These unique, sometimes strange, and even deadly gardens aren't just a bed of roses.
Gardens are some of the world’s most-loved outdoor spaces. They’re a place to stop, reconnect, and reflect on the wonders of our world. But some gardens are much more unique than others.
While botanical gardens offer a look at beautiful plants and the delicacy of nature, these unusual gardens offer things that can’t be seen anywhere else on Earth. Some remind us of the dangers of the natural world. Others show the tenacity of nature in hostile environments. And others are testament to the force of human innovation long after habitation. In any case, these growing spaces are much more than pretty flower beds and deserve a dedicated trip of their very own.
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Forestiere Underground Gardens
WHERE: Fresno, California
In 1901, Sicilian artist Baldassare Forestiere came to California to become a citrus farmer. Nearly 40 years later, Forestiere had created a massive underground garden, grotto, and planting space that was more than 10 acres long.
Forestiere preferred impulsivity over heavy planning and created underground rooms without blueprints. He did not have access to heavy machinery or equipment, and carved away the difficult hardpan soil with a mining pick, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow. Today, the underground gardens showcase unique varieties of orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees, some of them more than 20 feet underground. There are also more unusual fruit varieties to be found, ranging from kumquat and loquat to jujube and quince.
Alnwick Poison Garden
WHERE: Alnwick, England
The lively gardens of Alnwick Castle were restored by the Duchess of Northumberland in 1997. This site is famous for its unique landscaping and beautiful scenery, including the “Lawn of Blue” and “Winter Vista.” But by far the most impressive highlight is the Poison Garden, a small but deadly park established in 2005.
The Poison Garden has one of the largest collections of poisonous plants on Earth, ranging from strychnine trees and foxgloves to hemlock and deadly nightshade. Estimates suggest that the garden contains more than 100 plants harmful to the human body.
Because of its extreme physical dangers, the Alnwick Poison Garden is locked during the day and only available for guided tours. Visitors beware: some tourists have been known to faint from the presence of toxic fumes.
Garden of Cosmic Speculation
WHERE: Dumfries, Southwest Scotland
At 30 acres, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation is one of the largest art gardens in Scotland. There are forty unique sections to explore, covered in various sculptures, plants, and terraformed hills. Unlike other gardens, the objective of this landscape is to explore the mystery of nature through the five senses (including the sixth sense of humor).
INSIDER TIPThe Garden of Cosmic Speculation is private, and only accessible to visitors once a year on the first May bank holiday. Buy your tickets well in advance!
Gardens by the Bay
WHERE: Kallang, Singapore
Thrilling views and vibrant colors are the most iconic characteristics of this 101 hectare (250 acre) garden. The Gardens by the Bay are particularly noted for their unique approach to conservation, including the breath-taking Flower Dome, humid Cloud Forest, and impressive Supertree Grove.
Similar to living trees, Singapore’s Supertree structures range from 20 to 50 meters (65 to 165 feet) in height, helping smaller plants, vines, and flowers climb into its branches. During the evening hours, the Supertrees light up using solar energy to both feed plants and wow visiting guests.
INSIDER TIPFor an extra layer of fun, consider visiting this garden during one of its yearly events, including the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden
WHERE: Tromsø, Norway
As the northernmost botanical garden in the world, the Arctic-Alpine contains some of the most unique plants on Earth. A selection of Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine plants are sourced from countries all over the world, with a bent toward Norwegian herbs and flowers. There are 25 collections available to peruse, from Himalayan woody perennials to South American scrub flowers. Best of all, the gardens are free to visit!
INSIDER TIPIs all that walking making you hungry? The Hansine Hansen’s café (open throughout the summer) sells delicious waffles, cake, and ice cream for refreshment during your visit.
Ancient City Gardens of Sigiriya
WHERE: Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Composed of vast water features, impressive rock faces, and sloping terraces, the gardens of Sigiriya are considered some of the oldest in the world. The city was built around Lion Mountain, a 600-foot rock that rises over 1,000 feet above sea level. The Sigiriya fortress was built in the shape of a lion and outfitted with beautiful garden spaces and terraces.
Today, Sigiriya and Lion Mountain can be visited all throughout the year. Fully functioning fountains, water systems, and hydraulics are still used to this day. Strap in for a garden tour you won’t soon forget!
Gardens of Bomarzo
WHERE: Bomarzo, Italy
Translated from “Parco dei Mostri,” the Gardens of Bomarzo are sometimes referred to as the Park of Monsters. This unique growing space was commissioned by Pier Francesco Orsini in 1552 as an expression of deepest grief. Although the gardens were designed to shock and scare, the place became so well known that it was opened to the public after Orsini’s death.
INSIDER TIPStop for a picnic lunch inside the “Mouth of Hell,” a sculpture that provides a small picnic table on an interior stone tongue.
WHERE: Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, Mexico
This incredible art garden was built in the late 1940s by British surrealist Edward James. After two years of work, more than 80 acres of dense jungle were transformed into waterfalls, small pools, and concrete surrealist sculptures. Enjoy a walk through the woods surrounded by rare plants, towering arches, and stunning natural rock formations.
Lost Garden of Heligan
WHERE: St. Austell, Cornwall
The gardens of Heligan were lost to time after the outbreak of WW1. Rediscovered by gardeners in the 1990s, Heligan became the largest garden restoration project in England. Today, tourists have the opportunity to visit more than 200 acres of pleasure gardens, lush jungles, and productive agriculture sites. Explore traditional and rare heirlooms surrounded by centuries-old architecture, and enjoy a garden once thought to be lost.
Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden
WHERE: Chonburi Province, Thailand
The Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden is a 500-acre growing space located in the heart of Thailand. Opened to the public in the 1980s, Nong Nooch specializes in the care of rare cycad plants, among other things. Stop by the cycad gene bank, the orchid and bromeliad gardens, and rare jungle gardens kept in pristine condition.
INSIDER TIPThese gardens offer multiple restaurants, resorts, religious ceremonies, martial arts demonstrations, and even zoos. Be sure to set aside several days for exploration!