An Unexpected Rose Garden

Rose5In the parking lot of a shop called El Rey, of all places, I came upon this small garden of roses yesterday. I was rushing to make a purchase of something relatively unimportant, and when I got out of the car after parking I did not even notice the garden.

But when I came back out after the purchase it was almost cinematic the way, from a distance, I noticed the garden right in front of where I had parked. It was like a ray of light focused on that part of the parking lot of El Rey, telling me to come over and, yes, stop and smell the roses.

As I got closer, there was a tinge of thoughts like, no time for this, and: it will likely disappoint because this is not where rose gardens flourish.


I fought those doubts off and the reward was remarkable. I have never tried growing my own roses, so it would be strange to claim an obsession with this flower. But I do favor it. When we lived in Croatia I developed a theory, never disproven, that the most fragrant roses in the world are in monasteries built centuries ago. In that theory the roses are antiques, tended by monks and nuns who have ensured survival of the fittest roses. And fitness is evidenced by fragrance.

By the time I had walked over to this garden the cinematic effect was slow motion. I tried to avoid cliche, but nonetheless found myself slowing to a stop. To smell the roses.

And my theory fell apart. These roses were as fragrant as if they had been planted here hundreds of years earlier.


This one above seemed to confirm one of my other silly assumptions, that a rose can either put its effort into dazzling color, or fragrance, but must choose. Likewise the one below, which was the deepest most natural red I remember ever seeing, but not as fragrant as others in the garden.


And just next to it, a white one with a variation that caught my attention, in the lower of the two flowers below, where I suppose the fragrance is produced. Before the flower opens it seems pure white but when it opens it offers stimulating color. A choice made that did not diminish its intense fragrance.


The one below, with white outer petals and pink at the core, was the most fragrant, perhaps because perfectly mature, with the outer petals preparing to drop but the core at maximum strength. And the mix of color, combined with the intensity of fragrance, was the one that forced me to abandon my various rose theories. The garden attendant in this parking lot rivals any of the monks and nuns who I have thanked in the past for their rose-tending, and this white-pink mix tells me roses have more tricks up their sleeves than I gave them credit for.




If You Happen To Be In Or Going To Cornwall

A great writer can get you to consider doing something you normally would not consider doing:


After nine Heligan men died in the First World War, the grounds of the estate, in southwestern England, grew unkempt, then neglected, then were abandoned. Illustration by Daniel Salmieri

I don’t understand the point of garden visits. Why do ordinary people, the owners of mere balconies and tiny yards, torment themselves by touring other people’s grand estates? Nut trees, stables, ancestral compost heaps: I need no reminder of what I am missing. So, unlike virtually every other gardener in Britain, I had no intention of spending my summer wandering among aristocratic roses and marvelling at the fine tilth of Lord Whatsit’s sandy carrot beds. All those rambling sweet peas make me furious; yes, Tristram, it is a handsome cardoon bed, but some of us are struggling to find space for a single extra lettuce. And then, wholly by accident, I found myself in the Lost Gardens of Heligan…

And suddenly you cannot resist virtually doing that thing:

And the rabbit hole in this case gets you thinking about Cornwall:

Opening Hours and Prices

The Lost Gardens are open every day*, all year round, for your enjoyment and exploration.

*except Christmas Day.

We’re one of the most unique and fascinating places to visit in Cornwall, with an incredible 200 acres of gardens and estate awaiting your exploration. We therefore recommend that you allow as much time as you can, to see as much as possible; ideally a whole day. However, please don’t expect to see everything in the one visit!

If you would like to plan your route before you visit, click here to download our map or a German map can be found here.

Sometimes, restoration work, events or adverse weather conditions may restrict access and opening times. In these events we will keep you up to date with details of any restrictions via our News page.

Garden Admission Single Visit Charges
Adults £15.00
Students £9.00
Children (5 – 17) £7.00
Children (Under 5) Free
Family (2 adults & up to 3 children) £40
Companions who are required to assist disabled visitors Free

Weavers at Hand

This video expresses the concept of artisan ethos in almost too many ways to count: from the centuries old traditions of weaving in India , to creative communities coming together to rebuild cultural patrimony in the face of natural disasters, not to mention the well-crafted visual storytelling of the piece itself. (Kudos yet again to Anoodha and her Curiouser team for their own style of weaving.) Continue reading

Macro Views


(Clockwise, from upper left) Seven-square-mile views of Manhattan; Chaganbulage Administrative Village in Inner Mongolia; Venice, Italy; and farms in Plymouth, Washington  © Google

Every now and then, it is good to just let the mind wander. And some of those times, visual prompts are the fastest way to get from here to there.

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A seven-square-mile snapshot of the 2,700,000-square-mile Amazon rainforest in Brazil © Google

Thanks to the Atlantic’s Senior Editor of the photo section, Alan Taylor, for this:

 Seven Square Miles

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Multiple channels of a braided river in southern Iceland. See it mapped © Google

Spending time looking at the varying and beautiful images of our planet from above in Google Earth, zooming in and out at dizzying rates, I thought it would be interesting to compare all of these vistas at a fixed scale—to see what New York City, Venice, or the Grand Canyon would look like from the same virtual height. So, the following images are snapshots from Google Earth, all rectangles of the same size and scale, approximately three and a half miles (5.6 kilometers) wide by two miles (3.2 kilometers) tall—showing seven square miles (18.1 square kilometers, or 4,480 acres) of the surface of our planet in each view.

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A section of Upsala Glacier in Argentina. Explore more here, in Google Maps.  © Google

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Celebrating A Force Of Nature, The Sky, With Clouds In All Their Visual Wonder


Nebraska, June, 2012.

Just because the climate is changing at a pace both dangerous and seemingly impossible to slow, given human tendencies; just because the storms that come from clouds can cause fear and worse; none of that diminishes our wonder and our ability to see importance in those clouds:

A Storm Chaser’s Unforgiving View of the Sky


Texas, June, 2014.

By Alan Burdick

Photography by Camille Seaman

A cloud is a shade in motion. Shape-shifting and moody, it arrives with a message that is opaque as often as it is threatening. “Clouds always tell a true story,” the Scottish meteorologist Ralph Abercromby wrote, in 1887, “but one which is difficult to read.”


Kansas, June, 2008.

The appeal of clouds is obvious: no two are the same, and no one is the same for long. And they not only manifest change but inflict it as well. A cloud can be beautiful, terrible, or both—the embodiment of the sublime. Few other things on earth still present us with a power larger than ourselves. To watch a supercell gather force over the plains, as storm chasers take such pleasure in doing, is to watch Zeus take shape on earth. Continue reading

Blue Planet II’s Attenborough Masterpiece

Blue Planet II_EP03_Coral Reefs

The broadclub cuttlefish is one of the psychedelic creatures featured in “Blue Planet II.” Photograph courtesy BBC

blue_planetWe have not linked to many television reviews, and the reason is simply that we instead mostly promote going and seeing instead of sitting and watching.

But this one seems a perfect exception to the norm because the series narrator is such a frequent guest in these pages, for good reason after many good reasons. This show may be his own sense of a masterpiece, if you consider what he says in a recent interview to a confirmed urbanist, which is worth half an hour of listening to in addition to the review below:

“Blue Planet II” Reviewed: The Ocean Continues to Impress

The seven-episode follow-up to the 2001 series flexes the BBC’s mastery of a genre that it created.

By Troy Patterson

The nature documentary “Blue Planet II” is oceanic in topic, tone, scope, and majesty. A production of the BBC Natural History Unit, the seven-episode series flexes its broadcaster’s mastery of a genre that it created. Over excellent footage shot on a circumglobal photo safari, the venerable narrator David Attenborough orates zoological narratives as if delivering a state-of-nature address. “Blue Planet II” follows the network’s “The Blue Planet,” which dropped in 2001, but it is less a sequel than a subsequent quest, like the second voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, or Apollo 14. Continue reading

Fruit With Alternative Beauty


And now for something completely different:

Morrisons to sell ‘wonky’ pomegranates to meet rising demand

Fruit will come in different sizes and have blemishes but will cost 30p, compared to average 74p in UK supermarkets

A UK supermarket is to be the first to sell misshapen or “wonky”pomegranates, in order to keep prices down in the face of surging demand from consumers.

Packs of four will be sold in Morrisons for £1.20 – equivalent to 30p per fruit – when the average price of a pomegranate in UK supermarkets is 74p. Continue reading

Peregrines Make for Better Starling Murmurations

Image via, by Nick Dunlop

We last mentioned murmurations about three years ago, linking to slideshows from the Guardian that covered European Starlings in the UK. And in our Bird of the Day feature we have shared photos of seven different species of starlings from around Europe and Asia, but somehow none of those species was the European Starling, which is an invasive species in North America (and at least some of Central America as well), but still a good-looking bird.

In this video, there are fantastic moments where the enormous flocks of European Starlings in Napa Valley, California form incredible shapes, largely because they’re being chased by Peregrine Falcons and other raptors.

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Feathers’ Fine Flourish


Charles-Donatien paints and lacquers goose feathers in his studio. Photograph by Pari Dukovic for The New Yorker

The Style issue of the New Yorker is the least interesting of the year, from the perspective of these pages; and yet on occasion even in this one they deliver something we can mull over:

The Eternal, Seductive Beauty of Feathers

We’ve been dressing up as birds since the Stone Age. Eric Charles-Donatien has brought the craft of featherwork into the twenty-first century.

Not surprisingly Burkhard Bilger is the journalist who pulls this off. Our Bird Of The Day (365 times for seven years running) feature exposes us to feathers of such variety that we could not resist giving Mr. Bilger the benefit of the doubt on this one:

170925_r30592There is such a thing as too much beauty. So the stuffed bird on the counter seemed to be saying. It was a Himalayan monal, Lophophorus impejanus, Liberace of land fowl. Its head was emerald, its neck amber and gold, its back a phosphorescent violet that flared to a sunburst at the tail. A pouf of feathers jutted from its head like a tiny bouquet. Named for Lady Mary Impey, the wife of the Chief Justice of Bengal in the late seventeen-hundreds, it had a stout, ungainly body swaddled in bright plumes as if for an audience with the maharaja. It was a turkey that wanted to be a hummingbird. Continue reading

Richard O. Prum’s Beauty Challenge

EvolutionBeautyFor evolutionary biology, on this platform we have favored E.O. Wilson because of his biophilia ideas (about which, plenty). For ornithology, we have leaned heavily on the Lab at Cornell and its many wonderful folks. Now, a scientist at Yale combines both of those fields and takes on the topic of beauty in a challenging manner–I am looking forward to this.

Click the book image at the left to go Indie Bound, a community of independent local bookstores, or if you need more convincing, read the beautifully illustrated Challenging Mainstream Thought About Beauty’s Big Hand in Evolution by James Gorman in the Science section of the New York Times. It is as much profile as review and asks:

Are aesthetic judgments about mates invariably tied to traits we see as adaptive and worth passing on Or, does beauty just ‘happen’?

Not long ago, a physicist at Stanford posed a rhetorical question that took me by surprise.

“Why is there so much beauty?” he asked.

Beauty was not what I was thinking the world was full of when he brought it up. The physicist, Manu Prakash, was captivated by the patterns in seawater made as starfish larvae swam about. But he did put his finger on quite a puzzle: Why is there beauty? Why is there any beauty at all? Continue reading

Ladybugs, Awe & Design Inspiration


After ladybugs fly, they tuck their wings into a sliver of space between their abdomen and the colorful outer wings for which they are best known. Credit Jean-Michel Labat/Science Source

Even without words this item from the Science section would tell a full story just with the gif below, which captures what any of us might remember being awed by as a kid. Thanks to Joanna Klein for this:

Ladybugs Pack Wings and Engineering Secrets in Tidy Origami Packages

The ladybug is a tiny insect with hind wings four times its size. Like an origami master, it folds them up into a neat package, tucking them away within a slender sliver of space between its abdomen and the usually polka-dotted, harder wings that protect it. Continue reading

Birdsong, Beauty & Beholder


Getty Images

Thanks as always to Barbara King, who we link to from time to time on topics of simple, natural beauty:

What Do Birds Hear When They Sing Beautiful Songs?

Birdsong is music to human ears.

It has inspired famous composers. For the rest of us, it may uplift the spirit and improve attention or simply be a source of delight, fun and learning.

But have you ever wondered what birds themselves hear when they sing? Continue reading

Iridescence & Pretty, Shiny Natural Things


Matthew Jacobs

The Atlantic’s science writers are back in the saddle, leading the way with the best stories recently:

Why Do These Plants Have Metallic Blue Leaves?

Ooh, shiny


Roses are red but violets aren’t blue. They’re mostly violet. The peacock begonia, however, is blue—and not just a boring matte shade, but a shiny metallic one. Its leaves are typically dark green in color, but if you look at them from the right angle, they take on a metallic blue sheen. “It’s like green silk, shot through with a deep royal blue,” says Heather Whitney from the University of Bristol.

And she thinks she knows why. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Jiuzhaigou National Park, China



Five Flower Lake. Source:

Located in the northern part of Sichuan province in China, Jiuzhaigou National Park is comprised of a speckling of multi-colored lakes surrounded by deep woodlands and impressive conic waterfalls in between precipitous mountains. Given the high altitude of the jagged valley, 4,800 meters, the landscape has a range of diverse forest ecosystems over the 300 square km and half of which is virgin forest. About 140 bird species inhabit the valley as well as a number of endangered plant and animal species, including the giant panda, the Sichuan takin, and the golden snub-nosed monkey. Continue reading

Air, Water, Land

"This was somewhere over Meghna river, most probably over Narshingdi. I was looking for a shot when I noticed the boat splitting the waves and heading strong like an arrow. I was smiling while pressing the shutter – this is one of my favourite pictures." Photo credit: Shamim Shorif Susom

“This was somewhere over Meghna river, most probably over Narshingdi. I was looking for a shot when I noticed the boat splitting the waves and heading strong like an arrow. I was smiling while pressing the shutter – this is one of my favourite pictures.” – All photographs and captions by Shamim Shorif Susom.

Shamin Shorif Susom is a man of many talents. A pilot by vocation and a passionate photographer by hobby,  he grabs his aerial opportunities with amazing results. His photos over the waters of his home country Bangladesh are particularly inspiring. Thanks to the Guardian for sharing this set.  Continue reading

A New Weekly Feature!



Ergaki National Park. Source:

Drawing inspiration from our site’s Bird of the Day, a new weekly feature titled National Park of the Week will publish every Sunday starting on August 28th. We love birds – but other wildlife too! – and we love the environment they (as well as we) live in, so we decided to start this new “column” (if this was a newspaper) to promulgate the protected areas that reflect the range of biodiversity and natural beauty around the globe. Although this weekly article has the words national park in the title, all types of government-protected areas, such as refuges, reserves, sanctuaries, and parks, will be featured in this category.  Continue reading

Sea Sonata

Sometimes a moment of Zen is meant to be just that. In this case the ingenuity of the concept and the elegance of the execution increase the impact all the more. The sea creates random chords with this natural musical instrument as the waves push air through 35 tuned subterranean tubes set into the steps.

For a period of time some of of our team called Croatia home. This is definitely a Siren Call to return…

Finding a Boiling River in Peru

The Boiling River and an Amazonian shaman. Photo by Sofia Ruzo

Thanks once again to Chau Tu at Science Friday’s weekly written article, we’ve learned something new about the natural world, and it sounds like pretty much everyone except maybe a couple hundred people were unaware of its existence too: a steaming-hot river in the Amazon of Peru that isn’t volcanically heated. As Andrés Ruzo, the first geoscientist to study the water body, said in his TED Talk on the subject in 2014 (just released this February), “At a time when everything seems mapped, measured and understood, this river challenges what we think we know. It has forced me to question the line between known and unknown, ancient and modern, scientific and spiritual. It is a reminder that there are still great wonders to be discovered.” Here’s more from Chau Tu on the subject, and make sure to visit the Boiling River Foundation website.

Andrés Ruzo first heard about the Boiling River from his Peruvian grandfather, who shared a legend with him when he was a kid about the Lost City of Gold in Peru. “One of the details of the story was a ‘river that boils,’” Ruzo recalls.

Twelve years later, when Ruzo was studying at Southern Methodist University in Texas to become a geophysicist, he asked colleagues and other experts if they knew anything about a large river that boiled in the Peruvian Amazon. No one had; some scoffed at the inquiry. While thermal rivers do occur on earth, they’re generally tied to active volcanic or magmatic systems—neither of which were known to exist in the Amazon jungle, they said.

Continue reading

Over the River and through the Botanical Garden

20160105_164051_zpsalrrh8nfAt Xandari we offer a garden and farm tour that consists of showing guests through our botanical garden, Mandala garden, and orchid house and educating them on the properties of each of the plants. When I was asked to translate the tour for our head gardener Jose Luis I immediately accepted. However, after agreeing to be the translator it dawned on me that my rudimentary knowledge about plants (species, genus, and all that scientific terminology amounts to high school level biology) could be a limitation to the learning experience of the guests. Adding to my worry, the guests taking the tour are well versed in plant identification and were hoping to learn more about the tropical plants we have. To prepare myself, I skimmed the plant identification binder we have, decided to take it with me on the tour, and hoped for the best.

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Witnessing (and Separating) Color

One must always be camera-ready at Xandari; otherwise one might miss the unexpected beauties that present themselves. On Friday I postponed my dinner (despite my grumbling stomach) in order to take a picture of the breathtaking sunset that was slowly sinking behind the mountains. I had to get to the sunset pool to capture this marvel, and believe it or not, I actually ran. Every second spent getting to the pool meant one less streak of vivid color highlighting the darkening sky. Not to mention, it also meant one second less of battery life on my camera phone with 4% battery left. The stakes were high.

I had not yet witnessed nightfall from the sunset pool, and as soon as I reached my destination I drew in a quick, shallow breath and let out long whispered ‘wooow.’ I was paralyzed with wonder. Birds were swooping down to drink some water from the pool, dodging and weaving one another with such swiftness that I’d lose track of which one I was looking at, all the while the sunlight retreated in the background. It was the ‘bleep’ of my “dying” phone that woke me to my senses and reminded me why I had run here in the first place. I took my pictures quickly and then observed the fleeting moment in stillness. Continue reading