Hrm, it seems that if you can dream it, you can plant it.
Oftentimes, when we picture admirable gardens—usually, gardens worth visiting—the idea we initially have in mind is to find ones that are ostensibly pleasing to the eye. But, what does that mean, anyway? After all, garden/flora curation is, in fact, art. If you have any doubts about that, just take a look at any one of the palatial green spaces listed below.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Tuscany, Italy
In terms of aesthetics, there’s a lot happening at the Tarot Garden in Tuscany, but you shouldn’t expect anything less than beautiful chaos from the mind behind the project—French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. Painter/sculptor/filmmaker de Saint Phalle recruited dozens of artists over two decades to help her fill out the phantasmagorical sculpture garden, which opened to the public in 1998 and now welcomes over 100,000 guests annually. The property contains more than 20 sculptures and, according to de Saint Phalle herself, was designed to be “a small Eden where man and nature meet.”
Overhanging Gardens of Marqueyssac
WHERE: Vezac, France
A garden that contains roaming peacocks is arguably in-and-of-itself enough to warrant a whimsical status, but the Overhanging Gardens of Marqueyssac goes one step further by surrounding its walkways (it is a “walking garden” after all), with boxwoods that almost feel cartoonish in their objectively simple shape; there are 150,000 in total. The gardens, which opened in 1997, offer a spectacular panoramic view of the Dordgone Valley and achieves a style that can only be described as Alice in Wonderland meets Downton Abbey.
Lost Gardens of Heligan
WHERE: Cornwall, England
Spanning more than 200 hundred acres (and containing the “UK’s only jungle”), these Lost Gardens are likely most recognized by the three particularly whimsical leafy sculptures they contain: The Mudmaid, the Giant’s Head of Heligan, and the Grey Lady. Making a visit here feels like a trip inside a storybook; a storybook that’s 200 years old.
Fun Fact: There’s also a “Pineapple Pit” on the premises!
WHERE: Columbus, Ohio
Rock Garden of Chandigarh
WHERE: Chandigarh, India
A passion project of late government official Nek Chand Sani, who began work on it in 1957, this rock garden near Sukhna Lake is constructed from discarded and recycled items (i.e., home waste, glasses, and pots), which Sani found around the city. After 18 years, Sani learned that the 40-plus-acre land he’d been working on (which now contained copious numbers of sculptures) was actually an off-limits conservation space. When authorities with plans for demolition began to close in, public support saved the day; in 1976, the space was officially opened to the public and Sani was even granted a staff of 50 to assist him in fulfilling his plans.
Gardens by the Bay
This Singapore staple, with its manmade, massive Supertrees—that are, at their tops, connected by walkways—is visually arresting, especially when surrounded by fireworks. In addition to those vertical gardens, the Bay also features a misty cloud forest that houses rare flora as well as the largest indoor waterfall on the planet.
Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden
WHERE: Chonburi, Thailand
The dazzling beauty of this garden is courtesy of the placements of its shrubbery and its host of monuments (there’s a Stonehenge!). Spanning 500 acres, the botanical getaway has multiple themed gardens, restaurants, and rental houses on the premises; it’s a veritable theme park that’s primarily focused on types of cycads.
The Poison Garden (at The Alnwick Garden)
WHERE: Alnwick, England
As its name suggests, every plant here poses a significant risk to your health—and that’s what makes it so fascinating. Luckily, a visit the Alnwick Garden’s Poison Garden can only be arranged via a guided tour, and, if you do book one, expect to see approximately 100 toxic plants, including one that produces cyanide and another that can give you blisters for up to seven years.
INSIDER TIPPer the garden’s official site, “Visitors are strictly prohibited from smelling, touching, or tasting any plants, although some people still occasionally faint from inhaling toxic fumes while walking in the garden.”
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
WHERE: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Containing 40 permanent installations across 11 acres, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the largest sculpture garden in the U.S. The garden’s heart is the iconic “Spoonbridge and Cherry,” a peculiar fountain that pictures a cherry located on the end of a spoon that’s connecting two pieces of land broken up by a pond. The peculiarity continues at the nearby Walker Art Center, which is a partner of the Sculpture Garden and has thousands of works on display, most with a focus on “casual, performing, and media arts of our time.”
WHERE: Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Much like the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the Bookwork Garden has no shortage of elements that make you feel like you’ve stepped into your favorite children’s book. This time around, though, that’s the specific intention—to inspire the love of books and nature in youngsters. With giant mementos from the likes of Hansel and Gretel to Where the Wild Things Are, it’s not hard to get swept away upon visiting this family-friendly green space.