Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Paris in Spring

OK, I'm pretty lucky because I'm here in Paris. It's my mother-in-law's 70th Birthday and today we celebrated with many bottles of champagne and cassis. But I'm working too! And I'll blog to prove it. (By the way I haven't turned off my phone-I swear! But it's mysteriously not working....)

So a couple of places that are real favorites of mine are the Musee du quai Branly, which is a museum that I've actually never gone into but have always enjoyed it's gardens and it's famous green wall by the artist and horticulturist Patric Blanc. And the second place is the Rodin Museum that has a lovely garden full of his sculptures. Both these gardens are beautiful but they're very different. The gardens of Branly are quite modern, informal, and naturalistic, sort of like the Highline (by the way the first Highline was made in Paris, and I've yet to see it but it's on my to-do list). The Branly gardens are filled with tall grasses, an interpretive wetland, reclaimed metal gates and arbors, and beautiful magnolia trees.

The green wall which covers the one side of the building is now a few years old and I think it looks pretty good. But nonetheless there are some noticeable bare spots where you can see the fabric and pockets used for the installation.

And the gardens at Rodin are classic formal garden estates, with a highly manicured lawn and border gardens with yews that are meticulously controlled to be perfect spheres. Check them out:

Even though the garden is rigid in it's format, it's serene and a wonderful way to escape the city's mass of tourists, cars, and Parisians rushing about and appreciate art.

So that's my Paris Review. Hope it hasn't made any one too jealous, besides it's raining here!
I'll be back in NYC on the 29th, but until then please call the office :) Cheers

Monday, March 15, 2010

Grazing over a Big Topic

In the 3 countries, Spain, Portugal and Morocco, that I just visited it was evident that their wild landscapes are being regularly grazed by flocks of sheep and goats. At first, I was moved by the sound of the lambs frequent bleating for their mothers and the mothers' (or fathers') deep-toned answers. It was a strangely musical background to my groups' search for flowers.
Herding animals has gone on since time immemorial.They eat the green stuff and we eat them. Only now we wish they would be more selective about what they eat: not delicate narcissi or rare orchids!Not the alpines in our own western states! But when we put animals into feedlots away from precious plants,we run into new problems.
I have no solutions. Maybe if there were a growing industry of plant tourism farmers would make some changes.
The thing about plant/flower tourism is that the local people, especially the children, need to know that it's not the plucked flower that we're after. It's heart-wrenching to turn one's back on a child holding a colorful bouquet. Our tour leader told of a field of rare orchids having been picked by children for their bouquets.
The good thing is that all 3 countries had national parks or preserves which we visited. They know they have wonderful landscapes to preserve. We must help them however we can to succeed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Three Countries in Two Weeks: Lots of Plants

The mistress of this blogspot said I had to write something about my
recent trip, so here goes: I signed up for a tour of Iberia and Morocco focusing primarily on the many species of narcissi that are native to that region. There were 7 members, plus 2 leaders, in our group and we were all intent on getting up close to every interesting plant we saw. Some narcissi were hanging from steep rock faces, many were hugging the asphalt of roads, others were in soggy wet streamsides. The leaders knew what they were leading us to and they made sure to go over the botanical names of just about everything we saw (including butterflies, birds and one snake) from a long check list every other evening . I hope to get up to speed with labeling all the plant species that I photographed (yikes, that's a lot!).
Morocco was an experience in itself. The Atlas Mountains are magnificent and we did a lot of single lane, dirt road, hairpin turn and wash-out navigation up and down the slopes - Not for those with vertigo. Often, we were wearing all the clothes we brought for warmth, but fortunately we were never forced to leave the slopes due to rain, hail or freezing temperatures.
I leave you with an image of the only plant we saw of this species and one that our leaders had never before seen in Morocco: Androcymbium gramineum