Thursday, 4 March 2010

What can be fairer than Florida's Fairchild?

No review of Florida gardens would be complete without a visit to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden - I was saving this till last in my Florida section, but then got diverted to California and North Carolina, so I'm submitting this review - just a few weeks late - but still hot off the press. There's no doubt that this is a fabulous garden, whether you're in search of palms, bromeliads, orchids, cycads or open spaces. I also really enjoyed the art in the garden - because there's nothing quite so surreal as staring down the lakes and seeing a dinosaur head peaking out at you! What's more the birds are quite at home with the art, as you can see below.

Fairchild is located just a few miles south of downtown Miami and is home to the largest collection of palms in the world. I spent a lot of my visit with my head in the air just staring in amazement at these wonderful trees and I certainly had no idea how many different types there are - with more than 800 here, I certainly didn't see them all, but they made a lasting impression on me!
This garden was founded in 1936 by a group of avid plant lovers. They opened in 1938 and were named after Dr David Fairchild - the legendary plant explorer - who lived at The Kampong (another must-see if you're in the area!). There's something for everyone here - the wonderful 560-foot pergola (above) is one of my favourites, but perhaps that's because it reminds me of home; the Tropics Conservatory is astounding and the Cycad Circle will have you gasping!
And these are just a few of the features at this 83-acre garden. There is so much to see here - a single visit certainly won't do the gardens justice - so if you're planning to go, do leave time to return. What really impressed me about this garden was the wide open spaces and the wonderful vistas, all thanks to William Lyman Phillips, the Harvard-educated landscape architect who designed Fairchild.
There really is something for everyone here and one visit is not enough to do this garden justice! As Lilly Pinkas explains in her book on Florida gardens: "The layout is based on ecological communities (where plants share the same habitat) and on taxonomic plots, which include plant species belonging to the same families". This means that you can concentrate on one particular area of the garden if you're interested, or just wander around as I did, trying to see everything. But in reality, if I lived in or near Miami, I know that I would spend many happy hours here watching the seasons go by and admiring the plants.
You'll also find some amazing art scattered throughout Fairchild - big bold pieces like the dinosaur, and smaller displays like the one above in the Conservatory - but what's so great about the exhibition is that the gardens are big enough to show art and plants in harmony, and there's also a lot of birds here, encouraged by the watery landscape and quite at home around the sculpture.
I was also delighted to see that Fairchild produces a wonderful catalogue so that you can take your memories home! I've noticed that there are few gardens here in the US doing that and given my total inability to remember plant names, this means that I constantly look to my readers for help!! But best of all about this garden, is that they've launched a special programme to work with Alzheimer's patients. It starts later this month and if you click on the link, you can go direct to the relevant site with all information and dates. This certainly sends Fairchild to the top of my list for innovative ideas and what better setting than a beautiful botanic garden!

And by the way all text and photographs here, belong to me: The Galloping Gardener, so if you're thinking of borrowing without asking, think again!


  1. I would absolutely report this abuse by using the "Report Abuse" button at the top of the header. Whether they link back or not, they're still posting others' work as their own. Who would know by going to their blog that any of this work was stolen from other blogs? Just MHO.

    On the bright side, thank you again for a lovely stroll through these beautiful gardens. :)

  2. It's the first time that I have seen this kind of stealing.
    I'm only one month old in the blogging world, and I hope I will never see any of my posts stolen. I would be sooooo upset!
    Thank you for your nice posts, so lovely to visit these gardens with you:-))

  3. You are absolutely right about our gardens needing catalogues! I have wished for that many times. I like the sense of humor displayed by the artwork at the Fairchild gardens. It appeals to the child in me. Your photos are beautiful and give a taste of a wonderful place. I want to see more!

  4. This is the best garden ever! I know that Kew is supposed to be the premier botanical garden, but I prefer tropical plants and modern landscape design... (I'm not so into British formal gardens, although I'm very grateful for the British contribution, no, invention of ornamental gardening.)
    My favorite part of Fairchild is probably their rainforest garden. Who would have guessed?

  5. That's really cool about the work with the Alzheimer's patients :) My stepdad is in the beginnings of the disease unfortunately :(

  6. Thats lovely, some lovely bits of art around the place too. And yes it is great to see art and plants in harmony.

  7. Lordy, lordy, I utterly need to win the lottery. These gardens you show us so expand my horizons, and make me want to take a year or two just to travel and explore.

  8. I love the Fairchild Garden but was appalled on my most recent visit to see all the junky "sculpture" scattered around. The trees, hardscape and plants are quite sculptural enough, and this garden kitsch really detracts from the experience.