Add botanical gardens to your sightseeing itinerary next time you travel

I see my fellow columnist, old friend Scott McMurren, has hit an impressive goal, the 40-year mark of writing columns. There are not too many people who understand what it took for Scott to hit this landmark, submitting a column every week no matter where you are, how you feel — or how others around you feel. This milestone anniversary is not something we should just let pass by just because Scott has the absolute best job in the world! Oh to be heir to his frequent flyer accounts. Can you imagine it?

Oh sure, I enjoy the occasional perk or two for writing this column. In addition to getting pre-release information about new plants, occasionally I am gifted the actual plant. I get upcoming books to review or am asked to try a new plant someone wants tested in the far north. I get lots of unsolicited plant catalogs, too, which is fine by me.

The thing that makes me really envious of Scott’s travel beat is that most destinations have botanical gardens, including Anchorage and Fairbanks. I often dream of being able to afford taking Scott up on some of his suggestions to the point of looking up information about local botanical gardens at some of his destinations.

If you are a gardener, then when you travel, you should make it a habit to visit local botanical gardens. There is really no better way to get a feel for a place, learn some of its history and even meet locals with similar likes to yours who know a few hidden restaurants other tourists won’t find — unless Scott tips you off.

We just came back from a quick trip to the Big Island. We discovered that there was an ethnobotanical garden up by Captain Cook — the Amy BH Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, to be exact. Like so many local botanical gardens, admission was free, though we left a donation in their lock box. They probably would have accepted my ABG membership card if there was a fee, another reason to join.

We spent an hour, self-guided, learning what a lot of the plants grown all over the island were used for. For the rest of the trip, I had much more of an understanding and thus appreciation of the unfamiliar plants I was seeing. Who needs beaches when you have exotic plants! And, come to find out, there are several other gardens on the Big Island, but I will leave those for Scott McMurren to suggest sometime during his next 40 years of columns.

In fact, there are times when your whole trip can be centered around a few self-guided tours of great gardens. Between the internet letting you know where they are and what they feature and Scott McMurren giving the best advice how to get there and where to stay, who needs a group tour?

The New York Botanical Garden can take a day or more to see. Go to a Broadway play at night, Scott would add, along with advice on how to get a deal on tickets. The orchid collection at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is simply amazing — half a day there at least with time to do World of Coca-Cola. Costa Rica, London, Philadelphia., Houston, Dallas, San Diego and on and on and on. You cannot go wrong visiting botanical gardens when you travel. And 40 years of columns proves you can’t go wrong with Scott McMurren’s advice.

Anyhow, congratulations, Scott. Even though you have the job with the best benefits of any, I thank you. I know how difficult it is to write 40 years of columns and still be helpful. Here is to 40 more years and then some, replete with many visits to botanical gardens.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Column

BOOtanical garden: Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Oct. 24.

In-Service Days Camps: Alaska Botanical Garden. More Info at

Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti: Move to a location that receives only natural light. Cool temperatures best to help induce buds.

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