In January of this year, I visited the city of Orange, Texas for the first time. Knowing little about it aside from what I’d read in a guide book or on the Internet, I found myself open to what I might discover. It was chilly enough in the easternmost part of Texas in winter, but not cold enough for anything heavier than a light jacket. While talking with the staff at the visitors center, it was suggested I visit the local botanical garden. I’d been to many gardens across the state so I decided to take a look.
Upon arrival at the Shangri-La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, I found workers preparing for Spring. Even though I saw little color in the winter, walking around I could tell the gardens were something special. For those of you not familiar with the meaning of the name, it’s based on a book by author James Hilton. In Hilton’s novel, Shangri-La is described as a mystical, harmonious valley in which people live beyond the normal lifespan. Other descriptions of Hilton’s imaginary land include earthly paradise and utopia.
While Shangri-La’s beauty was truly something to behold, I learned not only are the 252 acres beautiful but also environmentally conscious. The gardens are Platinum LEED Certified, not an easy task. To learn more about the certification requirements, check out this Wikipedia link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadership_in_Energy_and_Environmental_Design.
After my winter tour, I stated to the director that I would be back to see the place in full bloom. So four months later, I drove down with my Mother, a garden enthusiast, on Mother’s Day weekend to take a second look. Because it’s not easy for me to describe the beauty of this incredible location, I received assistance from my digital camera. After you see the photos, I hope you feel inclined to see for yourself.
Is Shangri-La a mystical valley like Hilton described? I’ll let you be the judge of that. I can tell you while walking around the gardens with my Mother, I could see myself as a young girl once again on an adventure through a secret garden. The middle-aged woman I’ve become disappeared for a brief period of time as I explored paths and plants I’d never seen before.
Want more information? Visit http://www.shangrilagardens.org.
Categories: Travel Texas