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Springtime Sights: America’s Public Gardens
Spend your next road trip visiting gorgeous gardens across the country!
April is National Garden Month, so this is a great time to start planning one or more trips to visit some of our country’s many spectacular public gardens. Keep in mind that gardens in some parts of the U.S. are open on a seasonal basis, so be sure to check their dates and hours of operation before you visit.
Here are a few great gardens to consider:
Located in Phoenix, the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden offers visitors a great opportunity to explore the unique beauty of the Sonoran Desert. The garden includes five loops: Desert Discovery, Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert, Sonoran Desert Nature, the Center for Desert Living and the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Trail. The garden is also known for its special art events that have included world-renowned artists like Dale Chihuly, and for its seasonal activities such as plant sales and Butterfly Walks.
Madame Ganna Walska was a Polish opera singer and socialite who purchased this 37-acre Santa Barbara estate in 1941 and spent the next 43 years collecting exotic plants that reflected her love of “the dramatic, the unexpected, and the whimsical.” After her death in 1984, Lotusland became a nonprofit botanical garden where visitors can view aloe, bromeliads, cactus, ferns, succulents and other unique plantings. Lotusland is also dedicated to green practices and offers information on how to create sustainable gardens.
This 170-acre tropical garden is located 10 minutes from downtown Naples and includes a variety of sights to see, including Asian, Brazilian and Caribbean themed gardens. There’s also a special Florida garden that showcases the state’s unique flora and landscape, as well as a water garden described as being “reminiscent of Claude Monet’s water lily pool.” The garden also offers family events and programs for adults in the areas of art, gardening and horticulture, health and wellness and nature and birding.
Set on 270 acres of tidal shoreland in the Boothbay area, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens offers plenty to explore, including meditation, rose and perennial and hillside gardens; the Burpee Kitchen Garden and a children’s garden. There are also multiple trails to hike, such as the Maine Woods and Shoreline trails. Other visitor amenities include RV parking, a family education center and a dog walk trail.
Dating back to 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis is the nation’s oldest botanical garden in continuous operation and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Highlights include a 14-acre Japanese strolling garden, founder Henry Shaw’s country residence which was built in 1849, an authentic Victorian garden, a children’s garden, a conservatory housed in a geodesic dome called the Climatron, and one of the world’s largest collections of rare and endangered orchids.
Spanning 5.5 acres, the Portland Japanese Garden is composed of five different types of gardens that reflect the history and culture of Japan. Each of these gardens is designed to create a sense of peace, harmony and tranquility. Choices include the Flat Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden which includes two ponds, a stream and waterfall; the Tea Garden where stepping stones create a path through a wooded setting to the teahouse; the Natural Garden and the meticulously-raked patterns of the Sand and Stone Garden. In late spring, the garden is enhanced by the blooms of azaleas, camellias and wisteria.
Established by entrepreneur and philanthropist Pierre S. du Point in the early 1900s, Longwood Gardens is located 30 miles west of Philadelphia and offers more than 1,000 acres containing dozens of gardens to explore. A few examples are the Idea Garden, Topiary Garden, Fern Passage, Mediterranean Garden and a stunning indoor garden called the Orangery. Longwood Gardens also serves as a cultural center and offers numerous music, dance and theater events through its annual performance series.
Richmond’s 50-acre Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is set on land that formerly served as a Powhatan Indian hunting ground and was also once owned by Patrick Henry. There are more than 12 themed gardens to tour, including a rose garden, a children’s garden, a domed conservatory, a community kitchen garden, an Asian garden and a cherry tree walk. The garden also offers many activities, including classes, family events and plant shows.