from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software
With a feeling of excitement, adventure and just a little trepidation, we recently set off on an amazing family road trip in northern Thailand. Stunning mountain scenery, tranquil tea plantations, fruit juice freshly squeezed at an orange orchard, a night of solitude with just the frogs and cicadas for company in an isolated hilltribe village awaited us.
On the way, we stopped at the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, near the little town of Mae Rim and about 30 miles northwest of Chiang Mai. Like many Royal Projects in Thailand, this one was beautifully designed – with more people working on the site than actual visitors! We passed a handful of other tourists, but most of the time the gardens were ours to explore. We stopped at the Lanna-style Visitor Centre near the entrance to ask for a Visitor Guide and, after some scuffling, one was finally produced – but it was the last one, I was told with a smile, and it seemed to have taken a bit of searching for!
A driveway meanders around the site, so that you can take your car in and drive through the grounds, pulling up at the side to hop out and inspect the plants, and leaping back into the air conditioning afterwards.
A number of trails are signposted along the way – the Waterfall Trail, Fern Garden, Banana Avenue – and, at the top of the site, is the Glasshouse Complex, with 8 glasshouses each housing its own collection of plants including water plants, bromeliads, variegated plants and medicinal plants.
The Waterfall Trail near the entrance is a lovely place to start. The path passes beside the low waterfalls where the Mae Sa stream tumbles over rocks and leads on pushing through the shaded undergrowth to the Orchid Collection.
Though our visit at the beginning of the rainy season meant that many of the outdoor ornamentals had finished flowering, it was a good time to admire the fairy lilies, which carpeted the ground as we climbed up the main drive towards the Glasshouse Complex.
It was in the comparative coolness of the glasshouses themselves that we lingered longest.
The spikes and spines of the desert-dwellers – in the Arid Plant Collection.
Bright, pink-flushed Bromeliads, displayed amongst stone carvings and Thai pots.
Exquisitely layered blooms of the lotus flowers and water lilies in the Aquatic Plants Glasshouse.