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  • Writer's pictureOrchid Muse

Free the Orchids! A Visit to Rio Grande Botanic Garden

Today I had the pleasure of visiting a botanical garden I had never been to before--the Rio Grande Botanic Garden in Albuquerque, New Mexico (aka BioPark Botanic Garden). Of course, I headed straight for the conservatories, in hopes of seeing some well-curated orchids in bloom. What I found was a little odd--orchids in jail!

That's right, nearly their entire orchid collection was set within a steel cage. They were using them to block the stairway to the lower level, which was undergoing renovation. There were a few more orchids upstairs--mostly brassias and maxillarias in west windows getting a bit too much light. And almost every one I saw was in desperate need of repotting. I wanted to run to the first employee I saw and say "Um, can I help you with these? PLEASE?!"

Now, the Mediterranean conservatory did have another flower show--a display of very bright plants they called a "spring flower show." None of the flowers I saw inside the conservatory are really associated with Spring, but they were pretty nonetheless.

But the scent! The SCENT was amazing. All of those warm clivia, hibiscus, jasmine, and freesia made the atmosphere heady to the point of magical. And outside, they had plenty of spring bloomers.

We shouldn't confine ourselves to floriferous things, should we, in a highly regarded botanical garden? There were plenty of other gorgeous corners to explore. I always enjoy Japanese gardens because of their aesthetic but also because they remind me of my Mor Mor. In the last house she lived in, she created a gorgeously well-manicured Japanese style garden. I was reminded of it by the sights and the scents of ABQ's Japanese garden today.

My grandmother was a self-taught garden stylist, and she would have appreciated many a well-shaped tree and tranquil body of water at the Rio Grande Botanic Garden. There were also many thoughtful place-based gardens within the BioPark, including a small heritage farm. Another favorite was the Curandera Garden, commemorating the generations of Mexican women healers that plied their trade in herbs.

As always, there were fleeting magical moments in the garden as well. This little roadrunner slowed down just long enough for me to snap a picture. He had at least two spirited friends with him, darting through the bushes, hunting for lunch.

There is plenty for the kids to do as well at this botanic garden: a bug house, a children's wonderland garden, and more. This 25-foot friendly dragon has grown a coat of ivy!

The BioPark could use some help with its orchids, for sure, but it speaks to the bioregion very well, and makes a lovely day trip. There are plenty of trails to get lost within!

As I was reluctantly getting ready to leave, I heard a happy three year old girl, twirling with her arms up, shouting "WOAH! I LOVE THE NATURE!" Me too, little lady. Me too.


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