The Search by Dennis Glover (9 December 1912 – 9 August 1980)
New Zealand lies in the collision zone between the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, and more than 15,000 earthquakes a year take place although few are strong enough to be felt. A major exception was the Kaikoura earthquake of November 2016 which buckled the east coast of the South Island and moved the north-eastern tip of the island closer to the North by over two meters (6.5 feet). It was the most complex earthquake ever studied, ripping through 25 fault lines and changing the way fault ruptures are now measured. It also scared the shit out of a lot of people, including this writer who was present at the time.
As pleasantly benign as New Zealand appears, with its English-style gardens, safely grazing sheep, and rivers of Sauvignon Blanc, it is a violent country, heaving and swaying, rising and falling through geological time. Those of us who don’t know, and that is most, may think of plate tectonics as a series of dinner plates rubbing up against each other rather politely until something breaks. But the plates are broken crockery hurled by violent forces as if in some argumentative Thanksgiving dinner, while all the time the dinner table itself bubbles with volcanic eruptions.
And what we humans feel is just the surface. Underneath the underneath, it is a different story. New Zealand as we think we know it keeps bouncing above and below the water line like a rubber duck in a child’s bathtub. What we see today is just a remnant of a continent formed about 83 million years – the continent of Zealandia. Now we know that New Zealand, Stewart Island, New Caledonia, the Chatham Islands, and other small islands are the tops of a submerged continent 1,900,000 square miles (4,920,000 square kilometers) in size.
75 per cent of New Zealand is mountainous or hilly, Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest at 12,218 feet (3,724 meters). The Taupo volcano is in the center of the North Island and 26,500 years ago, it produced the world’s largest known eruption of the past 70,000 years. The fjord-like coastline is 9,300 miles (15,000 kilometers) long. About 15 per cent of the land is covered in plants, and 80 per cent of the plants are endemic to the country. It is this high rate of endemism plus its geographical isolation that makes New Zealand one of the most interesting countries on earth. Looking to New Zealand’s iconic plants, we can see why. Agathis, Pseudopanax, Cyathea, Dicksonia,Rhopalostylis, Metrosideros, Leptospermum, Nothofagus, and Podocarpus, give us clues to why New Zealand is so special.
In the Kaipoua Forest in the northwest of New Zealand’s North Island stands the Lord of the Forest, Tāne Mahuta (Agathisaustralis). It is estimated to be 2,500 years old and is 168 feet (51.2 meters) high. The genus Agathis belongs to Auracariaceae family, a family of tall coniferous trees, all but for a few south-east Asian species, growing in the southern hemisphere.
The Lord of the Forest is not the tallest but with a girth of 45 feet (13.77 meters), it is the largest in New Zealand. To stand beside it is to experience something that can only be called awesome, in the proper sense of the word. To stand in awe of something so powerful, set apart from human time and human life, is a great and sacred gift.
In the Māori creation story, Tāne Mahuta created the earth by lying between Ranginui, the sky father and Papatūanuku, the earth mother. All forest creatures are Tāne Mahuta’s children. There are many children in the Waipoua forest. The forest shelters what remains of the endangered North Island kokako, sometimes called the blue-wattled crow; the brown kiwi, kukupa/kereru the New Zealand wood pigeon, and the very rare kākāpō, a ground-dwelling parrot.
The kauri is a successful species due, in part, to its ability to poison the ground around it. The leaf litter surrounding the trees is acidic, preventing other species of plants from thriving. That’s not to say that a Kauri forest isn’t abundant, away from the very base of the tree, is a rich and diverse flora.
In the forest grows dense stands of kauri grass (Asteliatrinervia) growing to a height of 8 feet (2.5 meters) with a width of 6 feet (2 meters), and often seen with kiokio, crown fern (Blechnumdiscolor) a shuttle-cock shaped bright green fern. Ferns are abundant, Blechnumfraseri can develop slender trunks up to 3 feet (1 meter) high, while the shiny fronds of kidney fern – kopakopa (Hymenophyllumnephropyllum) reach to 4 inches (10 centimeters) tall. Mairehau (Leionemanudum) is a shrub with scented leaves and white flowers and grows up to 13 feet (4 meters).Hangehange (Geniostemaligustrifolium), looking a little like privet, has greenish-white scented flowers and was used by the Māori to flavor meat.
Seen too, is the toothed lancewood, horoeka (Pseudopanaxferox), a sculptural small tree with juvenile downward growing fiercely toothed leaves, this and Pseudopanax crassifolius are grown by gardeners, a habit that endangers Pseudopanax in the wild.
Scattered throughout the forest and growing prominently around the edges are the tree ferns. To say that they are iconic is literal truth, the silver fern – ponga (Cyatheadealbata), is the symbol of New Zealand and is seen on the uniform of New Zealand’s rugby team, the All Blacks. Cyatheadealbata is a slow-growing tree fern with distinctive silvery undersides to the fronds. Mamaku, the black tree fern (Cyatheamedullaris) is the most common of New Zealand tree ferns, it is also the tallest growing to a height of 65 feet (20 meters) and is identified by its black trunk and hexagonal bases of the frond stems. Wheki (Dicksoniasquarrosa) tends to grow in colonies and grows to 26 feet (8 meters tall). Close to the Kauri forest, all three species can be seen growing with extravagance alongside riverbanks with another iconic New Zealand plant, nikau (Rhopalostylissapida), the only palm native to New Zealand.
Along the coast grows the New Zealand Christmas Tree, (Metrosiderosexcelsa), pōhutukawa, the most colorful of trees in the islands, with bright crimson flowers in late December on a multi-trunk, spreading tree. An 800-year-old tree holds a special place in Māori mythology. The spirits of the dead descend the tree into the underworld (Rēinga) to begin the journey to the homeland of Hawaiki. It is a widely cultivated tree but is under threat in the wild from possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), and stock browsing. Fortunately, Project Crimson, – a nonprofit organization set up to protect pohutukawa forest, has been very effective.
Mānuka honey may well be the most sublime tasting honey in the world. Mānuka is the Māori name for ,a fast-growing evergreen shrub or small tree with oval pointed leaves, and white or pink red-centered flowers throughout the year. It and its cultivars are widely grown in gardens and it is widespread in New Zealand although the recent arrival of myrtle rust, a fungal disease, may become a serious problem. The honey, from bees feeding on Leptospermum, is very sweet and rich and is claimed to have antibacterial and immune boosting properties. These are claims that should be taken with a spoonful of honey.
The Kauri forests are a rich and profoundly
important flora, once covering almost 3 million acres (1.2
million hectares) before the first people arrived 1,000 years ago. The first
European to sight the islands was the Dutchman, Abel Tasman. Captain James Cook made landfall in 1769. European settlers
followed and the Kauri forests were harvested for the timber and gum. Clearing
for farmland and timber increased up to the mid-20th century. Today, the remnant
population of mature kauri covers just 18,420 acres (7,455 hectares) and is
susceptible to damage from possum and from Kauri dieback, a serious soil-borne
There is, for once, cause for optimism, conservation efforts appear to be succeeding and abandoned farms with regenerating secondary forest and scrubland contain an estimated 148,000 acres (60,000 hectares) of kauri and its associated flora and fauna. Well-managed timber operations are also contributing to the regeneration. Private organizations; the Waipoua Forest Trust (a joint partnership between the Forest Restoration Trust and Te Roroa, the Māori guardians of Waipoua), Kauri 2000, and the Puketi Forest Trust are working with the Department of Conservation establishing thousands of kauri seedlings on suitable sites.
There are two other key genera of trees in New Zealand. Both have significant flora associated with them and both connect to species elsewhere on the planet. The Southern Beeches, Nothofagus, consist of 37 species of deciduous and evergreen trees only found in Australia, Chile, Argentina, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. New Guinea has the most species, fourteen, while New Zealand has four with one additional variety; Nothofagus menziesii: silver beech, Nothofagus fusca: red beech, Nothofagustruncata: hard beech, Nothofagus solandri var. solandri: black beech, and Nothofagussolandri var. cliffortioides: mountain beech.
There’s an old bushman saying about southern beeches, ‘You’ve got three types of beeches – red, brown and black. The bark of the red is silver, and the wood of the red is pink when its green. The brown quite often has black bark, but the green timber is red. Sometimes the bark of the black is white, but the timber is yellow and sometimes brown when it’s green.’ Now that’s cleared up, taxonomists add to the confusion with virulent (if taxonomists can be said to become virulent) argument as to whether the New Zealand beeches are Nothofagus, Fucospora or Lophozonia. The argument is best left to science. In the meantime, Nothofagus will have to do.
Nelson Lakes National Park is situated in the north of the South Island. It is about 2 hours drive from the city of Blenheim and protects 252,000 acres (102,000 hectares) of the northernmost range of the Southern Alps. It was formed during the last Ice Age by glaciation and by the mountain up-thrust along the Alpine Fault. Now the valleys are forested with red and silver beeches in the lower elevations and the mountain beech at higher altitudes. Once threatened by over-harvesting, the pressure on New Zealand’s Nothofagus has now eased, thanks, in part, to national parks such as Nelson Lakes. The changing climate in New Zealand may have an as yet unknown effect but drier conditions are not in the trees’ favor.
Nothofagus fusca, tawhai raunui, the red beech, is the most commonly seen growing along the shores of Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa. It is an evergreen tree reaching a height of 114 feet (35 meters) tall. The leaves are characteristically double-toothed. The foliage of young trees has a reddish tinge while mature trees have bright green leaves. It is a dominant species, creating large forests, often colonizing exposed areas. In some areas red beech and silver beech, Tāwhai (Nothofagus menziesii), grow together although silver beech reaches into higher altitudes.
The New Zealand podocarps consist of eight genera with native species, Podocarpus, Dacrydium, Prumnopitys, Dacrycarpus, Halocarpus,Lepidothamnus and Manoao. Of the eight, Podocarpus is the most significant and in that genus, tōtara, Podocarpus totara var. totara is the most widespread. Tōtara is a slow growing evergreen reaching a height of 80 feet (25 meters). Pouakani, the world’s biggest tōtara, is 1,800 years old, and is 140 feet (42.7 meters) high and 41 feet (12 meters) in girth.
Tōtara is almost indistinguishable from Podocarpus nubigenus, a species native to the Valdivian temperate rain forest of Chile, and therein lies the story and raging debate of Gondwana flora and plant colonization.
Where did the plants now growing on Zealandia come from? For some, the answer may be blowing in the wind, that is long-distance dispersal. And that means they blew in or came across the sea from somewhere else. For others, they were there when the super-continent, Gondwana, broke apart to form the continents as we know them resulting in differentiation of the original group into new varieties or species. That is vicariance. The Nothofagus in Chile are different species than the Nothofagus in New Zealand, for example.
Much has been published and will continue to be written about the origin of plants in Zealandia and this ever-unfolding story is why New Zealand is one of the most interesting countries on earth.
I moved to a suburb of Portland, Oregon just over a month ago. Two hours from where I live is Coffin Mountain. Recently, I drove to the trailhead and hiked to the summit.
“The trail is steep, but the effort is worth it. This hike is especially rewarding from approximately mid-June to mid-July when the wildflowers are blooming.
The trail climbs steeply up an old rocky Jeep track for the first 0.1 mile, then watch for the trail heading off to your left. The trail climbs through forest and meadows with intermittent views of Three Fingered Jack to your right. Wildflowers include paintbrush, larkspur, and pentsemon.
After 0.6 miles you will emerge into a huge expansive beargrass meadow. Beargrass blooms in cycles, so some years the meadow is full of blooms and other years there are just a few. Even if it’s not a banner year for beargrass the views from this meadow are spectacular. On clear days you can see Mt. Jefferson peeking up behind Bachelor Mountain to the east, a view which improves with every step up the trail. You can also see Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters. “
A little way up the trail is an area of exposed rock -scree. Growing on it are a number of plants including : Castilleja miniata, Delphinium menziesii, Helianthella uniflora, and a couple of Eriogonum species.
A little further up and in the shade, the yellowleaf Iris.
Higher up, the beargrass, Xerophyllum tenax, begins to grow in extraordinary profusion. BOOM !
It has been a long time since I wrote anything on this site.
I have been busy. In April I traveled to Crete and the South of France. In between I have been giving talks about my book ,Gardenlust.
In May I moved from California to Washington State and then from Washington to Oregon and the bordello. To be accurate, the house is not a bordello now but was when it was built in 1884. It has seven entrances, handy for business at the time, and charming now. Home is where the heart is.
The house comes with a human and a dog.
I went to Crete and the South of France to look at wildflowers. After an unusually wet winter, Spring in the mountains was lush with flowering plants.
Then to the Camargue, less rich in plants but full of horses and flamingo.
What next ?
Life at the bordello will continue and a big trip is coming. A trip around the world.
A review of Gardenlust by Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post.
The skills of the actor and musician are wholly portable. Sculptors may place their work around the world but are tied to their studios. Gardeners, working in the trickiest medium of them all — life — are by definition rooted to one place.
That doesn’t mean they can’t go to see other gardens; such visits are essential to keep the creative juices flowing. But to pour your soul into gardening, you need your own garden and you have to shepherd it over many years. You’re stuck. That is the price of paradise.
If you are passionate about gardens but have wanderlust, that seems like a curse of mythological proportion. This might turn you into a plant explorer, a landscape photographer or, if you are Christopher Woods, into a horticultural sojourner and writer.
It was not always thus. I first met him almost 20 years ago at Chanticleer, the garden in Wayne, Pa., where he was the founding director of an enchanting place. It was — and is — one of the sweetest gardens around, and Woods was by the time I met him already established as a nonconformist and a creative beacon to the team of gardeners he led. But I should have guessed he was seeking change, possibly a warmer place close to a beach. He greeted me wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a straw hat.
He left soon afterward, to run one garden on the West Coast and then another, and then I lost track of his wayfaring. “I am a restless man at heart,” he announces, by way of his latest creation, a book named “Gardenlust: A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens.”
Cerebral types (such as myself) have to be reminded that a garden, at base, is about attending to the senses, about creating an emotional response to aesthetic stimulation. Woods has always espoused this, as his book attests.
Over a span of three years, he visited approximately 50 gardens on six continents, viewing such landscapes as botanical gardens, parks, residential gardens, and commercial and civic landscapes. There is astonishing variety, such as the Naples Botanical Garden, whose creators are seeking to hold back the destructive forces of development in Florida; and the dramatic cliffside home and garden of Chilean architect Juan Grimm. There is the 568-acre Landschaftspark in Germany, where designed gardens grow amid the ruins of an abandoned ironworks in the Ruhr Valley. Here, a fern growing in a crease of rusted metal, Woods writes, “is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Until the next beautiful thing.”
All these places, though, have one thing in common: They were established since the beginning of the century, even if as part of existing landscapes. The imagination and effort that has gone into them must encourage anyone who thinks significant gardens are stuck in the past or, worse, fading from our distracted world.
At Alnwick Castle in England, the Duchess of Northumberland raised and spent millions to create unorthodox garden elements that left parts of the English horticultural establishment clutching their pearls. This included a $10 million treehouse and a grandiose water cascade. Woods likes its radicalism and the fact that many of the features are designed for people dealing with life in a depressed, postindustrial part of Britain.
I have no desire to see the Miracle Garden in Dubai, which seems to be the antithesis of contemporary garden sensibilities. It disregards its own desert environs and is a place groaning under 45 million exotic and thirsty petunias and geraniums. It seems as kitschy as it is environmentally unsustainable. Woods is a fan. However wrong this garden is to purists, it provides visitors a place to have fun, he points out, and to take children who have “such little access to truly green space.”
One place I’d like to see is a private, 990-acre sculpture garden on New Zealand’s North Island created by owner Alan Gibbs. Gibbs, an entrepreneur and serious art collector, shaped the land and created wide paths, using heavy equipment. “On occasion, he would blow things up,” writes Woods, “partly to remove them and partly for the fun of it.”
I would like to follow in Woods’s footsteps to coastal Argentina, where Rolando Uria has created a display garden for his collection of salvias, a genus that is much richer than most gardeners realize. Would the
12-foot-high Salvia foveolata grow in a summer garden in Washington? It would be worth putting it to the test.
Woods, who resides near Berkeley, Calif., speaks of his early affinity for plants but, just as important, for kindred spirits who continue to define their own visions of a garden without being shackled to the past. The garden is a human artifice, he writes, but it connects to the rest of nature and stops us from thinking of other life-forms as being separate.
“Gardens are to our hands what language is to our social structure: a constructed, artificial mechanism we’ve devised so we can explain things we see around us.”
Woods was on the other side of the world when I tried to reach him recently. He emailed me from New Zealand and a couple of days later from the South Pacific. “I am now on a beach in New Caledonia looking at Araucaria columnaris. A lot of it,” he wrote. That would be the New Caledonian pine.
In a subsequent email from Sydney, he addressed my question about garden sameness around the world. “While there is a great deal of homogenization, particularly in corporate and government landscapes, there is an abundance of individual creativity and even aesthetic eccentricity in contemporary garden design,” he responded. “The individual has not been consumed.”
He tells readers that he is at a point in life when “I have more or less replaced constant resettlement with near-constant travel. I continue to fall in love with this extraordinary world and its botanical marvels.” I wonder, is he running from his own mortality? Should we join him?
In the 18th century, the critic Horace Walpole spoke of the pastoral landscape movement transforming grand estates such as Alnwick. Of the landscape designer William Kent, Walpole wrote: “He leaped the fence and saw that all nature was a garden.” He might have been speaking of Chris Woods, a gardener who has always embraced the idiosyncratic world of avant-garde horticulture. “The only thing I really fear,” he told me, “is shopping malls.”
Arguably the best one line review of my book. Other reviewers are equally complimentary:
You’ll be ready to travel when you pick up Gardenlust by British plant expert Christopher Woods. . . . Every designer, everyone who loves gardens and plants will want a copy of this book. It’s the first real comprehensive survey of fabulous 21st century gardens.” —Garden Design Online
For many of us, gardens are where nature and human culture merge such that people experience life-altering epiphanies. No one gets this catalytic power of the spade better than Chris Woods, who has sleuthed and shared the world’s most numinous points of beauty in this book.
Through his travels, Chris Woods introduces readers to rich botanical centers and outposts and to the richness of the people in them. He also presents gardens that may be more familiar to some but though a new lens. I had imagined that I might not get to the vast offering of exceptional gardens in Australia and New Zealand, but after reading the book, I need to find a way. If you appreciate the exposure of travel and the wonder of gardens and design, and understand the wonder of getting lost in what you don’t know and haven’t yet experienced, here’s your book.
I thoroughly enjoyed the range of gardens from extreme modernism, with glass sculptures forming part of the garden, to the traditional wilds of China and everything in between. I learnt about plants, structure and form but mostly, the importance of having a clear purpose for the garden. This line summarizes the book best: “What makes modern landscape design different from most other forms of contemporary art is our growing understanding of the effects of deforestation and climate change, the lessons to be learned by studying ethnobotany, the importance of an urban forest, and the impulse to use what we hope are ecologically appropriate or native plants.
This is most certainly full of gardens every plant lover would lust after. It could be awarded 5 stars just for the photography alone but that isn’t all of its content. This great book is divided into 8 parts of the world and the beautiful gardens in them. Christopher Woods has chosen them well.
This book seems to be a table top book so I don’t think it is something you’d want to curl up with to read. However, it is not only full of beautiful pictures. It’s filled with history. The history of some of the plants, the gardens, even the science of how some of the plants grow in certain climates.
It’s such a beautiful book and so educational at the same time that I was really delighted to be able to read it.
I love books about gardens almost as much as I love visiting gardens. Christopher Woods has given us a book that brings to us the deep connection between humans and plants. His vast experience and extensive travels give him a perspective that helps us interpret our own need to surround ourselves with the beauty of nature. He given us a taste of 50 contemporary gardens and the gardeners/designers that created them. It will resonate with you and the next time you step outside or visit a garden you will see it through new eyes! I am very fortunate to have a job that lets me connect people to nature and their own private outdoor spaces. I believe gardens are a journey and like them this book will take you on a fabulous journey.
It is not unseemly to brag a little, is it ?
I am pleased that the book is now available worldwide.
It has arrived. My advance copy. The publication date is September 18, 2018.
It took me ten minutes to open the package.
Part of the book’s dedication is –
And for the gardeners of the world.
You with the crazy eyes and rough hands.
You who are so much in love with growing things.
You artists and scientists, poets and painters, protectors and advocates.
You who fall in love again and again.
You know who you are.
It has arrived. 它已经到达 Det er kommet זה הגיע Het is aangekomen Il est arrive Sie angekommen ist Έφτασε Ini telah tiba Ito ay dumating È arrivato それが到着した Chegou Он прибыл Ha llegado Den har anlänt มันได้มาถึง O geldi Mae wedi cyrraedd Він прибув Je prišel To prišlo Stiglo je Dotarł 그것은 도착 했다 Nws tau los txog Stigao je وقد وصلت Dit het aangebreek.
I will let it sit on the table for awhile. And then I will approach it with caution. But don’t you do the same because this is a lustful book and you, lustful reader, should devour it.
The Green Swamp Preserve, 17,424 acres (7051.24 hectares) in Brunswick County, North Carolina is owned by the Nature Conservancy. It is an area of pocosins, Algonquin meaning “swamp-on-a hill”. Pocosins are dense with shrubs such as black titi (Cliftoniamonophylla), gallberry (Ilexcoriacea) and sweetbay (Magnoliavirginiana). Thousands of years of muck have produced acidic, nutrient deficient soils where a carnival of carnivorous plants grow, notably the Venus flytrap (Dionaeamuscipula), a member of the sundew family which opens and closes its hinged leaves in response to an insect brushing against tiny trigger hairs on the leaf’s inner surface. In half a second, the trap shuts and the plant secretes digestive juices, taking about a week to fully absorb the insect. Charles Darwin called the flytrap “one of the most wonderful plants in the world”.
There are fourteen known species of carnivorous plants in the preserve. The yellow pitcher plant (Sarraceniaflava) is perhaps the most dramatic with 20 to 36 inch (50.5-91.5 cm) yellow tubes veined red and a red-purple throat at the base of its hood. They are modified leaves, curled to make a tube.The flowers come up in spring and are angled or pendulous and a vibrant green-yellow.
Sarracenia purpurea is also present in great numbers.
Surrounding the pocosins are long-leaf pine savannas. The pine (Pinus palustris) grows from southeastern Virginia, all the way to the Florida panhandle and west to the Piney Woods of Texas. “A magnificent grove of stately pines, succeeding to the expansive plains we had long time traversed, had a pleasant effect, rousing the faculties of the mind, awakening the imagination by its sublimity, and arresting every active, inquisitive idea, by the variety of scenery”, wrote William Bartram in 1791.
Now, longleaf pine savanna is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the United States with only about 12,000 acres (4,856 hectares) of fragmented old growth remaining of a pre-colonial population of 90 million acres (364,21,707 hectares). The pine’s demise is due to its usefulness to humans and to human greed. Tar, pitch, rosin and turpentine, four products derived from pines that protect wood and rope from rotting, caulk planks, and deter wood-boring insects and mollusks. Perfect for ship and house building. The high resin content of Pinuspalustris, made it especially useful to the expanding colonies. Business boomed, especially with the cheap labor of slaves. But within sixty years of the end of the “war between the states” (1861-1865), the once great forests were gone, chopped down, sawn up and boiled.
Nearby are wetter areas, home to the occasional alligator and surrounded by one of America’s finest trees, the swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum).
I went to India again. In August. In monsoon season. Not surprisingly the heat and humidity was a wall.
I started in Delhi where I met old friends and went to visit Delhi’s new Central Park, the former Sunder Nursery.
Sundar Nursery is flanked by the World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb (Above) on the South and the historic Purana Qila on the North and aligned to the historic Grand Trunk Road on the West. It was originally established in the early 20th century when the Imperial Delhi complex was being planned and constructed. It was used as a place for propagating trees and other plants to be used in the new capital city, and also for testing species brought from other parts of India and from overseas, to pick those which successfully thrive in Delhi’s harsh climate. A large number of these trees, some of which are only occasionally seen in the city, are still flourishing here. A few others, perhaps those found unsuitable and not used at all, are only to be found within the nursery, as rare specimens. The nursery is in fact an archaeological site – there are scattered remains of Mughal period structures including three nationally protected monuments, together with pavilions, tombs, grave platforms, wells, and a mosque platform.
From Delhi to Rishikesh, the home of gurus, ashrams,yoga training, and many lurid and wonderful idols.
Every evening, as dusk descends, the Ganga Aarti is performed. An aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. It’s usually made in the form of a lit lamp, and in the case of the Ganges River, a small diya with a candle and flowers that’s floated down the river. The offering is made to the Goddess Ganga, also affectionately referred to as Maa Ganga, goddess of the holiest river in India.
The next day, the journey to the Valley of Flowers began. That’s another story.
Howler monkeys begin their earthy growl just before dawn and, as the sun warms, their sound becomes louder and more urgent. Territory, territory.
Scarlet macaws soon appear, screaming through the sky. As the sun rises and temperature too, an electric buzz of thousands of insects, rubbing their wings and legs reaching a crescendo of sexual invitation.
Dawn at the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.
It gets hot and humid quickly on the Osa Peninsula. Take a walk and you will see White-faced monkeys peering down at you and a Lesser Anteater, indifferent to you but not indifferent to a nest of ants. Breakfast.
I stayed at Luna Lodge , a lovely eco-resort on a steeply wooded slope in the forest. It is not inexpensive but if you get a chance to visit, do so. https://lunalodge.com/
The Gardens are a jumping off point to the Talamanca Mountains, home to more species of trees than the United States, and home to the elusive bird, the resplendent quetzal. I joined an old friend, Alan Poole, an ornithologist who is writing a book about the Quetzal.
We spent many hours hiking the forest, seeing many species of plants and evidence but no sightings of the bird. As is not uncommon when birding, we were on the way back to our car when I walked up to a large fig tree with soft orange fruits. There were five quetzal flying from the fig to a small-fruited avocado.
We jumped up and down like young boys, excited by this beautiful bird.
It was as good a day as good days get.
Back at the garden there were more good days, and many good plants.
Framed by a large Cecropia, a view of the Talamanca Mountains.
I have visited Costa Rica many times. I will visit again.