As I stare out the window at brown and dead, I’m dreaming of warm, green, lush gardens. In past years I’ve had to make do with visits to Denver Botanic Gardens’ greenhouses (left) or the Butterfly Pavilion in Broomfield, Colorado (another walk-in greenhouse full of tropical plants). This year, however, we’re heading south to where plants are green and you can walk around outside without lays of insulation. I can hardly wait.
As we aren’t leaving quite yet, I have some time to ponder which direction to go. We’re driving, we have no reservation, and we can be as random and carefree as we like—at least until the money runs out.
One possibility is Arizona, home of amazing birds, the Desert Museum in Tucson, and Phoenix Botanical Gardens, one of my favorites. In such a hot, dry climate, I find it incredible that they’ve created a lush landscape—without using a lot of water. While not much will be blooming in late January (we prefer visiting in late March), I know I can expect green leaves and even some flowers. Much of the garden is planted in native Sonoran desert plants, an ecosystem that I find fascinating.
Another option is Southern California. Having grown up there, I know that the camellias will be in full bloom, along with the wild mustard that covers the hillsides (at least those that haven’t been bulldozed for development). We can visit the South Coast Botanical Garden in Palos Verdes Peninsula (a new one for me) or the garden at the Huntington Library near Los Angeles. In fact, there are 19 gardens in the area, more than enough to rejuvenate my winter-parched soul.
Southern California offers much besides gardens and birds. There’s the beach, although the water will be too cold to enjoy without a wet suit. I don’t find the Mojave desert as interesting as the Sonoran, but it’s still different from Colorado Springs. We could even stop off in Joshua Tree or Death Valley.
We could head farther south, back to the lower Rio Grande Valley. This part of Texas is actually farther south than much of Mexico. The birds are unparalleled, the gardens actually have flowers in January, and last I checked, the weather was a balmy 77°. Even though I’ve been there twice, there are still birds I haven’t seen. Since we’re driving, we can route ourselves through San Antonio. The botanic garden there (right) is another one well worth seeing. I remember seeing my first cypress “knees” there and getting all excited!
Finally, we can head southeast, passing through New Orleans to visit the in-laws, then continuing on and perhaps driving as far as Florida. It’s a long way, but I’m willing to drive far for days in the 80s in January! I’ve only visited Florida once, but I wouldn’t mind returning to Corkscrew Swamp, Everglades National Park (where Pete photographed this very tame Great Blue Heron, left), or Merritt Island NWR.
Of course, once we reach the Atlantic, no one says we have to come home along the same route. When I pointed out that I’ve never been in South Carolina, my husband reminded me of our friends in Virginia. At this rate, we could end up in Maine or North Dakota!
Wherever we go, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it. In the meantime, keep warm and dream green!