The world is filled with beautiful gardens, meticulously designed and lovingly grown with patience and vision that often draws upon influences from across the globe. For the traveler, a garden can be a world of its own to explore. From the awe of grand and spectacular arrangements to the delight of discovering secret nooks, forgotten archways, and quiet corners, gardens enchant visitors in ways no other places can. We've chosen a list of stunning gardens that range from the iconic to atypical to inspire you this spring. Get ready to be amazed.
Photo courtesy of VisitKeukenhof
It seems fitting to begin a world tour of amazing gardens with Keukenhof Gardens, the largest flower garden in the world. This "Garden of Europe" boasts seven million tulips, daffodils, and other bulbs, and helped the Dutch nation become the largest exporter of flowers in the world. The gardens open daily to visitors only from March through May and pack in a multitude of special events during the season. The grounds of Castle Keukenhof, located across from the gardens, remain open year-round.
Photo by Tony Souter © Dorling Kindersley
In 1883, impressionist painter Claude Monet moved to the small city of Giverny, France, with his wife and eight children. Even before the masterpieces that would sprout from his 43 years at Giverny, Monet was a famous artist, and this place would become as important to him as his paintings. Spending less and less time traveling and more time cultivating his garden, Monet built his own world through ponds, lilies, and overgrown wisteria, now fully restored to its early twentieth century glory. The garden and countryside home, known as Fondation Claude Monet, is open daily to visitors April through November. Copies of his paintings are on show, and original 19th- and 20th-century artworks hang nearby in the Musée des Impressionnismes.
Travelers looking for "the real Japan" get a rare taste at this national treasure in the culturally rich city of Kanazawa on the country's west coast. The Kenroku-en Garden's name literally translates to "garden with six characteristics," and it is one of only three gardens in the country to boast them all — spaciousness, seclusion, air of antiquity, ingenuity, flowing water, and panoramic views. The garden is open all year round with free admission. Free English-language tours of the garden and the adjacent feudal-era Kanazawa Castle are available.
You won't find another garden quite like this. Dreamt up by theorist and landscape architect Charles Jencks together with his wife, Maggie Keswick, in 1989, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation spans thirty acres at their home near Dumfries, Scotland. The garden uses curves and terraces built up and into the earth, bridges, fences, architectural structures, stones, and sculptures to explore themes of science and mathematics in the natural world. It aims to invite "speculation" about the nature of everything. Access to the grounds is limited. At one point visitors were allowed just one day a year through Scotland's Gardens Scheme.
The Nong Nooch Garden, located about two hours southeast of Bangkok, draws visitors from across Thailand, Southeast Asia, and the world to this six-hundred-acre botanical wonderland. Worth more than just a day trip, the gardens have transformed into a Thai-style theme park, with cottages and villas to rent, elephant shows and cultural presentations, a small zoo, and kid-friendly activities — in addition to hosting a major scientific center for the study and conservation of cycads (palmlike tropical plants) and the largest collection of orchids in the country.
Photo by Mockford and Bonetti © Dorling Kindersley
For a look at a formal European-style garden, it doesn't get more opulent than Isola Bella, an island in Italy's Lago Maggiore that was transformed into a "floating" palace and garden. Construction, which began in 1632, lasted forty years and filled the grounds with balustrades, hedges, obelisks, statues, and more. Today, visitors board a ferry from the sedate lakeside town of Stresa to take in the stunning views up the lake to the Alps atop the garden's terrace, rising 11 stories above the sea. The grounds are open March through October.
How does a "Garden City" transform into a "City in a Garden?" Singapore hopes the answer lies with the Gardens by the Bay development project, and a serious, long-term dedication to combining urbanization with nature conservation. The city-state boasts nearly 50% green space. The Bay South Garden, the first of the three planned gardens, opened in 2011 and showcases tropical horticulture and natural artistry. Its Flower Dome mimics seven climates from around the world; the Cloud Forest replicates tropical mountains; the Heritage Garden explores Singapore's history and culture. But, perhaps the most famous attraction is the Supertrees Grove, in which giant treelike structures act as towering vertical gardens that provide planting, shading, and energy for the gardens. The Grove and other outdoor gardens are free and open daily.
Photo courtesy of The Butchart Gardens Ltd., Victoria, BC, Canada
Quite possibly the greatest transformation on the list, The Butchart Gardens grew from the one-time industrial wasteland produced by limestone mining. Robert and Jennie Butchart commissioned the 55-acre garden in 1907 on their Vancouver Island property and subsequent generations have added to and maintained the land, now a designated National Historic Site of Canada. The grounds are open to public daily and feature more than 300 species of roses, along with other gardens and attractions, including the summer Evening Illuminations Tour in which the garden is transformed by colorful lights.
For a setting as inspiring as the garden itself, visit the Cosmovitral Botanical Garden in the city of Toluca de Lerdo, Mexico, about a 45-minute drive west of Mexico City. Dazzling stained glass murals cover more than 34,000 square feet, transforming the building into a canvas for the art nouveau style in metalwork. Originally the site of the city's market, today Cosmovitral contains more than five hundred plant species and is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday.
Pierre du Pont called it "an attack of insanity" in 1906 when he purchased the land that would become Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania's Brandywine Valley. By the 1950s that lunacy had evolved to encompass 926 acres, and today, more than 9,000 species and varieties of plants live within the gardens' collection. More than a million visitors are welcomed each year for displays and exhibitions, such as the Thousand-Bloom Chrysanthemum, as well as events and performances. Plus, Longwood cares for a group of rescued cats that now greet visitors in the gardens and shop.
Share your favorite gardens on our DK Travel Facebook page. We'd love to hear what gardens amaze you and add them to our list!