Here we are again friends. Because there are just to many beautiful Botanic Gardens in the world. Part two of my ultimate Botanic Gardens Global roundup! If you haven’t read part one you can read it here now. Without further ado…
Leigh – Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
In the process of writing a guide book that covers all the fun things to do in Arizona, I’ve been to nearly every botanical garden in the state. And there are some really, really good ones. But my favorite is the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, in my current hometown of Tucson. In fact, the ASDM is the first place I ever visited on my first trip to Tucson many years ago!
The museum is located just outside the borders of Saguaro National Park on the west side of Tucson in the Tucson Mountains. Nearly 100 acres are included in the museum and over 50,000 plants. Some of the best exhibits are the cactus gardens, agave garden and the Desert Loop hiking trail. My favorite part of the museum is the hummingbird aviary and the raptor free flight is a close second place. The docents here are fantastic and knowledgeable, ready to answer any questions you might have.
You can easily spend a full day at the ASDM, and with the child-friendly exhibits, it’s really fun for the whole family. While the majority of exhibits are outdoors, the Packrat Playhouse is indoors as are the cafes so you can take a couple of breaks from the Arizona heat while you explore. The two gift shops at ASDM also carry very high quality jewelry and art, as well as books and other souvenirs. The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is open year-round and offers fun events, classes and even field trips locally and abroad. It only takes one visit to see why ASDM was named the #5 public garden in the United States by TripAdvisor in 2013.
Grace – Garnish Island, Ireland
If you’ve ever stepped foot on Irish soil, the word “tropical” probably doesn’t spring to mind. But head for Garnish Island off the southwest coast of County Cork, and subtropical botanical gardens are exactly what you’ll find.
Reachable by a quick 15 minute ferry ride from Glengarriff village (a gorgeous little place to stop, by the way, for a pint of Murphy’s and a good pub lunch in the Park Hotel), Garnish Island is rather unlike anywhere else you’ll find in Ireland. By the grace of the sheltered bay and the gulf stream that runs nearby, the island’s microclimate is a few shades warmer than that of the mainland, allowing for the carefully planted botanical garden and exotic plants to thrive.
Walled gardens spilling over with roses, sky tickling trees, and tropical-looking blooms all come in hefty droves on Garnish Island; but the adventure starts before you even reach the shores. On the ferry over, you’re likely to pass dozens of seals lazing and playing around in the water and rocks in the little bay; meanwhile the local ferry driver will give you a run-down of the surrounding area — including the house of iconic Irish actress, Maureen O’Hara.
Once on the island, take your pick between heading for the easy hiking trails through the woods; the Martello Tower overlooking Bantry Bay; or head straight to the botanical gardens themselves. There are a myriad of pathways that lead around them, and exploring them all is one of the most fabulous things you can do in West Cork.
On a practical note, make sure you wear/bring clothes for rain and shine; the nature of the Irish climate means it could be sun-splitting sunshine one second and hammering rain the next! The return boat trip from Glengarriff costs about 12 euro (tickets can be bought from signposted outlets in the village) while entry to the island costs 5.
Mel – Balchik, Bulgaria
The little seaside town of Balchik is specifically famous for its Palace and botanical garden. The Palace and the garden are one architectural complex located on a hill that overlooks the Black Sea. The Palace and its garden were built for Queen Marie of Romania (the region felt under the control of Romania around 1913 after the Second Balkan War.) The palace has different styles that are characterized by an architectural design combining Proto-Bulgarian, Gothic, Oriental and Moorish elements. The palace is home of places of worship of several different religions, as the Queen was open-minded and was known for her religious searching. You can visit both, the palace and gardens or you can choose to only visit the gardens.
The botanic garden has more 2 000 plant species from 85 families and over 800 genera. It has a rich collection of palm-trees with 33 species and some of them are older than 40 years! It also has the second-largest cacti and succulent collection with 600 specimens.
Roses are the symbol of Bulgaria, and these cannot be missed, you can admire the beautiful rose garden that overlooks the beach.
In spring, you can see the Tulip Festival, where tulips and a multitude of other flowers come to bloom, celebrating the arrival of the hot weather. Inside the gardens, you will also find the Queen’s Winery House. This is the perfect place to take a breath, admire the plants and the view, and to taste Bulgarian wine! While you wander around the gardens, you will get glimpses of ponds, bridges, pavilions, alleys, labyrinths and beautiful architecture in the background. The garden feels like it is straight out from a fairy tale, real princess and all!
Coni- Tbilisi, Georgia
The National Botanic Garden of Georgia, also known as Tbilisi Botanic Garden, is a big green lung in the buzzling Georgian capital city. After seeing the sights, join the locals while they look for peace and quiet in this beautiful park. Take a stroll around the main
paved areas, go hiking or cycling on the dirt paths, or simply sit in a bench and relax surrounded by nature. Leave some time to discover the many bridges that cross the river that runs through the garden, look for waterfalls, and get the especial vibe of the
park-within-the-park: the Japanese garden.
The Botanic Garden is centuries old, going back to the 17th century. There’re records stating that it was founded in 1625 as the Royal Gardens. It stretches in the Tsavkisis-Tskali gorge, on the southern side of the Tbilisi-Sololaki range, for an area of about 160 hectares. It houses over 4,500 species of flora from Georgia and around the world. Its location is one of its most amazing features – only few steps away from the city center in the valley beneath the cliffs of Narikala Fortress, giving you spectacular views of the fortification.
Its main entrance is from the top of the fortress (1, Botanikuri St.), which can be reached using the aerial tram from Rike Park, but I’d highly recommend walking up. It’s a bit of a steep road, but it goes around the Old Town, allowing you to explore its narrow cobblestone streets. There’s another entrance in Abanotubani, just behind the Tbilisi Mosque. The admission fee is 4 lari (about 1.25€), and it opens daily from 9AM to 8PM.
Naomi – Utrecht, The Netherlands
Located in the center of the Netherlands, only half an hour by train from Amsterdam, you can find Utrecht. Since 1639 you can find the Utrecht Botanical Gardens near the University. For only €8,50 you can have a fun and relaxing day in nature, with cultivated gardens, rock gardens, bee hives and flower and butterfly exhibitions. The gardens are open from March till December, but the most exciting time to visit is during the spring.
You’ll not only find tulips in this Dutch garden, but a wide variety of flowers and plans from all over the world! And insects of course. I particularly liked the bee garden with an abundance of flowers to keep the bees busy. They displayed several fun and creative DIY solutions to help the bees in your gardens too.
Highlight of my visit was the special dome with the butterfly exhibit. You can only see the butterflies when they are in season (April to September) but it was a true feast to see so many colorful varieties and different forms. They also had half open windows, so you could see inside to witness the miracle of a pop growing into a butterfly. I guess the butterflies likes me as much as I liked them because one big blue specimen choose my boobs as a landing area.
But even if you don’t have butterflies landing on your dress like a live ornament, you can still enjoy the gardens. They are set up to provide a colorful experience throughout the year, so if you’re in the Netherlands and want to escape the busy city life, go to the Botanic Gardens of Utrecht for some flora fun.
Sapna – Auroville, India
Pondicherry and Auroville are a popular destination in South of India. The beautiful French colony of Pondicherry and spiritual experience at Auroville attracts people from across the globe. The Auroville botanic garden is one of the must-visit places in Pondicherry. It is situated on the Coromandel coast of India. In the last few decades, this region had seen very fast grown in terms of real estate development and deduction of green areas.
The Auroville botanic gardens development was started in August 2000. It is developed in 50 acres of land, which was earlier used for cashew growing. The Auroville botanic garden is divided into 3 major parts. There is a dedicated area of 25-acres where more than 310 tree species are planted. Another 10 acres of lands are used as conservation forest with 5,500 specimens of trees. The most interesting part is a TDEF plant nursery, which is estimated to produce 50,000 seedlings every year to promote the re-introduction of the indigenous flora of the region.
There are programs run in Auroville botanic gardens to increase awareness among children. The groups of children are invited here from schools and given educational programs to explain the importance of saving the environment. This awareness program is one of the most unique initiatives of this botanical garden. They are trying to protect the local flora and fauna of this area and also encouraging local people to grow more plants. There is a fish aquarium also inside the botanical garden, where they have kept
some fishes available in the nearby area. There are musical fountains in the botanical garden and every day two fountains shows are organized here for the visitors. There is a toy train, which runs in some parts of the botanical garden for kids entertainment.
The Auroville botanical garden remains open between 10.00 AM to 05.00 PM. There is a nominal entry fee of 20 INR for adults and 5 INR for kids. It is 9 Km from the French town of Pondicherry. While you are in the botanical garden, also visit the Matrimandir in Auroville.
Mikaela – Copenhagen, Denmark
Situated amidst the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen lies a place where time slows down. The Botanical Garden, which covers 10 hectares and features more than 13,000 species of plants, is the perfect place to escape into a piece of wilderness without leaving the city.
While the gardens alone are wonderful, what distinguishes this botanical garden from others is the network of glasshouses dotting the grounds. Scattered throughout the garden are 27 glasshouses, the most striking being the Palm House. Dating back to 1874, the Palm House stands tall at 16 m and features old-fashioned spiral staircases to a passageway at the top of the house.
I visited the garden on my final day in Copenhagen. Arriving early morning, I stopped at the cafe inside the garden for a latte. I strolled along flower-lined pathways, over little bridges and under hanging trees. When I reached the Palm House, I walked among hundreds of plants whose labeled Latin names I couldn’t pronounce. The warmth and humidity in the glasshouse was welcome after walking here in a classically cloudy Copenhagen morning. I found a spiral staircase and climbed to the top, taking in the gardens from above. I got lost in thought surrounded by trees and flowers and cacti alike.
Visiting Copenhagen’s Botanic Garden is free, but entry into the Palm House is 60.00 DKK. It opens at 8:30 in the morning and this is when I recommend travellers visit. The gardens are peaceful, the espresso is good and I can’t think of a better way to start your day of exploring Copenhagen.
Lindsay – Ontario, Canada
Matilda – Singapore
Marcea – St. Petersburg, Florida
Downtown St. Petersburg, Florida is one of the last places you’d expect to find a peaceful
respite from the activity of the 5th largest city in the state. However, Sunken Gardens, located on 4 acres of land, is the perfect place to escape the bustle of the city and enjoy 50,000 the plants located there. Founded over 100 years ago by a local man who turned a shallow lake into his own private garden, Sunken Gardens eventually became one of Florida’s top roadside attractions. The city of St. Petersburg purchased the property in 1999 to help preserve the site to ensure that future generations would be able to enjoy the gardens.
The pathways of the gardens take you first to visit the birds that live at Sunken Gardens. There are parrots, macaws and flamingos who call the gardens home. Some of the flamingos are descendants of the original ones that arrived in 1957! After seeing the birds, the paths take you through lush areas of flora that include over 500 variety of plants, some of which were planned when the gardens were originally started. You’ll see many tropical varieties of plants such as bougainvillea, royal palms, birds of paradise and rainbow eucalyptus. There are also fountains, waterfalls and ponds filled with large koi;
very peaceful and quiet. Sunken Gardens has plenty of places to sit down and relax.
There’s even a large lawn area for events and weddings. Interested in learning more about plants or the workings of the gardens? Workshops and events such as the Flamingo Festival are educational, open to the public and help support the efforts of the garden. The next time you’re visiting the west coast of Florida, be sure to make a stop at Sunken Gardens. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $4 for children. Sunken Gardens is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Nikki – Bangalore, India