Friday, April 12, 2019

After the pink magnolia trees, the cherry trees begin to bloom in London, making bits of this city look like fluffy cotton candy dreams for a few fleeting weeks.

Cherry blossoms are normally supposed to appear in March and April, but I saw my first pink blooms in late February. Actually, our spring weather this year has been pretty wacky. In fact, late February was warmer than the entire month of March; and now in the middle of April, we are still experiencing near freezing temps at night. What is going on?

Different varieties of cherry trees blossom at different times. I also think that certain neighborhoods in London have different weather patterns or temperatures that effect when certain things bloom.

Well, read below to learn where to find some of your own pretty cherry blossoms, either right now or for next season.

Eltham Palace and Gardens
At the end of February, we cycled 13 miles from Clapham Junction to Eltham Palace and Gardens in East London, which is probably best known as the childhood home of King Henry VIII. Today, this English Heritage property is a unique marriage between a Tudor palace and a 1930s millionaire’s mansion. Surprisingly, the nearby neighborhoods and around the palace were already awash with cherry blossoms.
Regent’s Park
In mid-March, I re-discovered the beautiful grove of pink-blossomed trees at the southern end of Avenue Gardens in Regent’s Park. There are lots of photo opportunities here! If you continue walking north through the green park, you’ll end up in Camden, where it’s mandatory you grab a pint at one of the many local pubs.
St. James Park
At the end of March, I finally had a chance to get over to say hello to the Queen. Just kidding. But I did walk past the Buckingham Palace and then wandered around nearby St. James Park to admire the cherry blossoms. While this park is quite pretty and filled with all sorts of birds, I usually avoid going here because there are too many tourists. Don’t miss the pretty pink pelicans if you stop here as well.
Kew Gardens
Since we’re members, I’ve already been to Kew Gardens three or four times this year. My recent visit in April meant a surprise sneak peek at the amazing exhibit of Dale Chihuly, an American artist that specializes in blown glass. The exhibit officially opens tomorrow (April 13th) and runs through October, so I can’t wait to return and see more of it.

Don’t miss the cherry blossom trees near the Temperate House. You’ll also find Chhuly’s striking, fiery Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds sculptures here.
Greenwich Park
Besides attending a concert at the O2 center in the autumn, I hadn’t been to Greenwich for two years. Getting to Greenwich is a trek from where we live – more than an hour involving two trains or a train and a bus. But I finally went this week to take photos of the cherry blossoms. Coming from Blackheath station, you’ll be entering Greenwich Park from the south where you’ll find several pretty cherry trees awash with pink and white blossoms near the old Deer Park.
Approximately, 100 selfies later taken by my camera remote in Greenwich Park.
Wearing my red and white cherry dress that I bought in Istanbul when we lived there. 
However, the main event at Greenwich Park is a Japanese-style cherry blossom tunnel, which is located on a straight path to the west of the Observatory and Planetarium. If you have the patience, you’ll have to wait a long time to take a photo without people in it or edit them out later. These cherry trees are super popular on Instagram if you search for recent photos of #greenwichpark.
Battersea Park
Since we live near Battersea Park, it’s easy to check out the changing seasons here. There’s an area in the southwest corner of the park which I like to refer to as cherry blossom row. My husband still doesn’t understand what area of the park I am referring to when I tell to meet me by the cherry trees. Sigh!

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

If you’re looking for a peaceful, leafy place in Madrid, you really can’t go wrong wandering around the Real Jardín Botánico for a while.
On my recent second trip to Madrid, I decided to do a bit more exploring and spent an hour at the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid, an 8-hectare botanical garden located at Murillo Square, in front of the popular Prado Museum. The garden also is adjacent to the sprawling El Retiro Park, which is worth a visit as well when you are in the area.

The garden date back to 1755 when King Ferdinand VI had them installed in the Orchard of Migas Calientes, near what today is called Puerta de Hierro, on the banks of the Manzanares River. In 1774, King Charles III ordered the garden moved to its current location, and it was redesigned into three tiered terraces to look more like the popular French gardens across Europe at that time. Today, the garden contains about 30,000 plants and flowers, 1,500 trees and two greenhouses.
Since the March weather was warmer in Spain than it was back in London, I guess that I was expecting more flowers to be blooming. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed, so I imagine that the gardens would look more luxurious in late spring and early summer.

Still, if you enjoy gardens like I do and want to escape Madrid’s hordes of tourists, I would recommend popping into the botanical gardens for a bit.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Who knew that orchids bloom in nearly every shade of the rainbow and beyond?

Every year, the annual Orchids Festival at Kew Gardens in London impresses me! This year was no exception, once I actually got inside the conservatory. When we went on opening weekend, the queue to get inside Kew’s 24th annual orchid show was more than an hour long, so I had to return on one of my days off work right before it ended.

This year’s theme focused on Columbia’s diverse landscape and its flora and fauna that inhabit it, complete with a gigantic sloth and jaguar replicas. The show included approximately 6,200 orchids, including Columbia’s national flower – the Flor de Mayo (Cattleya trianae).

Did you know that Columbia has more than 4,000 orchid species – more than anywhere else in the world? That’s four times more than what grows in the “tiny” country of Thailand which featured in Kew’s Orchids Festival last year.
Stepping into the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at first, I felt like I was in an arid dessert complete with cacti, but soon the temperatures turned tropical and humid as I moved to the next rooms. I love visiting Kew Gardens anytime of the year, but during the winter months, the orchids seem to add an extra dose of cheerfulness on otherwise grey days. Of course, I couldn’t resist taking more than 200 photos – no surprise there!

Hope you enjoy the orchid photo show!

Which photo is your favorite?


Seriously, the different shades of orchids look like a tropical rainbow!
Look closely at this red, yellow and white orchid below…doesn’t it look like a Ronald McDonald character in the center?
Columbian artists like Omar Castañeda created original sculptures such as these to feature alongside the Colombian orchids from Kew’s collections.


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