On my visit to Madagascar, I chose Natural Habitat (NatHab) as my tour group due to good reviews by friends and some internet investigation. I think in Madagascar, and Africa in general, it is best to visit with a tour. It is possible to book things on your own but these are poor countries, with limited lodging and transport options, often requiring private plane and car services. Both for safety and to avoid the headaches, I recommend a reputable tour service unless you simply want to go to one hotel for your stay. While Natural Habitat was a little more expensive, the hotels were really nice, there were local guides in addition to the tour director and the complex business of getting around in Madagascar was handled seamlessly. The Vakona Forest Lodge was the first hotel we stayed in after our arrival in Antananarivo and as you can see, it was a beautiful place with lovely gardens. This was our home base to visit Andasibe-Mantadia National Park (Reserve of Perinet), quite a mouthful. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is a 100 square mile (155 square km) protected area, located about 93 miles (150 km) east of Antananarivo, consisting principally of primary growth forest in Alaotra-Mangoro Region in eastern Madagascar. The park’s two component parts are Mantadia National Park and Analamazoatra Reserve, which is best known for its population of Madagascar’s largest lemur, the Indri. The Analamazaotra (or Périnet) Special Reserve (ASR), known locally as Andasibe after the nearby village, was once part of the larger Mantadia National Park which also included Maromizaha Classified Forest to the southeast and Anosibe an’ala to the south. However logging and deforestation for farming has resulted in these parks now being isolated.
Each year I write on the spring flowers in my home city, Las Vegas. This year I have decided to focus on plants used in public landscapes. Every city and town has a certain ambiance or sense of place. Often the ambiance is due to the people, sometimes the food, music or architecture but frequently it is the mix of plants and landscapes in the particular location. Although the plantings may reflect the surrounding area, sometimes plants are imported from elsewhere and over time become considered as a a native part of the environment. Even if two places are nearby, the landscapes can be completely different, based on water availability, affluence and even history. Las Vegas is not that far from Los Angeles yet the landscapes could not be more different. Not long ago I wrote about the succulents that are recently wildly popular in Los Angeles in part because of the mild climate. Las Vegas suffers from the same water shortages but it's landscapes are distinctly different, reflecting the deserts in the surrounding areas. This is not a complete list, but it will give you a sense of landscaping in Las Vegas and you will get to see some beautiful flowers.