Posts recently have been brief and consisted of pictures because I've been travelling in India and Bhutan for the last few weeks. First to Assam in the northeastern corner of India and then from east to west across Bhutan, where you get regular views of the mighty Himalayan mountain range as you negotiate steep, unpaved mountain passes. Sadly, there are few gardens to visit in England at this time of year, but if you want to see what's on offer for 2015, head to the side bar at the right and click on Garden Visits - UK & Europe.
Assam, in India, is astounding and so is Bhutan. The people are gentle and smiling; the landscapes magnificent; there is also abundant wildlife - tigers, mighty rhinos and elephants in Assam - whilst rare birds abound in both. But travel is tough and the terrain of Bhutan means that a short distance as the crow flies can take many hours by road as you hug the mountain side to traverse from one range to another on single-track roads that feature terrifying drops to the valley below.
Most major centres have a zhong - a municipal building that houses both government offices and a monastery. The architecture is amazing and one of the finest examples is to be found at Punnakha (above). en route to the capital city of Thimphu, in the west of Bhutan. This one perches on the edge of a fast-flowing river, with views to the mountains beyond.
Festivals are a major entertainment feature in Bhutan, with magnificent costumes, masks, dancing and music (above); the national sport is archery; and this is the one country in the world that boasts a National Happiness Index. The people are charming, gentle and kind - always ready to help - and extremely welcoming to foreigners.
I will be reviewing more gardens visited this year in January and February 2015, to give readers a taste of what's on offer for next year.