The Garden Path

by Yvonne Horn

“Take the path to the sea,” the man in the blue, woolly sweater advised. “It’s quite a lovely walk.”

“Are you the head gardener?” I asked.

“No,” he responded with a smile. “I’m Peter Erskine.”

“Oh!,” I said, as it dawned on me that the blue, woolly sweater wearer was Sir Peter Erskine, heir to this estate to which I’d come to spend a day wandering its acres swathed in snowdrops. Cambo Estate, one of Scotland’s grandest.

Beginning in late...

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by Yvonne Horn

Visitors are encouraged to touch, smell and even nibble a berry or two as they stroll through Alnwick Castle’s walled 12 acres of shrubs, trees and flowers. . . until they reach the Poison Garden. Here some of the world’s most toxic and hallucinogenic plants are grown, some so virulent or hallucinogenic that they are incarcerated in caged beds.

Whirlwind of controversy

When the Poison Garden opened in 2005, the year of my visit, it was but the latest...

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by Yvonne Horn

As autumn rustled the last of the leaves from St. Stephen’s Green’s trees, Margaret Gormley, Park Superintendent for Ireland’s oldest public park, already had Ireland’s most famous park’s spring color palate in mind.

In the park’s enormous glass house, long tables of rose, yellow, white and red polyanthus seedlings would share space with flats of wallflower in shades of scarlet and gold. Pansy starts would be well represented — white, yellow and blue. Hyacinth...

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by Yvonne Horn

It has always bewildered me, the fascination people have with the Panama Canal. The water goes up, the ship goes through, the water goes down. Because “canal” and “Panama” seem hopelessly connected, a trip to Panama remained on my Z list. . . until I heard of Boquete.

In the cool highlands of Chiriquí province, an hour’s flight from Panama City, Boquete was described in a local paper as a Shangri-la of tumbling streams plus mountains clad in rainforest, abundant...

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by Yvonne Michie Horn

There is a yearly check Rosie Atkins, curator of London’s Chelsea Physic Garden, never fails to write and get in the mail on time. The check is for five pounds. So it has been, without a payment missed, since 1722.

In 1722, after nearly 50 years in existence, the garden — established by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London in 1673 as an educational tool for apprentices learning to grow and use medicinal plants — was experiencing financial...

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by Yvonne Michie Horn

The Vasa was a magnificent ship. Decorated with symbolic sculptures and carvings, gold leaf on her poop and bronze guns polished to a fare-thee-well, she was built to impress and strike fear as the pride of Sweden’s 17th-century Royal navy.

On a fine August day in 1628, with king, court and populace gathered, she was launched. Within minutes — sails set, flags flying, gun ports open for the royal salute — she caught a gust, heeled over and sank.

...

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Moss gone amuck was not intended to be the garden’s definitive element when Muso Soseki, 14th-century Zen priest and famed garden designer, created the gardens surrounding Saiho-ji temple in Kyoto, Japan. That would come centuries later, muffling a design rare and original for its time: a garden intended to be enjoyed for its idealized earthly beauty, not as a religious exercise.

Paths invited pleasurable strolling; small, flat-bottomed boats took visitors to three islands floating in...

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