QBARS - v8n1 The Account of a Flying Gardener - Part I

The Account of a Flying Gardener - Part I
John Bacher

A lecture delivered of a meeting of the American Rhododendron. Society October 15, 1953 at Portland, Oregon. Mr. Bacher, famous plant lover and horticulturist has traveled by air to Central America in 1951, to Alaska in 1952 and to famous European gardens in 1953. In his 1953 travels he flew on eight airlines to six different countries, and visited eight Botanical Gardens, plus two Alpine Gardens.


I left the airport at Portland, Oregon at 12:15 A.M. for Denver, Colorado by United Airlines, and arrived there at 4:30 A.M. Our plane was unexpectedly delayed till 2 P.M. when we boarded a special plane that would fly to New York City without a stop on the way. The weather was very clear and fine until we neared Chicago when dark clouds of the cumulus type invited the taking of some pictures. As we reached the Lake Erie district an electrical storm engulfed the plane and the flying became rather unpleasant for a while, but we arrived in New York at 10 P.M. without incident. After finding a room in the Perching Square Hotel, as no other place appeared available I went out for a walk to regain my somewhat unsteady air legs. At about 6 o'clock a rain started that turned into a tropical downpour that lasted without letup until 12 o'clock. At two in the afternoon the Airport Limousine picked us up for Idlewild Airport. We boarded the huge Pan American Clipper rather hurriedly at 4 P.M. for London with only one more stop at Gander, Newfoundland.

After two hours of flight we again caught up with the tropical storm that had hit New York, and the same merrymaking was being carried on by nature over the ocean. We landed at Gander for refueling and only a 15 minute rest. Mother nature again overtook us with her display, and sure enough at 20,000 feet elevation another electrical storm hit us, but this disturbed us very little, and most of the passengers fell asleep. The hum of the motors was far too violent for undisturbed rest and after a short nap many passengers went down stairs to the lounge, and here I broke my glasses, being unaware of their presence on my chair. Since only the frames were snapped I was able to us them anyway.

With daylight, the sea of clouds below began to open here and there, and before long we were crossing the English countryside towards London. After clearing English customs, which consisted of opening not a single bag, I engaged a room at the Richmond Hill Hotel. The ride through this great metropolis took over an hour in a taxi. On arriving at the Hotel I found I had lost the keys to all my baggage. After a hasty conference of Hotel officials they tendered their sympathy on the loss of the keys, and hoped I would find them.

I left immediately for the great Kew Gardens, and here I found horticultural wealth in unbelievable quantity. The rest of the day was devoted to photography, and in the New Australian Bush House I saw for the first time new exotic rhododendrons just coming into flower. After taking many pictures the lens fell out of my glasses and broke into many fragments. I spent the remainder of the day at an oculist shop having the lens replaced. Since lens of the bifocal variety take some time to replace I left a forwarding address of the Federal Gardener of Switzerland where I hoped to visit next. The oculist loaned me some glasses of single vision, and I went forthwith to other parts of the gardens. I spent most of Sunday, July 26 in the garden, but it rained most of the fore part of the day. In the afternoon I took the bus to the Royal Horticultural Gardens at Wisley, but on arrival there found that the gates did not open until 2 P.M. On entering these famous gardens one is struck with the near perfect condition of the thousands of different species of plants. The sun came out warmly and bright, and the pictures could be snapped under near perfect conditions. This Garden which is the headquarters of the greatest Horticultural group in the world is a self supporting venture, managed by the members through a board of managers. The grounds contains nearly 300 acres of ground devoted to nearly every phase of horticultural pursuit. The fair sized range of greenhouses serve the purpose of growing all the worth while tropicals and here the visitor can get an accurate opinion of the peculiarities of these plants. Here one finds orchids. flowering plants of every type, vines from almost every region of the world, all properly labeled. Unlimited forms of annuals and perennials are found to be growing here freely under the care of genuine experts in their field.

The Royal Horticultural Society, which carries on this work is an old organization, well managed and supplied with ample capital. This Society also carries on the extensive trials on all the new introductions of plant material, and the Award of Merit and First Class Certificate are awarded to plants that are outstanding. This also includes not only plants, but bulbs, trees and other types of material. These trials are very closely followed by the commercial growers throughout the world, and the awarding of this consideration by a jury of well informed individuals is a recommendation that almost approximates a guarantee of excellence. In all the world there is no other country so well blessed with experts on horticultural subjects as in England itself.

At the Wisley experimental plantings, which are truly the hub of the plant world, everything known today may be found. Here also is where training takes place of that group of promising young men that take their place in the famous gardens of the world. It is truly the carrying on of that masterful style that will insure the fate of gardening for future generations.

Excellent British gardening
Fig. 8.  A type of excellent British gardening.
Bacher photo

Scene at Hampton Court
Fig. 9.  A delightful scene at Hampton Court.
Bacher photo

(End of Part I)