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While it’s been a long, cold winter in many places, spring is just around the corner. There may be no better way to celebrate the wonders of spring than to visit one of these spectacular botanical gardens around the world.
This world’s largest flower garden can be found in the small Dutch town of Lisse, just a 40-minute drive from Amsterdam. One of the world’s most magnificent gardens, it is open annually between mid-March and mid-May, this is where you want to go to see tulips in an array of vibrant colors, along with daffodils, orchids, lilies, carnations, roses, irises, hyacinths and other flowers. Divided across various gardens and pavilions, the tulips and other flowers number in the millions, and as the park has a different theme each year, it’s never the same. Be sure to take the whisper boat trip, where you can enjoy the tranquility of the endless bulb fields in a virtually silent boat along the waterways – the angle guarantees especially stunning photos.
Called the “jewel of Richmond,” this historic 50-acre garden is often ranked as one of America’s most beautiful botanic gardens. Its classic domed conservatory is the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic, and you’ll find over a dozen themed gardens, including the Rose Garden, Children’s Garden, Asian Valley and Cherry Tree Walk. The most popular attraction here is “Butterflies Live!” which allows visitors to get up close and personal with hundreds of exotic tropical butterflies. There are acres of trails that lead through the various types of gardens and plant displays, as well as a number of options for dining and shopping on the sprawling property.
Proclaimed as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, this 5.5-acre slice of paradise is a haven of meticulously-kept, tranquil beauty tucked into the scenic West Hills of Portland, above Washington Park. It features meandering streams, enchanting walkways, an authentic Japanese Tea House and an incredible view of Mount Hood. Influenced by Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies, designers made use of the three essential elements in traditional Japanese gardens: stone, the “bones” of the landscape; water, the life-giving force; and plants, the tapestry of the four seasons. The pond below Heavenly Falls is filled with koi, helping to bring the landscape to life. It contains five distinct Japanese gardens: Strolling Pond Garden, the Tea Garden, Natural Garden, Flat Garden and the Sand and Stone Garden, with picturesque pagodas and bridges punctuating the landscape.
Located 30 minutes northwest of Philadelphia, this 35-acre public garden has been cited as the most romantic, imaginative garden in the country. Romance blooms in every nook and cranny of its creatively landscaped gardens. The colorful flowers, babbling brooks, hidden pathways, stone ruins and dense forests have been called the perfect Hollywood film set for a marriage proposal. “Eclectic” is the word that may best describe some of its features, like the Ruin Garden which hosts a sarcophagus-like fountain, and the Tennis Court Garden, where you won’t find any sports stars, but you will see some beautiful poppies, irises, roses and daisies. The view from the main house, looking down to a dramatic hill to a koi pond and Asian woodlands, is worth the price of admission alone.
Located on the west side of the state, Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens was founded back in 1893 by real estate baron Henry Phipps. It’s one of the oldest and largest Victorian “glass houses” in America. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the conservatory is made up of 13 silvered, glass-encased domes that cover flourishing garden rooms filled with exotic plants and flower, and is surrounded by manicured gardens, tranquil ponds and romantic fountains. It showcases several permanent and seasonal exhibits throughout the year, like its amazing collection of rare orchids, a lily pond, bonsai trees and an outdoor rose garden.
This Victorian-era botanical garden, known locally as Shaw’s Garden after its founder, botanist and philanthropist Henry Shaw, is the oldest botanical garden in the U.S., and a National Historic Landmark. It was established in 1859 and now draws over 750,000 visitors a year. An oasis in the city, it covers 79 acres and displays a wide array of plants, trees and shrubs, including an astounding collection of rare orchids. Its show stopper is the geodesic dome known as the Climatron which covers a half-acre and hosts a rainforest-themed collection of 1,400 species of plants, like cacao, coffee and banana, along with wild-collected orchids, and a river aquarium with exotic fish. Leading the way to the Climatron are glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly which float in the lily pads. The garden also houses an English Woodland Garden, a Japanese strolling garden, a Victorian District and the original 1850s estate home of Henry Shaw.
One of the best display gardens in the world, Butchart Gardens began when Jenny Butchart set about beautifying the bleak pits her husband’s limestone mining company had left on their Vancouver Island property. Still owned by the same family, the majority of its 55 acres are open to the public, including everyone’s favorite: the Sunken Garden. It also features an Italian Garden, Japanese Garden and an impressive 300-species rose garden. All total, there are 700 varieties of plants that are in bloom from March to October. On Saturday evenings in the summer, visitors can not only enjoy the gorgeous floral displays, but an impressive fireworks display set to show tunes.
This 75-hectare oasis sits in the heart of Montreal and showcases over 22,000 plant species and cultivars, as well as a planetarium, biodome, an insectarium, themed greenhouses and gardens, including the popular Chinese Garden. A place of harmony and contrast, it illustrates the age-old principles of the Chinese art of landscape design, with the architecture, water and plant and mineral selections all expressions of the dominant design principles of yin and yang. Its harmony is based on plants, water, stones and architecture, presenting itself as a sort of three-dimensional painting. The First Nations Garden was created in honor of the First Nations people, allowing visitors to rediscover the culture of America’s first inhabitants, while the Alpine Garden takes visitors on a tour of the botanical world from the Rockies to the Himalayas, and from the Alps to the Arctic tundra. A visit to his botanical garden certainly lives up to its motto: “a trip around the world.”
Set on the slopes of Maui’s Haleakala volcano, the Kula Botanical Garden is a magnificent arboreal haven celebrating Hawaii’s fauna and flora. It’s home to more than eight acres of unique and indigenous plants, cascading waterfalls, astounding rock formations and an array of interesting attractions, like the carved tiki exhibit. Some of its plants and trees include the native koa, which is prized by woodworkers, and a good selection of proteas, the flowering shrubs that have become a signature flower crop in Upcountry Mau. A picturesque covered bridge offers a romantic escape, while the koi pond, an aviary with Nene geese and a Jackson Chameleon exhibit display some of the island’s wildlife.
Home to over 30 acres of beautiful botanic gardens with a wide variety of fascinating collections and exhibits, the Atlanta Botanical Garden sits adjacent to Piedmont Park and has been constantly updated throughout its nearly four decades to provide an especially interesting haven of urban bliss. One of its highlights is the Fuqua Orchid Center, which holds the rare beauty of high-altitude growing orchids, never before grown in the Southeast. The Kendeda Canopy Walk is a popular adventure in which visitors can stroll along the 600-foot-long skywalk that winds its way through the treetops of the Storza Woods, while the Venus flytraps in the Soggy Bog are always a big hit too. February through April is the time to go to catch the annual Orchid Daze exhibition, when thousands of orchids are in bloom. March and April bring the Atlanta Blooms festival when several hundred thousands of tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs are blooming.
In existence for over a century, this 52-acre New York institution is home to thousands of plants and trees, with the Cranford Rose Garden alone housing roughly 1,000 types. It also hosts a Japanese garden where river turtle swim alongside a Shinto shrine. In late April through early May, you can see the blooming cherry trees which are celebrated in Sakura Matsuri, the Cherry Blossom Festival. The blossoms of more than 200 flowering cherry trees open from bud to blossom before blanketing petals across Cherry Esplanade, Cherry Walk and the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. A network of trails connect the Japanese garden to other popular sections devoted to native flora, bonsai trees, a wood covered in bluebells and a rose garden.
While you might think that the desert is a stark, barren landscape, it’s actually anything but. To find out what it’s really like, check out the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, which boasts 17,000 species of desert plants and a large research center. The Garden has more than 50,000 accessioned plants throughout five thematic trails that illustrate topics like desert living, conservation, plants and people of the Sonoran Desert and desert wildflowers. A two-acre wildflower exhibit bursts with color in the springtime, with the peak blooming of flowers like desert lupine and Mexican poppies occurring in March and April. If you’d like to learn more about desert plants and flowers, a variety of workshops and lectures on desert landscaping and horticulture, botanical art and illustration, and more are offered too.
One of the best spring attractions in Florida, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a tropical oasis located just minutes from downtown Miami. It can be enjoyed in a number of ways, including viewing the aesthetic beauty of taxonomically arranged and well-documented tropical plants, particularly palms, cycads, flowering trees and shrubs, vines and fruit trees, that are displayed in a classic landscape design, which is a favorite of many casual gardeners who often find it to be an especially remarkable experience. Serious plant enthusiasts will appreciate the documented botanical specimens that have been cultivated or collection since the late 1930s. This is a leading center for palm research and the garden has conserved a wide variety of tropical plant species from across the globe, including Madagascar, the Oceanic Islands, South Florida and the Caribbean. The butterfly garden and the two-acre tropical rain forest are must-sees for everyone.
Set along Kauai’s ethereal north shore is the 1,000-acre Limahuli Garden & Preserve. Named the No. 1 natural botanical garden in the U.S. by the American Horticultural Society, this fascinating tropical expanse features pristine forest and riparian habitat, including palms and herbs, rare native ferns and culturally significant plants like taro and papaya. The garden is a fabulous place to take a stroll on the land where taro still thrives on ancient lava rock terraces and learn about Hawaii’s native plants as well as rare plant conservation. There are lots of other highlights too, like the Bird of Paradise flower, Hawaii’s iconic symbol. In the spring, you’ll be able to see the native ko’oko’olau at its best, displaying beautiful yellow, daisy-like flowers.
This lush, 6.5-acre garden has the largest collection of tropical plants in the Eastern Caribbean, with more than 600 species. Set along a stream, embellished with ponds and waterfalls, and overlooking the sea, it was established over 50 years ago by the island nation’s most prominent horticulturist, Iris Bannochie. You’ll be awed by the astonishing plants that nature has evolved, from the bizarre to the stunningly beautiful. Trails lead through peaceful folds of land, over bridges, leading to beloved, familiar faces like hibiscus, bougainvillea and ginger, as well as some surprises, like those that come in the form of cacti. Be sure to visit the massive, native bearded fig tree for which the Portuguese were said to have named the islands – Los Barbados translates to the bearded ones – and, take note of the final pergola where jade vines and hanging turquoise blossoms create a grand, spectacular exit.
The Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, is home to some of the most breathtaking tropical scenery in the world, including some of the most picture-perfect beaches you’ll ever see. It’s hard to imagine that it gets even better than that, but as soon as you step into this botanical gardens, you’re sure to be in awe, particularly when you spot the rare, towering palms that grow only in the Seychelles. In addition to the palms, the garden showcases a wide variety of spice and fruit trees, many of which can only be seen in this garden. There is also a population of giant tortoises from Aldabra, some of which are more than 150 years old. Look for the fruit bat colonies that can be found feeding or roosting in the taller trees overhead, and be sure to visit the orchid house with its collection of brightly colored orchids, including native types.
This exotic 137-hectare garden boasts more than 8000 plant species and was designed by order of the Prince Regent Dom Joao in 1808. Tranquil and serene during the week and bustling with families on the weekend, highlights of a visit here include the park’s most well-known symbol, the row of palms that were planted when it first opened, the lake that contains huge water lilies and the enclosed orquidario (orchid), which features 600 species of orchids. The garden is also home to 140 species of birds, many of which are easier to observe than in the wild as they’ve become accustomed to humans, like the channel-billed toucan. Capuchin monkeys and tufted-ear marmosets are frequently seen too. When you’re walking among the rubber trees, the cocoa and the pungent-smelling abrico-de-macao trees, watch for falling fruit – their size makes them potentially harmful.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is one of the top living museums and science conservation centers in the Windy City. It sits across 385 acres on and around nine islands and six miles of shoreline and includes 26 gardens and four natural areas. The acreage is located on and around nine islands and six miles of shoreline. Even with the severe weather that hits Chicago, the garden is still able to maintain over 2.4 million plants, like the blooming rose bush that exemplifies the heartiness of the species located here. Its bonsai collection is among the best of its kind in the world. It features nearly 200 bonsai, including gifts from Japanese bonsai master Susumu Nakamura, like a Japanese white pine. On rotating display, each bonsai is showcased at the peak of its beauty.
Longwood Gardens, the self-proclaimed “world’s premier horticultural showplace,” is home to one of the most amazing greenhouse structures on the planet. The conservatory houses 4.5 acres of indoor gardens, including 4,600 different types of plants and trees, as well as a fantastic system of fountains inspired by the Italian Water Garden and open-air fountains of Europe. Despite all of that, it may be most famous for its over 10,000-pipe Longwood Organ that can be heard throughout the conservatory. Outdoors in March, the early spring bulbs begin to carpet the landscape, hinting at spring’s impending arrival, and by April you can enjoy the stunning outdoor display that culminates in a rainbow of over 250,000 blooming tulips in the famous Flower Garden Walk and Idea Garden.
Frequently ranked as one of the world’s best gardens, the 55-acre estate grounds of the historic residence of the renowned Cheek family offers a host of mesmerizing sights, including a Japanese garden, reflection pool and nature sanctuary. It also showcases exceptional art exhibits from internationally known artists in its art museum. There are 11 different gardens in total, like the Burr Terrace Garden, reminiscent of a garden in Padua, Italy that dates back to the mid-16th-century and is considered to be the oldest surviving botanical garden in the world. The enclosed cottage garden features gorgeous blooming perennials and contrasting violas in the spring. This is also when you’ll find a decorative arbor covered with old-fashioned roses and bordered by a daffodil collection in the Turner Seasons Garden. With so much to see and do, you’re bound to work up an appetite, so it’s a good thing that Cheekwood is also famous for its fine dining.
By heading to Giverny, France, a little over an hour’s drive from Paris, you can see what inspired Claude Monet’s paintings, including the iconic water lilies he spent 43 years of his life cultivating. They were said to have provided him with his greatest artistic inspiration, and they’ve also made this picturesque Seine-side village one that’s celebrated around the world. In addition to the dreamy water-lily ponds, you’ll see all types of wildflowers and shrubs, as his long-admired works come to life. The house and grounds are open for public visits between April and October.