Getting high – in Peru ( Part 3)


The train leaves early and travels alongside the Urumbaba river. As we descended into the part of the valley that is the entrance to Machu Pichu, the area became humid and tropical. Large bromeliads hang from the trees. There are  glimpses of orchids and many plants we don’t know. “Isn’t that a ..? ”

Arrival in Aguas Calientes is a little frantic. We rushed from the station to the line of buses. We pass stands and shops lining up their authentic Inca wares – made in China.

The 8 km bus drive up to the entrance of the site is windey wonderful. On arrival, we disembarked and joined the line for the entrance. It was the early morning shift but already the throngs were gathering. Up a few steps and…oh my.


The air was fresh, the sun strong and warming.

Much has been written about Machu Pichu. Later, reading about the place, I came upon a piece of speculation that fascinated me. It is possible that Machu Pichu was built, occupied and then abandoned  in a time span of  just 100 years. New findings from current archaeological digs are producing new information. There is much more to learn.

The first plants we saw were  growing  out of the walls and terraces.

According to Hortus Veitchii, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, writing in the Botanical Magazine, described Begonia veitchii  as “the finest species then known”, saying:

“Of all the species of Begonia known, this is, I think, the finest. With the habit of Saxifraga ciliata, immense flowers of a vivid vermilion cinnabar-red, that no colorist can reproduce.”

Begonia veitchii


The begonia combines well with young Alpaca.

Visitors to Machu Pichu are kept in order. There is a one-way system of trails with guards at junctions making sure you don’t transgress. It makes for efficiency of sightseeing as well as minimizing damage from the millions of feet that trample.

Around a corner, a marvel, a wonder.


IMG_3821 (2)
Puya berteroniana


The turquoise puya has six -foot high flowering stems with turquoise-emerald flowers with bright orange anthers. The common name of the species is misleading, a number of Puya have turquoise flowers. Much later, in Chile, I had extensive conversations about Puya.

But how wonderful for the Inca to build such a wonderful backdrop for this incredible plant.


and there  is this,


some orchidaceous loveliness.

After many hours of exploring the area, it was time to descend to catch the train back to Ollantaytambo. There are two ways of doing this, by bus or by walking 4 -5 kms downs a steep stone-stepped path. We chose the path.

IMG_3836 (2)

The steps are dislocating but you do see a wonderful number of plants such as Alnus jorullensis, Juglans neotropica, Podocarpus glomeratus, and Buddleja incana , as well as many bromeliads and orchids. You can enjoy the flora while smiling  at but secretly hating the young people who are climbing UP the steps.


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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