This editorial feature was made possible by Hartley Botanic: Award Winning Greenhouses & Glasshouses in the United Kingdom.
It’s pretty well-established that spending time in nature is a great stress reducer. The fresh air and greenery do wonders to ease tension, and nature’s beauty is great for bringing a smile to your face.
However, for city-dwellers, sometimes it can be tough to find an inch of undeveloped land. That’s where botanic gardens come in: these cultivated jewels can be found in cities around the globe, and generally feature an amazing array of plants, water features and indoor habitats. Read on to see our top picks for the 8 most amazing botanical gardens in the world.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, USA
There are a handful of botanical gardens in New York, but the Brooklyn Botanic Garden stands out from the crowd. It was established in 1910, sits on 52 acres, and is the most-visited botanic garden in the country. Home to more than 12,000 plant species, highlights of the garden include the Cherry Esplanade, the Steinhardt Conservatory and the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum.
According to Travel and Leisure, the BBG is also home to one of the world’s most unpleasant flowers, which last bloomed six years ago: “In 2006, one of the rarest, largest and stinkiest flowers in existence, the Sumatran Amorphophallus titanium, or corpse flower, blossomed on the premises (a highly—and, to the scent-sensitive, mercifully—infrequent occurrence).” It’s hard to predict when it will bloom again, but it’s worth visiting the garden on the off chance that it might happen. If you prefer a rosier scent, check out some of the other gardens on the grounds, such as Fragrance Garden, the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the Lily Pool Terrace, and of course, the Rose Garden.
Photo credit: Dave Bledsoe
Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden, South Africa
This national garden is located on 89 acres in Cape Town, on the slope of Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch prides itself on being the most beautiful garden in Africa, and the honor is well-deserved: like one other on this list, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although a large portion of the garden is cultivated, an even greater amount has been preserved to protect the land’s biodiversity (both flora and fauna).
Travel and Leisure explains that this conservation effort has been part of the design from the beginning. “Founded in 1913, this is the first national botanical garden established for the express purpose of local flora conservation, and even now, almost all the species therein are indigenous. Perhaps most famous is the garden’s trademark Crane Flower, a yellow version of which is named Mandela’s Gold.”
Photo credit: Brent Newhall
Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum, Germany
This Berlin botanical garden is, according to DK Travel, “one of the most important gardens in the world.” It’s most notable for its collection of 16 glasshouses (aka greenhouses), which are home to various plant collections, and include the Cactus Pavilion and the Pavilion Victoria. The 43-hectare garden also houses the Great Pavilion, which is the largest glasshouse in the world and contains an exhibit of giant bamboo.
The garden was established sometime between 1897 and 1910, and today is part of the Free University of Berlin. Other features on the grounds include the Botanical Museum, which contains a large herbarium and scientific library. The garden also houses a cemetery, which features tombs of three people important to its development, including explorer, ethnologist and botanist Georg Schweinfurth.
Photo credit: Mr172
Missouri Botanical Garden, USA
Originally the grounds of a private country estate, this St. Louis gem is now a 79-acre garden open to the public. St. Louis businessman Henry Shaw originally opened his land to the public in 1859, and highlights now include: “The 14-acre Japanese garden named Seiwa-en that is the largest such garden in the Western Hemisphere, the Climatron geodesic dome conservatory featuring exotic tropical plants, and a children’s garden complete with a limestone cave and tree house.”
This summer, the garden is hosting a Chinese lantern festival. The lanterns serve as art installations by day; at night, they light up the gardens with exotic beauty. The festival features, “Elaborate outdoor sets crafted of silk and steel celebrate Chinese culture through bold color, dazzling light and striking design. The exhibition offers visitors a unique opportunity to witness a spectacle rarely staged outside of Asia.” It ends August 19.
Photo credit: Chris Yunker
Singapore Botanic Garden, Singapore
Singapore is often referred to as the “Garden City,” and with good reason: there are 300 parks and 4 nature preserves on the island. One of the most stellar is the 183-acre botanic garden, which boasts more than 20,000 orchids, as well as wild monkeys and terrapins. Founded in 1859, it’s the only botanic garden in the world that’s open every day from 5 AM to midnight, and with the exception of the National Orchid Gallery, there’s no admission fee. The Gallery is considered the garden’s main attraction, and features tropical orchids, hybrids, cool-weather flowers and a Bromeliad House.
There are more than just orchids, though. In addition to the aforementioned Gallery, there is also a rainforest, a children’s garden, an evolution garden, and a ginger garden. The grounds are home to a botany center and herbarium, as well as three lakes, a stream walk and a sundial garden. Another bonus: due to its British history, Singapore provides a unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures. And because English is one of the national languages, visiting is a breeze for English-speakers.
Photo credit: Edwin Lee
Jardin Botanique de Montreal, Canada
One might think that Canada’s cold winters would make gardening a challenge, but the Jardin Botanique in Montreal proves that theory wrong. The garden, which was founded in 1931, takes advantage of both indoor and outdoor spaces to provide a year-round treasure to visitors. In warmer months, check out the 30 themed gardens, which include “the largest Chinese Garden outside Asia and the Japanese Garden, dedicated to bonsai and featuring some exquisite water features,” as well as a First-Nations Garden that focuses on the cultivation of North American crops.
When the weather turns cool, head indoors to the Insectarium, which contains 160,000 live and preserved bug specimens. The highlight is the “‘Butterflies Go Free’ exhibit, during which thousands of live tropical butterflies and moths are released into the glasshouses.” According to the Insectarium’s website, “A visit to the Montréal Insectarium takes you into an unknown and fascinating new world, with something for all ages. You’re sure to be amazed at the incomparable adaptations and surprising behaviours of nature’s champions.”
Photo credit: Robert Lafond
Royal Botanic Garden, England
Located in Kew, a suburb of London, the Royal Botanic Gardens are home to the world’s largest collection of plants (as well as a staff of 650). There are several ways to tour the nearly 300 acres, including the Kew Explorer, a 72-seat train that tours the garden, and the Treetop Walkway, which winds through 200 meters of woodland canopy. The gardens also contain one of Europe’s largest compost heaps, which can be observed from a special viewing platform.
One of the most interesting features of the garden is the Davies Alpine House, an eco-friendly building that houses cool weather plants without the use of refrigeration, instead relying on a series of underground pipes to maintain the appropriate climate. There’s also a Water Lily House, a Temperate House, a Palm House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The Royal Botanic Gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and like others on the list, the grounds include an herbarium (one of the world’s largest) as well as a library with more than 750,000 books.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Longwood Gardens, USA
Like the Missouri Botanic Garden, Longwood Gardens was once a private estate; in this case, the land was originally owned by the DuPont family, but was converted to a public garden in 1919. Located near Philadelphia, the garden sits on more than 1,000 acres and includes 20 outdoor gardens and 20 indoor ones, which are maintained in a mile-and-a-half’s worth of greenhouses. Exhibits include: The Orangery, Silver Garden, Acacia Passage, Orchid House, Cascade Garden, Palm House, Mediterranean Garden, Tropical Terrace and the Outdoor Water Garden.
One of the quirkiest features in the Longwood Organ, a “10,010 pipe instrument…[that] plays into the Longwood ballroom and can be heard throughout the conservatory when adjoining window panels are opened. Its pipes may be viewed from the rear through glass panels in Longwood’s organ museum.” Longwood offers plenty of summer activities, such as light nights, wine dinners, fireworks and fountains, and the festival of fountains. The garden also hosts performing arts, including concerts, plays and more.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Although these eight botanical gardens are all stunning and worth a visit, they’re by no means the only ones out there. Most major cities around the world offer their own botanic garden: they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from Tokyo’s biodomes to Chicago’s struggling Garfield Park Conservatory. When planning your next vacation, why not consider one of these eight selections, or find one a little closer to home? You’ll be glad you did!
Hartley Botanic is an award winning company which offer a range of greenhouses, glasshouses and other accessories in the United Kingdom. Visit the website to request a brochure or read the gardening blog full of gardening advice and tips. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Pinterest for the latest from the company (and incredible greenhouse images that will make you swoon).