On the road again

Two weeks from today I will fly to New Zealand to take a peak at the Kauri trees (Agathis australis) in the Waipoua Forest, and then fly to the South Island to speak at the Garden Marlborough Festival  www.gardenmarlborough.co.nz/

Agathis australis

While in Marlborough, I will also travel to Nelson Lakes National Park.

Nelson Lakes National Park

After New Zealand, I will then travel to New Caledonia for a few days. Then on to Sydney and then to Perth and south to the Fitzgerald River National Park.

Fitzgerald River National Park

From there to Samoa for a look around.


From Samoa to Fiji.


This is work (honest). Apart from the speaking engagements at the Marlborough Festival, this travel is research for a new book I am writing.

It is a writer’s life.


“This book is like the main course on a table of horticultural delicacies”

Arguably the best one line review of my book.Woods_Gardenlust_jacket 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.

A writer falls in love with an idea and gets carried away.

A writer falls in love with an idea and gets carried away. Doris Lessing.

This well describes me a few years ago. Now, the idea has become flesh so to speak and my book, Gardenlust, is reaching an audience. What will become of it I don’t know. I hope, of course, that it is widely read and that readers find it enjoyable, stimulating and  informative  and that praise will abound and flowers will be strewn at my feet.

Although writing a book is a bit like sticking your bum out of the window and being embarrassed about doing so at the same time.


My first reader was overwhelmed by the brilliance of the book.

“Sometimes I don’t even know why I’m writing what I’m writing…

I’m just following these people around and taking notes.”

― P. Anastasia


A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. Roald Dahl

There is truth in Dahl’s statement. Freedom – that beautiful blessing and terrible curse.

And so my book is out and I will promote and perform in many places so that my stories can be read and heard. The play begins.

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Eryri – Snowdonia. I lived there once

I used to live in North Wales, back in the mid-1970s. Many London hippies did. We were “getting back to the land” although most of us knew nothing about land. If I remember correctly, I hitch-hiked to Wales with a backpack full of brown rice, a pot of Marmite and, I guess, some clean clothes. I think my mother packed the clothes.

I lived in a small caravan by a river for just a week. I then moved from house to house, enjoying the comfort of strangers. It was a fine summer full of mountain hikes and ice-cold rivers. I was skinny and brown, my hair almost down to my waist. I rode horses – bareback. I was macrobiotic and probably malnourished but I was healthy and happy. All of us hippies got together frequently. We talked of mushrooms and wildflowers and poultices and poetry and getting back to the land we’d already got back to. Sex and drugs were abundant. There was no need to talk of sex, it was everywhere. We talked about it nonetheless. There was a lot of dope. An apt name I discovered later. There was music. We listened to the Grateful Dead and The Incredible String Band. Clapton was still God. Some of us played music. Some well, most not.


I needed to garden. I needed a job. After the summer, I started work at Plas Brondanw, then the home of Clough Williams-Ellis, the creator of Portmeirion. Decades later, just last week, I returned to Snowdonia, to walk the mountains, visit friends, and look at stone.

Here are some pictures of Plas Brondanw, a Welsh-Italianate garden.
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IMG_7378 (2)After Plas Brondanw, I worked at Portmeirion.

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IMG_7423 (2)A silly, lovely place.  But it was the mountains that interested me the most. Raw and beautiful, often pouring with water, criss-crossed  by Roman roads and rock-walled  sheep pens. My time there was one of the most powerful in my life. I was pleased to visit it again and pleased that I no longer live there.
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My book is born

It has arrived. My advance copy. The publication date is September 18, 2018.

It took me ten minutes to open the package.

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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.

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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.

Or, you could just read it.








65 and still alive

I turned 65 on July 1. With what seems like astonishing speed I went from 42 to 65. To celebrate my birthday and also to look at places and plants new to me, Mary and I took a trip to Dubrovnik, then to Montenegro, Albania and Greece.

The first stop was Dubrovnik. It was founded in the 7th century. Its history is the history of the Mediterranean world. In 1991 it was shelled by the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and badly damaged. Today, only the newer tile roofs of the repaired houses indicate it was ever damaged. But some 60 people died in yet another pointless internecine struggle.

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From Dubrovnik south to Montenegro and the city of Ulcinj. And a little sailing.

IMG_6916 (2)Sailing being looking at this beautiful sailboat from the shore.

Then to Albania and a couple of days spent in the Llogora National Park.


With wind blown black pines (Pinus nigra)

Pinus nigra 1

and the remains of one of Enver Hoxha’s 173,371 concrete bunkers, used to observe and repel any potential invasion.


Growing in the rubble is Digitalis ferruginea.

Digitalis ferruginea 1

Phlomis fruticosa


and Pterocephalus perennis (I think).

Pterocephalus 4

The Ceraunian Mountains drop sharply to the Ionian Sea.



Down to a lovely bay which was once a Soviet submarine base.

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On to Greece. The Peloponnese. Olives and grapes everywhere.


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And Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)

Cotinus coggygria 1

Euphorbia dendroides coming into leaf.

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Genista lydia in full flower.

Genista lydia 2

Echinops spinosissimus

Echinops spinosissimus 4

So many plants. So little time.

I think I will return. In Spring. This time to Crete.



A walk around town

I live in a small town east of San Francisco. It is on San Pablo Bay, part of the larger San Francisco Bay. I have lived here for four years. It is home and yet not home. Do ex-patriates ever feel completely at home ?

These are pictures from a morning walk from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. The light becomes hard quickly at this time of year.

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Many have good gardens.

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Some do not.

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Palms and redwoods, ubiquitous by the Bay.

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Carquinez Strait

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It’s California, we need our chakra balancing, apparently.

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I come home to my small house and garden, greeted by Manihot grahamii. Gardening isn’t easy when you travel as much as I do. I have had big gardens. I am content with this one. For the moment.

Some plants and animals of Sarawak

I have just returned from ten days in Sarawak, Borneo. As jet-lag befuddles my brain and words come up short, here are a few photographs.

Alocasia robusta (2)

Alocasia robusta

Ficus rosulataFicus rosulata 1 (2)

Nepenthes veitchiiIMG_6043 (2)

Licuala orbicularis 2 (2)

Licuala orbiculata

Nepenthes albomarginata (2)

Nepenthes albomarginata

Flying lemur (2)

Flying lemur

Bako 1 (2)

Bako National Park.

Kerangas 2 (2)

Kerangas (Heath Forest)

Bornean Keeled Pit Viper

Bornean keeled pit viper 2 (2)

Octomeles sumatrana 3 (2)

Octomeles sumatrana in Mulu National Park.

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Nepenthes reinwardtiana2 (2).jpg

Nepenthes reinwardtiana

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Fishtail Palm (Caryota no) outside the Deer Cave, Mulu National Park.

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Twelve ( possibly thirteen) species of bats live in the cave.

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The bats come out in waves.

My thanks to Chien Lee http://wildborneo.com.my/

for helping me with my itinerary.

Some plants and animals of Sarawak

urbane horticulture

I have just returned from ten days in Sarawak, Borneo. As jet-lag befuddles my brain and words come up short, here are a few photographs.

Alocasia robusta (2)Alocasia robusta

Ficus rosulataFicus rosulata 1 (2)Nepenthes veitchiiIMG_6043 (2)Licuala orbicularis 2 (2)Licuala orbiculata

Nepenthes albomarginata (2)Nepenthes albomarginata

Flying lemur (2)

Flying lemur

Bako 1 (2)

Bako National Park.

Kerangas 2 (2)

Kerangas (Heath Forest)

Bornean Keeled Pit Viper

Bornean keeled pit viper 2 (2)Octomeles sumatrana 3 (2)Octomeles sumatrana in Mulu National Park.

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Nepenthes reinwardtiana2 (2).jpgNepenthes reinwardtiana

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Fishtail Palm (Caryotano) outside the Deer Cave, Mulu National Park.

IMG_6433 (2)

Twelve ( possibly thirteen) species of bats live in the cave.

IMG_6465 (2)

The bats come out in waves.

My thanks to Chien Lee http://wildborneo.com.my/

for helping me with my itinerary.

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