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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April Showers Bring May Flowers 4.20.11

If this saying is true, then we are going to be suffocated by flowers here in the Northwest in less than two weeks. I’m writing this during one of our sun-breaks, which I should run out and enjoy, except it is also still cold out, so it’s nicer to look at it through my window. I hear a lot of places around the U.S. and the globe are actually getting warm weather and are actually celebrating Spring, so I am jealous, but it also got me thinking about Mother’s Day, which is creeping up on us and will be here before you know it. May 8th is the magic date. What are you getting for your mom?
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Thinking up something new and original (and inexpensive) every year can be hard. Especially with Christmas and her birthday and any other day you buy her something for being a super duper mom. It’s even less easy to come up with something if you also buy for your mother-in-law, grandma, aunt, wife, sister, etc. So, here’s something I thought of that is affordable and can be good for a group or just the two of you and can also create lasting memories. Buying the mom(s) in your life flowers is the trusty stand-by when you’ve run out of ideas, money or time. Of course, most moms (and women in general) love flowers, so this is not a bad gift, but within a week they are usually dead and thrown in the trash. If you buy potted plants and flowers, this is more thoughtful, as she can have it for years to come. Flowers and plants can end up costing a fortune, depending on the kind you get, so instead of bringing the flowers to your mom, why not bring your mom to the flowers. No, don’t make her get in the car and cruise the local florist aisle at Safeway. I’m talking about taking her to the botanical gardens for the day.
Most botanical gardens range anywhere from FREE to $20 for admission, which is easier on the wallet than a decent-sized bouquet of anything. You and your mom can spend the day wandering among all the native flowers of the area, taking pictures, watching the pollinators do their job, have tea or lunch and maybe pick up a couple of seed packets to take home and try growing yourself. Botanical gardens often have an on-site café or restaurant, but if you’re feeling really frugal, you can pack a delicious lunch and have a picnic. Anywhere you can grow something, you can find a botanical garden, test garden or something similar.

Here in Portland, the City of Roses, we have both the Leach Botanical Gardens and the International Rose Test Garden. Both are free to the public and feature thousands of varieties of flowers and hundreds of different roses. They are volunteer run and operated on generous donations. You can enjoy a wonderful day out with your mom and might even get some sun next month and not have to wear a raincoat or carry an umbrella. Below are some other famous gardens around the world you might like to visit with the mom in your life:

Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York – Set on 52 acres the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is host to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. They feature many “gardens within a garden” displays and are home to 42 species of cherry tree. You can also find two gift shops, a visitor center, gardener’s resource center and an outdoor café (open in the summer).
Tohono Chul Park in Tucson, Arizona – Contrary to popular belief, more than just cacti grow in the Arizona desert and you can see for yourself for admission prices under $10 ($7/adult, less for children and seniors). Check out some of the desert’s most colorful blooms, then take in breakfast, lunch, brunch or afternoon tea on the outdoor patio of the Tohono Chul Tea Room. With their reasonable prices, you may have some cash left over to pick up something in the greenhouse or the museum shop.

Byodo-in Garden in Kyoto, JapanJapan isn’t all city life and skyscrapers. A 15-20 minute train ride outside of the city can take you to the Byodo-in Garden outside of the Byodo-in Buddhist Temple. The Garden is nicknamed “The Land of Happiness” and was created for those that wished to go somewhere beautiful in the afterlife. Though it isn’t large, it certainly is peaceful and is a Pure Land garden. There is also a treasure pond. It is said that this original garden has been the inspiration for other like gardens all over Japan. Admission is minimal at 600 yen (around $7).

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Claremont, South Africa – I think when people think of South Africa their minds automatically go to animal safaris and hot plains. This sort of environment lends itself to very unique plants and Kirstenbosch is just one of nine different botanical gardens in the country (but is among one of the best in the world). It covers almost 90 acres and represents over 7,000 species of plant and with admission rates of a little over $5 (37 Rand), you can afford to go multiple times to see it all and take home a few goodies from the Garden Shop. You can even buy tickets online. Pack yourself a lunch and watch the wildlife around you as you relax in the sunshine and also take in some of the art displayed around the gardens. You can also drop into the Tea Room.

Claude Monet Foundation at Giverny in France – If you’re a fan of Monet, you know that he had a thing for his flower garden and water garden. Take a tour through his house and garden in Giverny to see his paintings come to life. The gardens are open everyday from April 1st through November 1st and admission price for adults is 8 € (about $12). Purchase online in advance and skip the queues. Enjoy Monet’s home, gardens, picture gallery and book shop, then sit down at Les Nymphéas and relax with some traditional Norman cooking. The restaurant serves hot and cold options as well as a daily specials menu.
Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC – As far as botanical gardens goes, this is one of the largest I’ve ever been to. While it’s a more expensive option to visit at a $34 admission price, there is enough to see and do here to stay all day. Because the gardens are so vast, they have a suggestion of 5 different “itineraries” on their website. While the gardens are actually 1 hour north of Victoria by car, the drive is beautiful and you will only be rewarded with more beauty when you arrive. Experience thousands of varieties of plants and flowers any time of year. With 50 on-staff gardeners, there is always something growing and blooming. If you still have some cash in your pocket after entry tickets, you can choose from 2 restaurants or a sit-down in their coffee shop. The Dining Room restaurant is more formal and upscale, while the Blue Poppy is more affordable and casual. You can also spend an hour or more (I did!) in their gigantic gift shop. During summertime visits, you may also be treated to outdoor entertainment and a fantastic fireworks display.
National Botanic Garden of Wales in Wales – This garden is unique, because it features the world’s largest single-span greenhouse and it allows the garden to house plants from all over the world, not just those from the UK. The admission rate is meager for such an amazing place, just £8.50 (about $14), where you will be able to see Mediterranean and other plants form around the world inside the Great Glass House, more exotic plants inside the Tropical House and native plants outside around the walks and lakes. You can pack a lunch to have out on one of the sprawling lawns or make a visit to the restaurant before you head onto the gallery and gift shop.

Royal Botanic Gardens in SydneyAustralia is known for a lot of different things – the Outback, aborigines, boomerangs, Crocodile Dundee – but flowers never seem to be part of that list. Bring your walking shoes, because the RBG sits on a whopping 75 acres and occupies what used to be the Governor’s privacy barrier between the penal colonies and his private residence. It now has 18 different gardens and includes a rainforest walk and herb garden in addition to the many plants and flowers native to the area. Take a guided or self-guided tour to get the most out of your visit. With free admission, you really can’t go wrong. Drop a few bucks in the donation bin on your way to one of the two cafes or two restaurants and then pick up some seeds and other goodies in the extensive Garden Shop. All profits go directly back into the gardens.

With all these options and countless other ones you'll find across the globe, it's almost impossible to not find yourself within driving distance to a brand new botanical world. I hope you will find something great for your mom this Mother's Day and you both have a great time!

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Do you want to give your mom a tangible gift (instead of or in addition to) for Mom's Day? If you mom likes to travel, here are some fun ideas:

Chance are, your mom likes to travel. Better chances are that she washes her hair. With all the travel restrictions, it's nice to be able to swap in some useful products that don't need to be stuffed in a 1-quart plastic bag prior to boarding a plane. If that's the case, pick up some shampoo bars for your mom on Amazon from LUSH Cosmetics. They work just like soap, but just as good as her favorite shampoo! They come in varieties for every hair type and you can even get solid conditioner for a matching set. Don't forget to pick up a shampoo bar tin for her to keep it in for safekeeping (and to keep it from gooing up her other toiletries).

Save your mom's back by getting her a stylish and functional Healthy Back Bag from Ameribag. I've talked about it before and have gotten positive feedback from other owners as well. They come in several different sizes, a million colors (including floral) and a variety of fabrics. The ergonomic design is perfect for carrying everything around all day, it has a wide padded shoulder strap, a bunch of functional pockets and the main compartment is only accessed by a zipper that is next to your body when you are carrying the bag, so thieves are instantly thwarted from stealing all your valuables! The medium and large sizes have a large enough outside rear pocket to fit a full-size water bottle, too. You're going to need it with all the walking around you'll be doing at the botanical gardens! 

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Let’s make it to 50 readers on this blog!
Shereen Travels Cheap has several fantastic and fun prizes to give away, but I’d like to make them goal-oriented. I know there are a lot of readers that come by each week to read the new content here, which is great! What would be even better is if you guys would also subscribe to the blog – either on Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs – so I know how many of you are repeat customers. Once the total between the two reaches 50 readers, I’ll be giving away some great wine-related travel products. Being able to ship back or bring back your favorite wines from your travels in your checked luggage make a nice souvenir for yourself and others that weren’t lucky enough to go on your trip with you. This giveaway will be a perfect solution to that! The faster we get to 50, the faster we can start giving away prizes! We will do another one at 100, 150 and so on.

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