Landmarks: Top Botanical Gardens Around the World

These 10 spectacular havens not only reflect their countries’ cultures, but also exude a rare tranquillity. Take some time to stop and smell the roses.

By Bree Sposato

The Master-of-Nets Garden

Suzhou, China

Designed during the second Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279), this garden in southeast China is relatively tiny, at about an acre, but makes impressive use of space. Pavilions, music rooms, bamboo groves and more are harmoniously arranged. Check out the central garden, where an arched bridge less than a foot wide spans a pond and piles of yellow stones resemble mountains. The inner garden, meanwhile, was the model for the Ming Hall Garden, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. szwsy.com

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Tokyo, Japan

This elegant expanse in the heart of the city—laid out in 1629 by a feudal lord—is surprisingly quiet. Today, the garden is home to a grove of ginkgo trees, three ponds, crumbling ruins, the Tokujin-do temple and small rice fields. Plum and weeping cherry trees make the spring an especially lovely time to visit. tokyo-park.or.jp

Na ’Aina Kai Botanical Garden

Kauai, Hawaii

Abundant sunshine and warm showers make this 240-acre manicured garden on Kauai’s north shore a lush paradise. You’ll find nutmeg trees, hibiscus and the neon pointed blooms of birds-of-paradise. Wander through the on-site sculpture park (containing 160 pieces by 60 artists, it’s one of the largest bronze-sculpture collections in the country), and explore the plantation of 60,000 hardwoods. There’s also a great children’s play area. naainakai.org

Denver Botanic Gardens

Colorado

Colorado’s dry climate is on spectacular display at the Denver Botanic Gardens, which are split between three locations: the main, 24-acre York Street enclosure; the larger Chatfield meadow and historic homestead; and the Mount Goliath alpine-wildflower garden. Exhibitions change with the seasons (one focused on Dale Chihuly was on view most recently), and the 5,258-square-foot Science Pyramid learning center just opened. botanicgardens.org

Biltmore

Asheville, North Carolina

This 8,000-acre estate is home to six formal gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who played a key role in creating Central Park, in New York City. They are arranged around the 250-room Biltmore House, built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s and the country’s largest house in continuous private ownership. Don’t miss the four-acre Walled Garden, designed in a formal English style, where thousands of daffodils and tulips bloom in the spring. biltmore.com

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

New York

This spring, Brooklyn’s beloved 52-acre sanctuary debuts a Discovery Garden where kids can explore a meadow, a woodland and a marsh and experience a hands-on-gardening area. On April 25 and 26 the cherry-blossom festival, Sakura Matsuri, offers 60 events that celebrate Japanese culture. Highlights will include a fashion show, a folk dance, a tea ceremony and ikebana (flower arranging). bbg.org

Jardim Botânico

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazilian beauties, such as orchids and bromeliads, dot the 345-acre enclave, around which its namesake neighborhood grew. Expect endangered species and giant waterlilies, and visit the three themed sections: the Cactário, the Japanese Garden and the Sensory Garden. Don’t miss the greenhouse, which contains insectivorous (called “carnivorous”) species, such as Venus fly traps. jbrj.gov.br

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Richmond, Surrey, England

Greenhouses are the draw at this 326-acre oasis, which earned a spot on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites thanks to its terrific collection; there are 2,000 varieties of plants, some specimens dating from the 18th century. Of the six conservatories, don’t miss the Palm House, which is filled with towering palms. In February and March consider a visit for the orchids alone. kew.org

Fondation Claude Monet, at Giverny

Normandy, France

Art lovers will delight in the legendary painter’s former home, spread over nearly five acres in Giverny. The garden is divided into two parts: The Clos Normand is like a living en plein air painting, complete with thousands of tulips, peonies and irises. At the Water Garden, meanwhile, a Japanese-style bridge stretches over a lily pond—a scene that inspired Monet’s gorgeous Nymphéas series. fondation-monet.com

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Cape Town, South Africa

Set on 90 acres along the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the garden grows flowers from all over southern Africa, like the spiky king protea, and was the first in the world to be included within a Natural World Heritage site. Get panoramic mountain views as you walk along Kirstenbosch’s new, 426-foot-long steel-and-wood canopy walkway, inspired by a snake’s skeleton. Another highlight: the Colonel Bird’s Bath, in the Dell, a bird-shaped pool filled with crystal-clear water from a natural spring. sanbi.org

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Spring 2015