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Best Botanical Gardens in Our Destinations

by andrew July 2011 - last edited February 2013 by Community Manager

 

Those colourful and well-tended spaces that create a simultaneously exotic and educational environment; botanical gardens are among our favourite places to visit in our destination cities across the world. We get back to nature with some of the very best...

 

New York

The sprawling 250 acres of the Bronx's New York Botanical Garden are home to 50 separate gardens including the beautiful Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden. Summer is the time to stroll along the vibrant Daylily Walk, but special events and flower shows are held throughout the year, including the famous Holiday Train Show around Christmas time.

 

Lotus pods at New York Botanical Garden by freddielasenna on Flickr

Lotus pods at New York Botanical Garden by freddielasenna on Flickr

 

Somewhat more intimate than its uptown equivalent, Brooklyn Botanic Garden is packed with speciality gardens including the world's oldest Children's garden and the wonderfully calming Japanese Hill-and-Pond garden. There's also a bonsai museum and art gallery.

 

San Francisco

The San Francisco Botanical Garden within Golden Gate Park has an incredibly diverse collection of around 50,000 plants including many tropical species – its Meso-American and Southeast Asian Cloud Forest collections are among the many highlights. It's also a stone's throw from the equally wonderful Japanese Tea Gardens and Conservatory of Flowers.

 

Reflections at San Francisco Botanical Garden by tibchris on Flickr

Reflections at San Francisco Botanical Garden by tibchris on Flickr

 

The delights of Golden Gate Park may be myriad, but it's still worth a trip across the water to the University of California Botanical Garden at the Berkeley campus, which overlooks the bay. Famed for its many rare and endangered species, the garden's orchid, sunflower and cacti collections are also unrivalled.

 

Washington D.C

With ties to historical, congress-sponsored global expeditions, the capital's United States Botanic Garden is the oldest facility of its kind in the country. To enter its conservatory is to take a trip across continents and through time, with deserts, jungles and many other unique environments represented in one place. A three-in-one experience, it also includes the National Garden and the exquisitely landscaped Bartholdi Park.

 

United States Botanic Garden by Pierdelune

United States Botanic Garden © Pierdelune | Dreamstime.com

Las Vegas

Even in Las Vegas you can break from the neon and get back to nature at the (free) Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Being Vegas of course, this is a little different to your average plant paradise, with incredibly bold and eccentric displays that change with the seasons.

 

Los Angeles

Alongside its impressive South American, Mediterranean, South African and Australian collections, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is also home to a flock of around 200 Peafowl. The garden's other intriguing aspect is its haunted history: the Queen Ann Cottage has been the site of many alleged ghost sightings.

 

Peacock at the Los Angeles County Arboretum DaveReichert on Flickr

Peacock at the Los Angeles County Arboretum DaveReichert on Flickr

London

Treetop Walkway at London's Kew Gardens by Phillie Casablanca on Flickr

Treetop Walkway at London's Kew Gardens by Phillie Casablanca on Flickr

 

Housing the world's largest living plant collection, the huge Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been an important research centre and visitor attraction for 250 years. Its latest big draw (among many) is the fantastic 200-metre long Treetop Walkway.

 

Originally founded to aid botany-related medical studies, Chelsea Physic Garden is now something of an oasis for Londoners. Its high brick walls and close proximity to the Thames help create a 'secret garden' atmosphere and unique microclimate, allowing for the growth of grapefruit and the UK's largest fruiting olive tree.

 

Tokyo

Tokyo now has a few botanical gardens but Jindai Shokubutsu Kōen is the original. Arranged with typical Japanese attention to detail, its thirty areas are each dedicated to subspecies of a particular plant, with its main attraction the Rose Garden hosting some 400-odd varieties. The garden makes for an educational and relaxing stroll and the perfect antidote to the metropolitan hubbub.

 

Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome, Tokyo by t.ohashi on Flickr

Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome, Tokyo by t.ohashi on Flickr

 

Once a landfill site, the artificial 'Dream Island' Yumenoshima is now an attractive park and the site of Tokyo's Tropical Greenhouse Dome. Actually consisting of three domes, the indoor garden perfectly recreates exotic rainforest habitats with its 1000 species collection. The C dome is dedicated to the flora of Japan's own tropical Ogasawara Island chain.

 

Hong Kong

Venus Flytrap at Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens by fung.leo on Flickr

Venus Flytrap at Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens by fung.leo on Flickr

 

As its name suggests the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens on Victoria Peak is as much a place for animal life as plants. Don't forsake the horticultural side for the primates and reptiles though, as its thematic spaces, especially the greenhouse and Camelia Garden, which houses some 30 species, are real treats.

 

Tai Po's Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden is also recommended for a retreat from the city and its incredible views of the new territories. Nature lovers and photographers will also enjoy the Butterfly Garden, whose carefully curated plant collection attracts many of the region's most beautiful flying insects.

 

Sydney

Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain is divided into many 'feature gardens' which highlight the broad spectrum of the continent's plant life as well as that of other regions (the HSBC Oriental Garden). It's also the best place in the city for spotting indigenous wildlife, from insects to owls and lizards if you're lucky. The park's colony of up to 22, 000 Flying-foxes is also still easily visible, though the bats' relocation due to significant tree damage is currently being planned.

 

Flying Foxes at Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney by Brian Giesen on Flickr

Flying Foxes at Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney by Brian Giesen on Flickr

Barbados

Handcarved wooden bench at Walter Sisulu National Botanic Garden © Patrick Allen | Dreamstime.com

Handcarved wooden bench at Walter Sisulu National Botanic Garden by Patrick Allen

 

It's not as if Barbados' landscapes aren't beautiful enough, but a visit to Andromeda Botanic Gardens in St Joseph is still worthwhile. Right on the island's east coast, this charming spot began as a private collection and labour of love. Later it was bequeathed to the Barbados National Trust, who now take care of its excellent array of orchids, palms and heliconia, which sit either side of a small stream; a getaway from a getaway, if you will.

 

Johannesburg

With a whopping 740 acres-worth of natural beauty, a visit to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is more than worth the 30 minutes' drive from Johannesburg proper. More like a national park than most botanical gardens, this incredible wide-open space has been a popular picnic spot since well before its formal designation in 1982. The cliffs around the garden's magnificent Witpoortjie waterfall are well known as the nesting place of a pair of African Black Eagles.

 

Thanks to Flickr photographers Brian Giesen, fung.leo, t.ohashi, Phillie Casablanca, DaveReichert, tibchris and freddielasenna.

For the best fares to any of the above destinations, hop on over to www.virginatlantic.com.


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About the author: andrew

Andrew Bowman

Andrew is an occasional contributor to the Virgin Atlantic blog. He lived in the Japanese countryside for two years until he could no longer resist the pull of London's galleries, pubs and clubs. He likes to pretend he can speak Japanese and also sometimes writes about music.