Sunday, February 24, 2013

Places: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Last weekend I took advantage of the refreshing 60-degree weather to spend a peaceful hour at one of my favorite spots to visit in Miami: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (October through April are the best months to visit Miami and these are really the only months I like to be outdoors for long periods of time, as May through September can get extremely hot!). 

I like to think of Fairchild as one of Miami's hidden gems that I'd like to keep all to myself, but it is actually well known and becoming even more so in recent years. The number of exhibits and things to see and do there has grown over the years as well. The garden was founded in 1938 by Col. Robert H. Montgomery, who named it to honor his friend and renowned plant explorer, David Fairchild (1869-1954). In fact, many of the plants and trees that were brought back by Fairchild from his world travels can be found still growing in the Garden today, including a giant African baobab tree. 

Now, I am no gardening expert and can't even really say I have a green thumb (though I've managed to keep a few house plants alive), but I do have an appreciation for plants and for those who really know how to grow and care for them. Aside from all of the interesting varieties of plants you'll see here, the great allure of Fairchild Garden is its acres of land that offer a truly unspoiled, tropical oasis and brief escape from the traffic, crowds, noise and general chaos that comes with everyday life. Time spent there never fails to leave me feeling a bit calmer and more optimistic. 

Photograph of notecard I bought in the giftshop: artwork by Federico Carosio III, "Fairchild Garners" (Carosio Arts) 

I hope you will enjoy this little photographic "walking tour" which gives a glimpse of just the front portion of the Garden. (Sidenote: I used my small portable camera to take all of these photos and the morning light wasn't very bright, so apologies for some murky or less than crisp photos!) 

Pandanus Lake

Look out for gators! 

If forced to choose, I think my favorite tree in the garden would be the Rainbow Eucalyptus. From a distance it might not look all that special, aside from its towering height, but as you come closer you'll begin to notice the unique colors and pattern of its trunk. It is so different from the trees that I'm used to seeing--it almost looks like something man-made. It must be seen in person to fully appreciate. My photos don't do it justice! 


Banana tree in bloom 

Ibis crossing

In the distance is the entrance to the cactus and succulent garden

Vine Pergola 

The Jade Vine's flower has such an unusual shape and pretty blue-green color. I saw it once a few years ago but it wasn't blooming the last time I was there, so I'm so glad I was able to catch it this time. It's pretty interesting, don't you think? 

Brown Anole (lizard)

The Bengal Clock Vine has pretty lavender flowers. 
We used to have this type of vine on my fence at home years ago. I miss it! 

I'm so sorry I wasn't able to identify this vine. Does anyone know what it's called?  
2.26 Update: This is the Shower of Orchids Vine (thanks to Kate for identifying it!)

I wish this were my own backyard, but at least I can visit once in a while! 

Shehan Visitor Center

The garden is also available for weddings and events

A peaceful spot for a rest or a picnic 
I found this blossom on the bench shown in the photo above. Isn't it striking? 


The Floss Silk Tree is one of the more interesting trees you'll find in Florida. Check out those spikes!

The gift shop at Fairchild is an excellent resource for books on tropical gardening and also offers a great selection of unique, fun and beautiful souvenirs. I could easily spend an hour just looking around in there!

I think this is an owl but I'm not sure. Whatever it is, it's cute!

I love this tray! 

Of course I didn't make it out of the gift shop empty handed. Here's what came home with me:  

This shea butter soap by Michel Design Works is handmade in Sussex, England. It has the most gorgeous wrapper and an intoxicating floral scent. 

These note cards are some of the prettiest I've ever seen! I love birds and particularly tropical birds. I'm thinking of framing these to use them in a wall collage.

Clockwise from top left:   Scarlet macaw & Blue and yellow macaws, Edward Lear; Western tragopan, Joseph Wolf;  Scarlet-fronted parakeet, Xaverio Manetti; Sulphur-crested cockatoo, George Raper; Rose-ringed parakeet, Bob Young (John Reeves Collection); Common kingfisher, Bob Young (published by Archivist)
Notecard from Jonathan Wright and Company

I hope you enjoyed this look at Fairchild Garden and that it gives you a sense of the tranquility and natural beauty of the place. The garden is especially serene in the early morning hours and during the week, unless there is a special event happening. If you're ever in Miami and have an interest in plants or butterflies I highly recommend visiting. I did not walk throughout the entire garden on this visit and you'll find there is more to see than what I've shown here: There is a tram ride available, a 2-acre tropical rainforest, an edible garden, artwork and sculpture, and the Wings of the Tropics exhibit which opened in December, where thousands of butterflies, as well as hummingbirds, can be seen. There are also popular annual events, such as the International Mango Festival and Chocolate Festival where you can sample treats from around the world. 

Above are some photos from a visit a few years ago. At that time there was a Botero sculpture exhibit taking place and there was also some artwork by Roy Lichtenstein on display. There are three permanent displays of Dale Chihuly's beautiful blown glass sculpture at Fairchild.

Map by Marilyn Griffiths, 2006: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden