I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to Texas to speak for one of my favorite gardens, Mercer Arboretum in Houston, Texas. One of my side trips was to visit Shangrila in lower southeast corner of Texas. I know many of you don’t think of Shangrila as being in Texas, but bear with me. A friend, Rick Lewandowski (left in photo) (the former director of the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware) had become the new director of Shangrila Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, so curiosity got the better of me. Thanks to my host Darrin Dulling (right in photo), the director of Mercer Arboretum, I was able to make the side tip to Shangrila. As it turns out Shangrila is both a new and old garden. It was closed in 1958 after a particularly cold winter and not reopened to the public for 50 years (2008). Shangrila is a giant park/nature preserve, morphing into a botanical garden. The formal plantings, while immaculately maintained are not particularly interesting for a plant collector, but the natural areas are another thing altogether. We were treated to a bayou ride (a regular feature), where we saw egrets fishing, a disjunct population of Taxodium ascendens (pond cypress), including the largest specimen in the world (1200 years old), an incredible native weeping Taxodium distichum (bald cypress), and an array of natural splendor that’s hard to describe. If natural beauty intrigues you, I strongly encourage you to make the trek to the little community of Orange, Texas and spend time in Shangrila.