Many parts of the world offer spectacular displays of floral beauty as commercially-grown crops or as wildflowers. For the do-it-yourself destination researcher, basing your itinerary on what’s blooming when means choosing locations that are known for their flowers–either their abundance or their uniqueness–and planning your trip around this blooming event.
Use Flower Crops as an Attraction on Your Trip
There is the beauty of fields of commercially-grown flowers that can stop even a floral ignoramus in their tracks. Lavender is a good example: lavender is grown all over the world, so if you miss the blooming fields in June in Croatia, France, the Channel Isles, England, and Washington State, you can still catch them in Japan in July, Tasmania in December, or New Zealand in January!
Flowers are a world-wide commodity. There are the tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths grown in Holland (April), Michigan (May), and Tasmania (October) for the cut-flower/bulb market. The florists’ roses bloom most of the year in Colombia and Ecuador. And the rose fields in Turkey and Bulgaria are the sources of the world’s supply of rose petals and rose oil–can you imagine the scented air surrounding those fields?
Perhaps not your primary destination, the following places would still be worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood, so to speak: the commercial fields of narcissus on the Isles of Scilly; saffron crocus in Spain and Iran; coffee plantations in India, Costa Rica, and many other countries; and pink, opium poppies in Tasmania. All provide a delicate, sweet fragrance to the air. And although not a commodity, the cherry blossoms in Japan are certainly a commercial success for the tourism industry.
Add Wildflowers into Your Itinerary
Time your travels to view Mother Nature’s spectacular displays of ephemeral beauty: wildflowers. Everyone raves about the wildflowers they saw on their trip, but if you haven’t done your research, you might hear the phrase, “You just missed the flowers!”
Almost every place on the planet has wildflowers; many have become the source of our garden plants and field crops. A meadow, hillside, or other open space filled with a variety of wildflowers is a great memory of your trip; different colors, shapes and heights add another dimension to the natural landscape.
Wildflowers are not limited to summer in the temperate zones. Alpine flowers are also wildflowers that grow closer to the ground at the higher elevations around the world and can include what we call rock garden plants. Flowering plants such as the sea pinks of Portugal, rock samphire on the Isle of Wight, and the varieties of thyme growing throughout the Mediterranean bring color and interest to their native, harsh environments.
Marshes are another open space that provides a bounty of wildflowers. The marshes of Estonia and Jersey in the Channel Isles support orchids, lilies, and primulas. Bogs in Iceland hold beautiful cotton grass while those in Norway feature a variety of orchids. And pastel-colored water lilies sprout year ’round in the lakes and ponds of Vietnam.
Coastal clifftops and dunes also provide a habitat for some of our favorite flowers. The sea lavender of the Azores, foxgloves of the Channel Isles, portulaca from the Galapagos, and the forget-me-nots of Alaska are just a few examples of these now-common garden plants.
Use Unique Flowers as a Focal Point of Your Trip
Timing your travels to include the floral display at your destination can increase your enjoyment of your trip. You might be visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and admiring the Spanish Colonial architecture, but it’s the blooming jacaranda trees surrounding the buildings and throughout the plazas that take your breath away. Or you are in Tokyo in April and come across the Kameido Tenjin Shrine covered with 100 wisteria plants on 15 trellises that were planted 320 years ago. At either location, the perfumed air and the lavender-colored light from so many purple flowers will create a scene (and a scent) that you’ll never forget.
In certain latitudes, some flowers bloom almost year ’round (bougainvillea, jasmine, orchids), so you can be assured of a good floral display whatever time you choose. In addition, these places almost always have some unusual flower that you can plan your trip around. Here’s an example: The ylang ylang plantations on Nosy Be, Madagascar, bloom most of the year, so enjoying their intense aroma and beautiful flowers would already be on your itinerary when you travel to the island to see the black orchid, which only blooms from December to January.
Here are three examples of planning your itinerary around viewing flowers that are known for their uniqueness:
1) If you want to see the silversword in bloom in Maui’s Haleakala Crater–the only place on the planet where it grows–you will have to be there between August and December.
2) You are on safari in Kenya in January, when the white tissue flowers cover the Masai Mara, and you have made sure you include Tanzania in your trip planning in order to see the original African violets in bloom (only between September and March).
3) If you go to Kunming, China, in the spring you will see the Plum Flower Festival, which is also during the Chinese New Year. While you are there, be sure to see the 500 to 800-year-old camellia tree at the Golden Temple in bloom–in February.
Use Flower Festivals as a Marker for Your Planning
Festival times are one of the best ways to determine the flora of an area. If there’s a festival for a flower, then its bloom time is fairly predictable. So a good marker in planning your itinerary is finding out the month a flower festival is held in your chosen destination.