Visiting great gardens is one of America’s favorite pastimes, and some of these exquisite oases of beauty have become top tourist destinations. Here are five of the most spectacular…
Located on nine islands surrounded by lakes and acres of natural habitats, the Chicago Botanic Garden is open every day of the year and charges nothing for admission. It is composed of 24 distinctive gardens specializing in plants native to the Midwest.
The 15-acre Prairie Garden, for example, replicates several different kinds of wet- and dry-grass prairielands once common in the area. In the Waterfall Garden, visitors walk on footpaths over rushing streams cascading from a 45-foot waterfall, then follow a trail to the top of the falls for a grand view of the lake. The Japanese Garden spans three islands, perfect for contemplative strolls along winding paths and over small bridges. The centerpiece of the fields of annual flowers in the Circle Garden is a fountain spouting 32 cascading plumes of water, while the English Walled Garden encompasses six secluded “rooms,” or spaces, each representing a traditional English garden style.
Information: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, Illinois 60022, 847-835-5440, www.ChicagoBotanic.org
Open daily, 7 am to 9 pm, June 5 to September 5…8 am to sunset, September 6 to June 4. Admission: Free.
One of only eight woodland gardens in the US, Garvan is located on a 210-acre forested peninsula on Lake Hamilton in the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas, about six miles from Hot Springs. Forty acres are planted with native and exotic plants in a natural wooded setting and include thousands of azaleas, a shady fern glade, a Japanese garden and myriad waterfalls. The two-mile main trail loop invites visitors to meander through the woodlands graced with oases of seasonal plantings. The signature feature of the gardens is the Anthony Chapel that rises 57 feet into a tree canopy visible through a soaring glass ceiling. In addition, there are 45 acres of forested land with two miles of walking trails along the lake.
Information: Garvan Woodland Gardens, 550 Arkridge Rd., Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas 71913, 800-366-4664, www.GarvanGardens.com. Open daily 9 am to 6 pm, February through mid-November. From mid-November through December 31 (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day), open noon to 9 pm for the holiday lights show. Closed January. Admission: Adults $9…seniors 55+ $8…ages six to 12 $4…dogs on a leash $4.
This tranquil retreat (also pictured at the top of page 13) is situated on 5.5 acres of wooded land overlooking the city of Portland. Its three essential elements—plants, water and stones—are meticulously composed to create a refuge from worldly concerns, a place for quiet contemplation and reflection. It includes the Strolling Pond Garden with two ponds connected by small bridges crossing over a stream…the formal tea garden, where stepping stones lead to a traditional tea house, where a tea ceremony is performed…and the Flat Garden balancing the flat earth with stones and shrubbery. As you wander along gently winding paths that curve through hills and hollows, you pass koi-filled ponds, stone sculptures, raked landscapes, arbors and a five-tiered pagoda.
Information: Japanese Garden, Washington Park, Portland, Oregon 97205, 503-223-1321, www.JapaneseGarden.com. Open daily (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Noon to 7 pm on Monday…10 am to 7 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Admission: Adults $9.50…seniors 62+ and college students $7.75…students ages six to 17 $6.75.
This is the only botanical garden in the world that focuses solely on desert plants. Many of these are from the southwestern US and northern Mexico, and some are rare and endangered. On 145 acres among the buttes of Papago Park in the Phoenix area, the garden is divided into five trails, each with its own theme, including one with plants from every desert in the world…one highlighting the interdependency of desert plants and animals…and another showing how modern life affects the desert. Among the garden’s top attractions are the brilliant displays of wildflowers that bloom in spring despite the arid conditions.
Information: Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix 85008, 480-941-1225, www.dbg.org. Open every day (except July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas) 8 am to 8 pm, October through April…7 am to 8 pm, May through September. Admission: Adults $18…seniors 60+ $15…children ages 13 to 18 and college students $10…children ages three to 12 $8.
Originally created by the industrialist Pierre S. du Pont in the early 1900s, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley (about 30 miles west of Philadelphia) attracts more than a million visitors a year. It is renowned for its hundreds of fountains, 1,077 landscaped acres with 20 outdoor gardens, and 4.5 acres of glass conservatories that enclose 20 exquisitely composed indoor gardens. Favorite stops for visitors include the five-acre Fountain Garden and its decorated water canals, the ornate Italian Water Garden and a 600-foot Flower Garden Walk.
Longwood hosts hundreds of performing arts events a year, including concerts and theatrical performances in the Open Air Theatre. On summer evenings, the Festival of Fountains features illuminated evening water displays and fireworks, all set to music.
Information: Longwood Gardens, US Rte. 1, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania 19348, 610-388-1000, www.LongwoodGardens.org. Open every day, 9 am to 5 pm or later, depending on the season. Admission: Adults $18…seniors 62+ $15…students ages five to 18 and college students $8.
Source: Joan Rattner Heilman, a seasoned travel writer and columnist based in Mamaroneck, New York, is author of more than a dozen books, including Unbelievably Good Deals and Great Adventures That You Absolutely Can’t Get Unless You’re Over 50 (McGraw-Hill).