visited the Denver Botanic Gardens, http://www.botanicgardens.org, Mother’s Day weekend and the number of blooms was overwhelming. I’d love to go once a week throughout the growing season to enjoy changes in the lengthy perennial and xeriscape borders, plus the other themed areas. Admission is $12.50. This month, visit 5:30-9:30 p.m. for “Blossoms of Light.” However, the children’s garden is a big disappointment. It’s much larger than Cheyenne’s, but has few hands-on activities, weekend programming seems non-existent and it’s closed in winter. But children will enjoy exploring the main gardens.
The Rio Grande Botanic Gardens, http://www.cabq.gov/culturalservices/biopark/garden, is part of the city’s Biopark, which includes the zoo and aquarium. You can do all three for $20 or $12.50 for just the garden. This month is the seasonal “River of Lights” display, 6-9 p.m. The children’s garden is Disney-esque, with sculptures of giant garden implements and insects. My favorite areas are the rose garden, the recreation of an old New Mexico farm recently expanded with a vineyard, the conservatories and the New Mexico native plants.
There’s another garden, the Albuquerque Rose Garden, http://www.albuquerquerose.com/garden.html, located at the Tony Hillerman Library, 8205 Apache NE, which I need to check out on my next trip to see my sister.
Over Thanksgiving, we had a family gathering, with most of us staying at my uncle’s retirement community outside Philadelphia. It has a community garden where residents can grow anything they wish in their plots, including blueberries and even a fig tree.
As we inspected the remains of the season, I compared notes with a cousin studying landscape architecture in Budapest, Hungary, though her recent gardening experience was in Germany, and with another cousin who gardens in England, where she has been a parks administrator and is on the board of trustees for Kew Gardens. While common plant names in English, American, German and Hungarian don’t translate well from one language to another, we found scientific Latin names do.
Later, we visited the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, http://www.business-services.upenn.edu/arboretum, though there are many prestigious gardens in the area, including Winterthur and Longwood, the legacy of DuPont fortunes. But Morris had a garden railroad set up for Christmas and we had a three-year-old boy with us to help us enjoy it along with “Out on a Limb,” a treetop walkway. Being an arboretum, a collection of trees, this site is all about vistas, undulating hills and ponds, but during the growing season it has roses and thematic flower gardens as well. Admission was $16.
Quite by accident, on the way to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, in the shadow of the Philadelphia International Airport, I spotted the sign for Bartram’s Garden, http://www.bartramsgarden.org, very definitely an urban oasis. It’s across the Schuylkill River from oil tank farms, in an aging neighborhood. John Bartram, naturalist, botanist and explorer, bought this farm in 1728 and built a collection of plants from around the world. He and his son, William, became famous so succeeding owners, including the city since 1891, preserved the buildings, trees and acreage. The grounds (and restrooms) are open every day, no fee. We saw few other visitors besides a class of grade school children because in the off-season, public tours and the gift shop are only available Wednesday through Sunday. Luckily, there were interpretive signs plus identification tags on the big trees. My favorite was the oldest gingko tree in North America, planted in 1785, which had just shed its leaves in a thick carpet of gold.