By Jo Finzi
This month is a time for sending your loved one flowers, so why not take her on a special trip instead?
At the beginning of the month, there’s Thailand’s Chang Mai Flower Festival (2nd-4th February).
This fragrant festival features sculptures of temples, animals and even scenes from the Ramayana (the Hindu stories of the Gods) made entirely from flowers. The displays are paraded through the streets of this beautiful city in northern Thailand.
More than 3000 species of orchid are in bloom and nearly one-third of these are on display. Many of them are available for purchase so look out for the Damask Rose, a special variety found in Chiang Mai, as well as the yellow and white chrysanthemums. As well as the street parades, there are fantastic floral displays, local handicrafts sales, and even beauty pageants.
The north of Thailand is famous for its abundance of flowering plants, especially temperate zone species, which burst into full bloom towards the end of the cool season. The city is known as the “Rose of the North” and it’s a beautiful, slow-paced town even though it’s the second largest in Thailand. Complete your experience with a visit to the hill tribes or a mountain trek.
Orchids at Kew
If your travels are taking you in the other direction, don’t miss the orchid festival at Kew Gardens from 3rd February to 4th March.
Kew Gardens, is an oasis of greenery on the banks of the River Thames, and is now a world heritage site. It’s specacular display of more than 100,000 orchids from all over the globe fills the futuristic Princess of Wales conservatory.
For the first time this year the orchids will be contrasted with other brightly-coloured plants for an added dimension in colour and form. These will include over 1,500 green, white, red and pink anthurium, with its alluring and strange flower structure, as well as maranta and bromeliads.
This Royal Botanical Garden is home to the world’s experts in the propagation of this exotic bloom. Their most recent project was to save the UK’s own endangered Lady’s Slipper orchid from almost certain extinction. Expert tips on how to grow and arrange these sensitive stems are given at orchid workshops, or you could simply take a romantic stroll around the stunning displays.
Plants, seeds and orchid-themed gifts are on sale throughout the festival and there are plenty of tours and lectures to complete the programme. To find out more, visit http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/events/tropicalextravaganza/index.htm