When old and new go together in Malmö, Sweden

As part of the We love plants! conference, our group of speakers was treated to a tour of the city of Malmö. For my 1st visit to Northern Europe, it was a fascinating day of discoveries. It started with a trip to Pildammsparken (the aptly named “Willowpond Park”), the largest park in the city with 45…

First there were rocks…

I am a botanist. I studied taxonomy, I learned all about plant ecology, I spent days looking at pollen grains under a microscope, I became a master of identification keys. Life made me deviate into horticulture, or shall I say, the art of understanding how to keep plants alive in cultivation. There is however one…

Danish day

I was invited earlier this year to talk at a brilliant conference in Malmö, Sweden (more about this later). My travel plans made for an early arrival into Copenhagen, Denmark (different country but only 20 minutes train apart). First glimpse of Scandinavian design at the airport, with this stylish church-like terminal building: As I had…

An ode to the unsung heroes of spring: buds

Ask ten people what they like about spring, and half of them will probably mention flowers – lovely bright daffodils, carpets of multicoloured primroses, streets filled with cherry trees… Gardeners wait eagerly for shrubs and trees to emerge from their winter sleep and become covered in tender green leaves. But before that, there’s a very short,…

Austria, from Christmas markets to alpine flora

A trip to Austria’s 4th largest city, Salzburg, in mid-December, surely this means spending days in Christmas markets, tasting bretzels and buying baubles? Truth is, we did try a fair number of mulled wines (and even better, Glühmost, made with apple cider and many spices…hmmm). We enjoyed the sparkling lights, the hearty food, the joyful music and the…

A Scottish gothic folly, Mount Stuart

Advertised as “Britain’s most astounding Victorian Gothic mansion”, Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute is a rather impressive place. Home to the Marquesses of Bute, it was rebuilt in 1877 after a fire, and turned into a majestic Neogothic castle. The most interesting feature of Mount Stuart is however the 300 acres (120 hectares) gardens…

Southern Hemisphere in Scotland: Benmore Botanic Garden

Scotland’s flagship botanic garden, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is, contrary to its name not entirely based in the city of Edinburgh. The collection is split across four sites: Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore, each having their own specialties. Benmore, set within the Loch Lomond &  Trossachs National Park, is distinguished by its mountain character, and high rainfall (>2000mm) which makes it such…

A sunken jungle – Ascog Hall Fernery

After a day in Victorian Rothesay, we decided to visit one of the island’s attraction, Ascog Hall Fernery, which is located a couple of miles South, along the coast. We weren’t exactly sure of what to expect after reading the words “Victorian” and “sunken”, but got pleasantly intrigued after getting a glimpse of it for…

A glimpse of Victorian Scotland

A change of scene (and country) for my next posts, which will be taking you to Scotland. The first stop on our trip is the Isle of Bute, a tiny piece of land located 30 miles West of Glasgow. Bute is usually reached by a ferry which arrives in the delightful town of Rothesay. This is the…

Ten days in Vietnam part 9: a glimpse of the Mekong Delta

The Mekong river, which rises in Tibet, ends its 4350km course in the South China Sea via a large delta covering over 39000 km², close to Vietnam’s largest city Ho Chi Minh. This means a boat trip to the delta is a very popular day trip for tourists, and we obviously got tempted. The view we…

An island of flowers – Part 5: Monte Tropical Gardens

As promised in my previous post, this is a visit to a nearby but completely different place, the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. Located slightly higher (600m above sea level), the Monte hills can be reached by an impressive cable car overlooking laurel forest: Where the Botanic Gardens were exposed, filled with cacti and succulents, the Monte Tropical Gardens…

An island of flowers – Part 4: Madeira Botanical garden

Reached by a short drive from the centre of Funchal, the Jardim Botanico, located 300m above sea level is a relatively recent botanic garden (opened in 1960), but full of surprises. We start our visit by the spectacular Succulents zone, with the orange flower heads of Aloe striata and red ones of Aloe plicatilis : As…

An island of flowers – Part 3: the quintas of Funchal

As this article explains quite well, the simplest definition of a Portuguese quinta is that of a countryside estate with a large house, surrounded by orchards and gardens. Many quintas have been swallowed by developments and incorporated into the urban mesh of Funchal, but they still carry a hint of Madeira’s aristocratic past. In the heart of Funchal ‘Old Town’,…

An island of flowers – Part 2: the parks of Funchal

As you’ve discovered in my previous post, the flora of Madeira, in particular its capital city Funchal is very diverse. This is reflected in the numerous parks scattered in the city, and the most famous example is probably the Jardim Municipal. Located in the touristic heart of Funchal, it was established in 1878 on the…