July 12, 2011
Those colourful and well-tended spaces that create a simultaneously exotic and educational environment; botanical gardens are among our favourite places to visit in our destination cities across the world. We get back to nature with some of the very best…
The sprawling 250 acres of the Bronx’s New York Botanical Garden are home to 50 separate gardens including the beautiful Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden. Summer is the time to stroll along the vibrant Daylily Walk, but special events and flower shows are held throughout the year, including the famous Holiday Train Show around Christmas time.
Somewhat more intimate than its uptown equivalent, Brooklyn Botanic Garden is packed with speciality gardens including the world’s oldest Children’s garden and the wonderfully calming Japanese Hill-and-Pond garden. There’s also a bonsai museum and art gallery.
The San Francisco Botanical Garden within Golden Gate Park has an incredibly diverse collection of around 50,000 plants including many tropical species – its Meso-American and Southeast Asian Cloud Forest collections are among the many highlights. It’s also a stone’s throw from the equally wonderful Japanese Tea Gardens and Conservatory of Flowers.
The delights of Golden Gate Park may be myriad, but it’s still worth a trip across the water to the University of California Botanical Garden at the Berkeley campus, which overlooks the bay. Famed for its many rare and endangered species, the garden’s orchid, sunflower and cacti collections are also unrivalled.
With ties to historical, congress-sponsored global expeditions, the capital’s United States Botanic Garden is the oldest facility of its kind in the country. To enter its conservatory is to take a trip across continents and through time, with deserts, jungles and many other unique environments represented in one place. A three-in-one experience, it also includes the National Garden and the exquisitely landscaped Bartholdi Park.
Even in Las Vegas you can break from the neon and get back to nature at the (free) Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Being Vegas of course, this is a little different to your average plant paradise, with incredibly bold and eccentric displays that change with the seasons.
Alongside its impressive South American, Mediterranean, South African and Australian collections, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is also home to a flock of around 200 Peafowl. The garden’s other intriguing aspect is its haunted history: the Queen Ann Cottage has been the site of many alleged ghost sightings.
Housing the world’s largest living plant collection, the huge Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been an important research centre and visitor attraction for 250 years. Its latest big draw (among many) is the fantastic 200-metre long Treetop Walkway.
Originally founded to aid botany-related medical studies, Chelsea Physic Garden is now something of an oasis for Londoners. Its high brick walls and close proximity to the Thames help create a ‘secret garden’ atmosphere and unique microclimate, allowing for the growth of grapefruit and the UK’s largest fruiting olive tree.
Tokyo now has a few botanical gardens but Jindai Shokubutsu KÅen is the original. Arranged with typical Japanese attention to detail, its thirty areas are each dedicated to subspecies of a particular plant, with its main attraction the Rose Garden hosting some 400-odd varieties. The garden makes for an educational and relaxing stroll and the perfect antidote to the metropolitan hubbub.
Once a landfill site, the artificial ‘Dream Island’ Yumenoshima is now an attractive park and the site of Tokyo’s Tropical Greenhouse Dome. Actually consisting of three domes, the indoor garden perfectly recreates exotic rainforest habitats with its 1000 species collection. The C dome is dedicated to the flora of Japan’s own tropical Ogasawara Island chain.
As its name suggests the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens on Victoria Peak is as much a place for animal life as plants. Don’t forsake the horticultural side for the primates and reptiles though, as its thematic spaces, especially the greenhouse and Camelia Garden, which houses some 30 species, are real treats.
Tai Po’s Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden is also recommended for a retreat from the city and its incredible views of the new territories. Nature lovers and photographers will also enjoy the Butterfly Garden, whose carefully curated plant collection attracts many of the region’s most beautiful flying insects.
Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain is divided into many ‘feature gardens’ which highlight the broad spectrum of the continent’s plant life as well as that of other regions (the HSBC Oriental Garden). It’s also the best place in the city for spotting indigenous wildlife, from insects to owls and lizards if you’re lucky. The park’s colony of up to 22, 000 Flying-foxes is also still easily visible, though the bats’ relocation due to significant tree damage is currently being planned.
It’s not as if Barbados’ landscapes aren’t beautiful enough, but a visit to Andromeda Botanic Gardens in St Joseph is still worthwhile. Right on the island’s east coast, this charming spot began as a private collection and labour of love. Later it was bequeathed to the Barbados National Trust, who now take care of its excellent array of orchids, palms and heliconia, which sit either side of a small stream; a getaway from a getaway, if you will.
With a whopping 740 acres-worth of natural beauty, a visit to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is more than worth the 30 minutes’ drive from Johannesburg proper. More like a national park than most botanical gardens, this incredible wide-open space has been a popular picnic spot since well before its formal designation in 1982. The cliffs around the garden’s magnificent Witpoortjie waterfall are well known as the nesting place of a pair of African Black Eagles.
For the best fares to any of the above destinations, hop on over to www.virginatlantic.com.