If you’re planning a holiday and would like to see some stunning gardens as part of your trip, certain destinations offer some of the most beautiful horticultural havens.
“With the ever-increasing fast pace of daily life, visiting the calmness and tranquillity of, for example, a Japanese garden or that of a French chateau, is a must,” says Rob Debenham, show manager at Destinations – The Holiday & Travel Show.
“The best way to find beautiful gardens to visit is by checking out a country’s tourist board websites. Often the most stunning will be set against the backdrop of a historical building or monument.
“When looking for the perfect garden to visit, do also consider seasonal factors that could impact the beauty of its landscape,” he adds.
Standout gardens include:
1. Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco
“Marrakech is a wonderful place to visit if you’re interested in gardens, particularly the Jardin Majorelle, which was owned by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé,” says Kirsty Fergusson, gardens expert at Kirker Holidays.
“Not only is this the most spectacular combination of colour and form, with striking foliage against the backdrop of their brightly-painted villa, but it remains a serious horticultural experience as well. With the addition of the fascinating new museum dedicated to the fashion designer himself, this makes for a highlight of the itinerary for many guests.”
2. Keukenhof, Lisse, Holland
Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, a staggering seven million flower bulbs were planted by hand over three months from October to December, which will come to fruition at the park, which is open from 21 March to 12 May. Started in 1949 as an initiative by 10 flower bulb growers who wanted to showcase the flower bulb trade, it has since become an iconic landmark awash with swathes of colourful tulips and other bulbs, towering trees, sculptures, water gardens and, of course, the obligatory windmills.
3. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Cape Town, South Africa
If you’re planning a trip to Cape Town, don’t miss the wonders of one of the world’s most famous botanical gardens on the lower eastern slopes of Table Mountain, featuring around 36 hectares of cultivated garden within the 526-hectare Kirstenbosch estate and nature reserve stretching up the mountainside.
More than 9000 plant species found here make up the Cape Flora and you’ll find prominent plant collections including fynbos of restios (Cape reeds), proteas, cycads, ericas, clivias and succulents. Visit between December and March (their summer) for the most glorious colour. There’s an abundance of birds, from the iridescent hues of the sunbird to the olive thrushes and Cape robin-chats, which hide in thickets, as well as a wide mix of wildlife including grysbok and lynx, lizards and mongoose.
4. Kew Gardens, London
While these spectacular gardens have riches throughout the year, Kew’s new winter garden brings to life a forgotten corner of the garden on an elevated site, offering visitors a brilliant vantage point to view the surrounding landscape when the trees are bare.
A winding gravel trail takes visitors to multi-sensory hardy plantings with bold colours, interesting textures and rich fragrance, featuring sweet-smelling winter perfumes of chimonanthus, daphne, edgeworthia, winter-flowering cherry, sarcococca, viburnum and colourful stems of the cornus species.
Visit in June and you’ll find a rich palette of colours from peonies, laburnum and roses, as visitors enjoy Kew’s hugely impressive Great Broad Walk Borders, which were extended last year to feature swathes of additional summer colour and new beds devoted to drought-tolerant planting.
5. Gardens By The Bay, Singapore
You may think gardens are just for daytime, but this state-of-the-art compound comes alive at night thanks to its huge canopies of ‘Supertrees’, tree-like vertical gardens that generate solar energy and offer a Garden Rhapsody light show every night. You’ll need at least half a day to explore everything else in the 100-hectare space, including the Flower Dome, the world’s largest glass greenhouse, and Cloud Forest, complete with one of the world’s tallest indoor waterfalls, a treetop walk and a lush mountain housing plants from around the world. You can also get a showstopping view of the Singapore skyline from Bay East.
6. Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy
Step back in time to the elegant, formal 16th-century Italian gardens in the heart of Florence, implemented by the Medici family and backing on to the Pitti Palace, with their wide gravel avenues, ornate fountains, statuary and stone. Described as the ‘green lung’ of Florence and essentially an open-air museum, the 45-hectare garden features ancient oak trees and green architecture with its branch archways, and plenty of shade from the summer sun. Highlights include the amphitheatre, the Viottolone (a large avenue flanked by cypresses and statuettes), the Garden of the Cavaliere and the Grotta Grande. Stroll around the Upper Botanical Garden to discover ponds for aquatic plants and some interesting exotics.
7. Gardens of Versailles, France
If you look through the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles you can see these hugely grand 17th-century gardens in all their glory, their elegant parterres and elaborate fountains, manicured lawns and magnificent sculptures, in a classic French formal garden style designed by André Le Nôtre, among the most influential landscape architects in French history. He was commissioned by Louis XIV to widen the Royal Way and dig the Grand Canal beyond. With the gardens and the Palaces of Trianon, the park spreads to almost 810 hectares
8. Tresco Abbey Garden, Tresco Island, Isles of Scilly
Thanks to the Isles of Scilly’s temperate oceanic climate – it’s 45km from Cornwall and the warmest place in the British Isles – this seven-hectare garden, dubbed ‘Kew without the glass’ and protected by salt-tolerant evergreen trees, houses some 2000 specimens from all over the world, from Brazil to New Zealand, Myanmar to South Africa. Established by Augustus Smith, the 19th-century proprietor of the islands, originally as a private garden, he created terraces in the south-facing slope to accommodate a mixture of species. The hotter terraces became home to South African and Australian plants, while the cooler ones welcomed species from New Zealand and South America.
Visitors will find all manner of exotic plants, including huge palms, giant red flame trees, king protea and lobster claw, as well as swathes of blue echium, carpets of bright pink pelargoniums and strelitzia.
Have you been to any of these gardens? Could you recommend any other gardens for travellers? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?
– With PA