Return to Laos ( part 2)

Before my return home, the garden hosted an open house for the Lao community. This happens several times a year.

On the boat ride to the garden, I sat with thirty children from a local orphanage who were coming to enjoy the garden, have a picnic, listen to pop music and learn to make bamboo handicrafts.


IMG_3628The garden was full of people. It is a scene found in every public garden around the world.

While the garden’s mission is to advance botany, conservation, horticulture, ethnobotany, research and education, it is paramount that it be  for the Lao people. Most of the staff are Lao. A regularly published newsletter is published in Lao and in English. Plant and educational signs are bi-lingual.

As the garden grows, so will its importance as a resource in Laos. It is an important part of the garden’s capacity building – its ability to deliver its mission effectively now, and in the future.

The garden is there to connect. To connect locals and tourists to the vibrancy of a plant-centered life.IMG_3616IMG_3614IMG_3598

And so, after a good bottle of wine and delicious coconut soup spiced with black ant eggs, I decided to volunteer to help with the capital campaign.

Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden is excited to announce the fundraising campaign for the second phase of our development: the installation of our Research and Education Facilities accompanied by an intensive 5-years capacity building and research program. We are proud to announce that Chris Woods has been appointed Director for International Development and will be working together with us towards this important new milestone in our development. 

On November 7th 2016 the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden opened to the public, and over eight thousand people from Laos and all over the world visited and enjoyed the beautiful as well as the educational. Founded by curator and publisher, Rik Gadella, Pha Tad Ke is located in Luang Prabang and is the first garden of its kind in Laos. It has taken seven years of developing botanical collections, scientific research, landscaping, and employee capacity building to create this unique botanical garden with a deep focus on ethno-botany. 

Pha Tad Ke is setting new standards in sustainable and environmentally responsible tourism, giving back to Lao communities, preserving local culture and the environment. The garden provides jobs to local villagers and creates a nurturing platform for young talent to develop new skills from gardening to science, education and hospitality. Publications and manuals in Lao language have been written by the staff and provide learning opportunities for Lao communities through workshops and student trainings. 

With the installation of our Research and Education Facilities Pha Tad Ke will be able to take a major step towards the realization of our important goals. 

Rik Gadella

Worked in the art world in Amsterdam, Paris and New York for over 25 years and is the creator of world-renowned events such as Paris Photo and Parcours des Mondes. In 2008 he visited Luang Prabang for a short holiday and fell in love with this UNESCO heritage town, and its natural surroundings, and decided to move here to create the first botanical garden of Laos. 

Chris Woods

Was born in England but has lived in the United States since 1981.He has worked in the garden world as gardener, executive director, designer and consultant for 45 years. He was the first executive director of Chanticleer, a world famous garden in Pennsylvania, and director of the Van Dusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, Canada and executive director of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden in California.

He was 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. While traveling the world researching, interviewing, and photographing for a book on contemporary global gardens, he visited Pha Tad Ke, fell in love with its beauty and became passionate about its science.  

Here’s some of what we have achieved at Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden since we began our project in 2008 to create the first botanical garden of Laos: 

·       14 books published and 3 educational manuals;

·       30.000 copies of our books distributed free of charge to Lao schools and libraries;

·       2.400 school children have visited PTK as part of organized garden excursions, and over 1.200 university and college students;

·       12 school gardens installed with teacher training programs;

·       130 plus botanical field trips undertaken;

·       1.500 different plant and tree species in our living collections;

·       2.500 staff training days organized in Laos; over 980 staff training days completed internationally;

·       8 scholarships given to Lao students;

·       74 workshops given to Lao college and university students in Field botany, Green horticulture, Ecology, Management coaching, Photography and Botanical Drawings;

·       22 art exhibitions organized in Laos and internationally;

·       38 articles in the press, 22 blogs, 5 radio interviews and 3 TV documentaries featuring PTK;

·       52 staff working in the garden;

·       10 hectares of garden open to the public, 2 hectares of work area/nurseries and 25 hectares of mountain reserve.

A tax deductible donation to a  501c in the USA –  is available . There is a direct paypal link or via bank transfer.  Any donations should be marked for  Pha Tad Ke.
There are also other portals that lead to support –  friends of Pha Tad Ke .
For further information contact Rik Gadella at or me, Chris Woods, at
After a wonderful week, I returned to Bangkok, had a foot massage
and tea,and flew home.
I have a feeling I will return again quite soon.


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


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