Whether it be a summer vacation or just a weekend excursion, use every opportunity to learn about the natural world around you.
A change of location is a great chance to find out about the trees, flowers, shrubs, grasses, and other plants that grow naturally or are used for landscaping and gardening purposes within the particular geographical area that you are visiting.
One especially good way to inform and educate yourself about the flora of your vacation surroundings is to visit a botanical garden or formal garden within the area. Here you will be able to identify and ask questions about the plant material contained within the gardens. You may also pick up some great ideas on using different plants that you would never have thought of before, or on design and plant combination ideas for your home garden or landscape.
Try to find out about the forest trees native to the area and about the economic and commercial uses of those trees; are they valuable for pulp and paper production, for furniture construction, for the building trades? Also, are there commercial nurseries in the area that grow and sell fruit trees or landscaping trees and shrubs?
Often a visit to a historical site or the historic home of a notable person from the area will yield some clues about the native trees and plants, and of how they may have been used in constructing the home or for building furniture within the home. What vegetables and herbs did they grow in the garden that supplied the homestead kitchen?
A visit to a state park within your vacation surroundings is also a great opportunity to learn about the plant material native the area. Often there are nature trails within the park that have identification tags or numbers associated with the plants to help you learn the names of the native trees and plants that you may be seeing for the first time. Look for brochures and ask questions of the rangers and other staff.
Also take note of the soil types and rock formations. Find out about climate changes, amount of annual rainfall and snowfall, and of how these things affect the plants that survive and thrive there.
If you live near the coast, visit the mountains; if you live in the mountains, visit the coastal areas. Explore and learn. Also, try to learn about the wildlife native to the area; are there certain songbirds or water birds that are native only to this area?
Make your outings into family excursions; encourage the kids to seek, play, explore, learn, and ask questions about their surroundings. Who knows? Such adventurous forays into the natural world may lead your children to choose vocations that are environmentally-related, to become naturalists, horticulturists, farmers or gardeners, or wildlife management specialists. Have fun exploring the natural world and don’t forget to enjoy the change of scenery!