In Chile: Discovering four of the seven (or eleven or thirteen)secrets of life.

On a recent trip to Chile I discovered four important things that I believe are essential to well-being.

The first is oxygen. There seemed to be a short supply of the stuff as the country is experiencing its worst wildfire season in its history. Nearly 900,000 acres of forest are burning, turning the sky brown and, with excessive summer heat, making most of the country smell and feel  like a bad barbecue. 5,000 people have been evacuated and 11 killed. It’s a terrible situation. The heat and the drought have been linked to climate change but I am an American and, under the new administration, apparently that particular scientific fact is no longer true.

Ignoring the bad news and being a self-indulgent tourist, I discovered the second, the breakfast of champions – Pisco Sour. This appears to be a drink made out of eggs and urine. Fortunately, it’s made out of brandy – Pisco – a grape brandy.

Here’s a recipe.

  1. Pour pisco, lemon juice, sugar and egg white in a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake and strain in an old-fashioned glass filled with ice.
  3. Pour dashes of angostura bitters on the creamy drink.

One Pisco sour starts the day with a zing. Two adds a hallucinatory quality to the day and you start to see Inca deities at the end of the bar. Three ends the day rather quickly.

Pisco Sour on the left


The third is ceviche. I don’t know the history of ceviche and after a couple of Pisco Sours, I couldn’t care less.

This frothy mixture of raw fish marinated in lime juice with the addition of onion and corn is as close to culinary perfection as possible.
When being photographed with food, it wise to cover any hint of a burgeoning belly


The fourth is flora, of course. The flora of Chile is rich in endemism. The Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis, is almost gone from the wild but it is grown in gardens.jubaea-chilensis

Chilean wine palms at Parque Explorador Quilapilún

In the Andes, the magnificent  Puya chilensis, a terrestrial bromeliad, grows on rocky slopes. Its flowering is finished in late summer but it has a powerful presence in the scree and boulders 300-1000 m above sea level.img_1263

Here is a photograph, from a friend, of Puya chilensis in flower.dsc07698

Good food and drink can be found anywhere but a plant in the wild is beyond ordinary  pleasures.


Being in the wild is an act of worship

Author: urbanehorticulture

A native of England a U.S. citizen for the past 30 years, I have worked in the garden world as a director and designer for over 35 years. I am best-known for my groundbreaking designs at Chanticleer, an estate and “pleasure garden” in Wayne, PA, where I worked for 20 years. Career Highlights I started my gardening life at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England, where I was trained as a gardener. I worked in three other gardens in the UK, notably Portmeirion in Wales, Bateman’s in Sussex, and Cliveden in Buckinghamshire. At Bateman’s, I was responsible for the restoration of the 17th-century garden. I came to the U.S. in 1981 and was director and chief designer of Chanticleer in Pennsylvania for the next 20 years. I transformed a moribund private estate into one of America’s most exuberant, romantic and flamboyant gardens. Its glorious 47 acres have been celebrated by gardeners and horticulturists from around the world and, based on my designs, it continues to draw international visitors every season. After twenty years creating Chanticleer, I became vice president for horticulture for the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden and, in 2006, was appointed director of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, Canada. While pleased to be in Canada, my heart yearned for California and in 2008 he was appointed executive director of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. After a successful period in northern California, he returned to his home near Santa Barbara, CA where I operated my own design-consulting business. In 2012, I was lured back east by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (founded in 1827) and appointed director of its private estate and garden, Meadowbrook Farm. I was commissioned by PHS to design the central feature for the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show, the third major exhibit I have designed for PHS over the years. Among numerous other responsibilities, I have been a member of the board of the Fairmount Park Conservancy in Philadelphia and a founding member of the business advisory board for the Flora of North America Project. I have designed gardens in Chicago, northern and southern California, and throughout the Northeastern United States. I have also been a consultant to the Garden Conservancy and to Botanic Gardens Conservation International, as well as serving on the horticulture advisory committee of Lotusland in Santa Barbara, California. I have been the Advancement Advisor for the Flora of North America Association and am now traveling the world researching, interviewing, and photographing for a book on gardens around the world. Books & Awards My n first book, The Encyclopedia of Perennials, was published in 1992 by Facts on File. I also contributed to 1001 Gardens to See Before You Die (Barron's Educational Series, 2012) and The Gardener’s Garden (Phaidon Press, 2014). In 2003, I was awarded the Professional Citation for significant achievements in public horticulture by the American Public Garden Association. In 2007, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awarded me its prestigious medal for Distinguished Achievement. I currently live in the Bay Area, California.

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The New Perennialist

Musings on plants, gardens, travel, food and sex. Mostly plants and gardens.


for people who want more than gardening from gardens


Uprooting the Gardening World

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