Postcard from Mexico City: Bloomers trumpeting their presence

The promotional banner appears superfluous with birds of paradise pointing the way to the National Museum of Anthropology. A giant agave attracts attention in the midst of the Aztec ruins of the Templo Mayor adjacent to the zocalo. Trumpet flowers flamboyantly tout their beauty profiled against a royal blue wall in the garden of Casa Luis Barragan.

But, on the practical side as our balcony planters age, I want to remember the simple cinder blocks adapted as containers for succulents in the botanical garden in Chapultepec Park.

Postcard from Madrid, Spain: Paradise found in parks

Better to reign in Hell,

Than to serve in Heaven

Lucifer in John Milton’s Paradise Lost

There he is, the fallen angel himself, painfully ensnared atop a beautiful fountain, guarded by gargoyles, in the heart of Madrid’s Retiro Park. John Milton’s Paradise Lost inspired sculptor Ricardo Bellver to create a monumental depiction of the devil in 1877. Both widely acclaimed and highly controversial, the statue is regarded as the only piece of major public art dedicated to the devil.

Anyone bedeviled by the artwork can easily avoid it, as Retiro Park is huge and is only one of many found in the capital city. Madrid has more parkland in its center than any other major European city, and Madrilenos take full advantage of them any time they are free.

These photos are from Retiro Park and the Jardin Botanico next to the Prado.

Totally swooned for the handsome tuxedoed birds. Exotic in my mind, but considered nuisances by many – common magpies. As with the storks earlier in our trip, never recalled setting eyes on them before, which might be lucky as a multitude of legends portray magpies as harbingers – or at least a single magpie – of ill will.

With his theft of glittering objects, the magpie envisioned by Gioachino Rossini in the plot of an 1815 opera almost caused an innocent maid to swing from the gallows. And the magpie’s reputation surely was not enhanced by the inclusion of the overture to signify impending over-the-top violence by Stanley Kubrick in his 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange.

Postcard from the Montréal Botanical Garden

I will also confess that, during all the time since I have seen you, I have not been able to put your botanical garden scheme out of my mind. I should have been glad – and I still uphold this offer – to make a design for your garden entirely free of cost to you, simply, because the problem attracts me. You see, it has been my dream, for ever since in 1910 I first worked as a gardener’s assistant in the Berlin Botanical Garden and came to know this garden intimately, to sometime get a chance to lay out a new botanical garden in the way in which I think it should be layed out. Since then I have had opportunities to see and know many botanical gardens, but I have not seen one yet that even approached my ideal.

Letter from Henry Teuscher to Brother Marie-Victorin

April 14, 1932

We’ll take a leisurely stroll through the Montréal Botanical Garden and then head back to the Plateau area for lunch, thought the mister and I. But this garden refused to be dismissed so quickly.

The dreams of Brother Marie-Victorin and Henry Teuscher, the landscape architect-horticulturalist-botanist hired to design the garden in the 1930s, have germinated into a sprawling complex of almost 200 acres of themed gardens with 10 interconnected greenhouses stuffed to capacity. Towering groves of trees testify to its 80+ years.

The mister remarked the Botanical Garden seemed like a Noah’s Ark for plants, with virtually every species represented. Turns out, there are more than 22,000 species on the grounds. During high season, more than 450 employees, including horticulturists and botanists, work in the garden. While the park is removed from downtown and admission far from inexpensive, close to 1-million visitors wander the grounds annually.

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We saw only a fraction over the course of several hours, steering well clear of the Toxic Plants Garden (I’ve met poison ivy and oak on several occasions, thank you.) and deprived of touring the highly acclaimed First Nations Garden because of preparation for an upcoming exhibition. Fortunately, we were rewarded midway through with a café break – mine a fresh fig, goat cheese and pesto sandwich.

The random photos above represent only a small portion of our wanderings, and we are not what even remotely would be described as “plant people.” In fact, we have fewer than 20 pots on the balconies of our loft. Yet, the garden captivated my interest to such a large degree I actually have reserved some photos for another post or two….