10 glorious gardens to explore
Think about azaleas bursting into bloom in spring, glorious desert cacti in a bevy of bright colors or a world-class garden drawing visitors to an abandoned quarry in Canada. If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing Monet’s Garden in Giverny, you can without having to fly across the pond: A good replica exists in Kansas. Want to see a real Japanese garden? They abound in the U.S., with a particularly lovely one on the late Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate in Washington, D.C.
There's still time to organize a garden-tour vacation or visit a special place close to home before summer is gone for good. Here are suggestions for unique gardens, all with their own rewards. This is only the tip of the trowel; beautiful gardens bloom in every corner of the United States and Canada.
Bellingrath Gardens and Home, Theodore, Ala.
For: seeing one of America’s best public rose gardens
It is amazing what bottling Coca-Cola can do. In the case of Walter Bellingrath, it made him over-the-top rich in the midst of the Depression, enabled him to marry his flower-loving secretary, and led to the creation of Bellingrath Gardens on 65 acres just 15 miles south of Mobile, Ala.
In 1932, when most folks couldn’t afford much pleasure, Bellingrath put an ad in the newspaper, inviting anyone who wanted to see his gardens to come. Folks are still arriving. Today’s garden features more than 2,000 roses in 75 different varieties, as well as camellias in winter and abundant azaleas in spring, when the crepe myrtle, frangipani and begonias are also at their finest.
Visitors can also tour the Bellingrath home and take a narrated cruise on the Fowl River aboard “The Southern Belle” — a treat for bird watchers.
Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, Canada
For: becoming one of the nearly 1 million annual visitors to this world-class garden
Yes this garden is in Canada, but it’s in Brentwood Bay, near Victoria on Vancouver Island, and easily accessible from Washington State. And Butchart Gardens is sufficiently superb to rank among the great gardens of the world. That’s why close to a million delighted annual visitors can thank cement for being able to enjoy this picture-perfect setting.
An entreprenur named Robert Butchart needed limestone to manufacture cement. He found it here and made a fortune. Later, his wife — the company’s chemist — turned the abandoned limestone quarry into a glorious sunken garden, filled with flowers in the most vivid colors that nature can design and backed by mountains decorated with towering evergreens.
That’s only one part of the garden. In spring, more than 300,000 bulbs burst into bloom. In summer, pick up a posh picnic on Saturday nights, watch fireworks and hear a massive Aeolian pipe organ boom out melodies.
Coastal Maine Gardens, Boothbay Harbor, Maine
For: seeing the sea while enjoying gardens
What could be lovelier than strolling through gardens rich with iris and roses and rhododendron while walking past a pretty waterfall, all just feet away from the Atlantic Ocean? Coastal Maine Gardens lives up to its name, providing a bevy of beautiful gardens virtually at water’s edge.
If the salt air combined with the fragrance of flowers doesn’t sufficiently stir visitors’ senses, the gardens’ Lerner Garden of the Five Senses is virtually guaranteed to. Signage includes descriptions in Braille. Raised plantings ensure that folks in wheelchairs can see over the garden’s stone walls. Visitors are encouraged to savor the aroma of the flowers and to enjoy the sharp scent of the ocean water.