Getting high – in Peru. Part 2

Into the sacred valley full of lush agriculture and the beginning of Puya sightings, we stopped for the least greasy empanadas and a drink flavored with what we were told was ” a sacred berry.” Everything is sacred here. Given that we know so little about the Inca and much of what we do know was made up by the Spanish, it is impossible to know what is true. What is evident is that the Inca were extraordinary engineers and builders, constructing highly elaborate villages and towns with agricultural terraces, aqueducts, roads and communication systems.



Puya species


43 miles from Machu Picchu, Juan Grimm has designed a high-altitude garden  for the Tambo del Inka hotel. With a backdrop of Ch’iqun Mountain and the famous terraces and ruins of Quispiguanca, a fifteenth-century Incan royal estate nearby, there is a clear point of reference.

Although… although it seemed an odd landscape set among such powerful mountains.



I have yet to see a garden that can ever match, let alone improve upon, a natural site.

Taking a detour from the main road, we drove high into the mountains.


At close to 12,000 feet there were Alpaca



and all manner of wonders.



especially this unusual yellow form of –


Austrocylindropuntia floccosa

This species occurs in Peru (Cajamarca, La Libertad, Ancash, Lima, Junín, Huancavelica, Ayacucho, Cuzco, Arequipa, Puno, Moquehua) across the Andean uplands at high altitudes and in Bolivia in La Paz (Hunt et al. 2006). It can be found at altitudes between 3,500 and 4,300 m ( according to the IUCN Red List).

Down and onward then to Ollantaytambo, on the Urubamba river.


Ollantaytambo is where you get the train to Aguas Calientes and then the bus up the mountain to Machu Pichu. It’s a lovely village with extraordinary plants growing out of the rock walls. Brugmansia atrosanguinea being one.


The town has some of the largest Inca ruins – lines of terraces and towers reaching high into the mountains.

Plant nuts could spend days looking at what grows out of the walls.



and  along the streams


My traveling companions and I had bought our tickets to Machu Pichu on-line and were ready for the 4 a.m. rise to grab a cup of  coffee and walk down to the station to catch the first tourist train that takes you along the Urumbaba river.

That’s another story.IMG_3689 (2)

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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