Roberto certainly was a force of nature. I first heard about him from Bette Waterbury who visited his place south of Rio. I was working there for a week, vouchering and describing many of this collection. It was quite an experience. Roberto loved scotch whiskey and I was really impressed that the dining room was lined with cases of scotch whiskey. He must have been afraid that they would outlaw imports or something. We had some wonderful conversations each night at dinner about his field expeditions or his various projects such as his project to ornament the grounds on the new Brazilian capitol in Brazilia. I had had the opportunity to see some of that work back in 1962 when I visited Brasilia when it was still under construction. Roberto’s collections in the wild were designed to find good ornamental plants that cold be propagated for his various architechtural plant displays. If you have not seen his book “The Gardens of Burle Marx” (or something close to that). I have a copy at my office.
On Saturday Roberto spread out what looked like bed sheets onto big tables and then started splashing and spreading various colored paint on them with big brushes. It was all done in a great flurry of activity. He would then stand back and look at the work and then go back to his painting activities. He ended up with a massive Picaso-like image. On Sunday he always had a big social event to which all this rich friends were invited. The colorful bed sheets were by this time dried and were hanging up on display. I was told that these would then be purchased for hundreds if not thousands of dollars depending on the crowd.
Roberto liked to sing operas and after the boose started flowing (and there was plenty of it) someone would get on the piano and the singing would start.
It was a wonderful week and I managed to voucher and describe many of the collections, always attaching one of my aluminum tags with my voucher numer onto the plant. It is unfortunate that the original collecting localities were mostly lost owing to the fact that they relied on wooden stakes with numbers for the plants. Most these rotted away and I was told that there was no way to reconstruct the information. That was a real pity.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of brian lee
Sent: Friday, August 29, 2014 11:23 AM
To: Discussion of aroids
Subject: Re: [Aroid-l] Burle-Marx
Aloha ("In the presence of the breath of life").
I knew Roberto Burle Marx for many years and I have to compose my thoughts before I can condense his legend to a few words. The week he died, he told me that he had a good life and that he wished he had many more years to share with all his friends. He ended by saying, "You were a good friend that I had." Beyond all that he accomplished in life; his friendship was the most valuable to me. I will never forget the passion with which he lived.
He was driven to collect taxa of all sorts of Brasilian plants as a legacy for his country. I remember how observant he was looking at every plant that looked different. He surrounded himself with specialist botanists to better understand the Brasilian flora. I met Dr. Simon Mayo at the Sitio before he left for Bahia to study Philodendron subgenus Meconostigma. I have been in love with the subgenus ever since. Dr. Helen Kennedy was another frequent guest who described new species of Marantaceae from Roberto's collection. Dr. Gustavo Martinelli described some new bromeliads as well. My dear friend, Margaret Mee, was a botanical illustrator and Amazon explorer, who was an amazing personality in Roberto's inner circle. The list goes on and on.
I highly recommend a visit to Roberto's Sitio if you ever get the chance. Words cannot adequately describe it. I was last there in 1994, when Roberto was still alive. I am sure the spirit of Burle Marx is still a strong presence, but, it is a shame you all cannot experience the vortex that was the living man.
One of my goals on my current trip to Brazil was to visit Sitio Burle-Marx south of Rio but time constraints once more foiled that goal while in Rio. However we are enjoying traipsing through the SE Atlantic forest seeing birds and aroids, still hoping to get to Burle - Marx ' s place sometime!
Guapiaçu Bird Lodge
Foothills of the Serra dos Orgaos
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