By: Kim Kovel

We went to see the Kampong, one of six National Tropical Botanical Gardens in the United States, and the only one that is not in Hawaii. In 1928, David Fairchild, a horticulturist, writer and explorer, and his wife Marian, the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell, established a permanent residence in Coconut Grove, Florida. Fairchild enjoyed exploring remote locations and bringing back exotic and agriculturally significant plants. A small sampling of what he brought to the U.S. includes tropical fruits such as mangoes and avocadoes from Indonesia and other locations; cherry trees from Japan, now in Washington D.C.; and a cold hardy winter wheat from Siberia, which now grows in northern U.S. climates.

He planted many of the tropical plants he brought back in the garden of his house in Coconut Grove. There he worked tirelessly on research and writing in his laboratory. We went to the original building where artist Mark Dion recreated Fairchild’s laboratory with original documents, furnishings, and artifacts from family members, as well as artifacts Fairchild would have liked nearby. It is a fascinating exploration of a botanist’s life and work, and a chance to see the lifestyle of the 1930s, as well as the surrounding gardens filled with exotic plants.

If you want to visit this 11-acre public garden and house, you need to book tickets ahead online.