Stop and smell the flowers, at these not-to-be-overlooked botanical gardens across the United States.
Botanical gardens are hidden gems found across the United States, quite possibly down the street from where you live. They’re frequently overlooked attractions that offer a serene retreat from the everyday hustle and bustle of the world. Taking a simple stroll through a botanical garden could significantly relieve stress and have a calming effect on the mind. Those who would like more out of the experience are in luck, as most botanical gardens have evolved to include educating visitors on the flora via activities, tours, and classes, and special events. What one may find traveling to a national park or overseas can most likely be found at one of these 12 extensive and beautiful public botanical gardens.
WHERE: Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Longwood Gardens, a charming respite in Pennsylvania (and bordering Delaware), is home to 1,100 acres of stunning gardens, including a phenomenal 4-acre indoor conservatory. Each season brings budding new flora to the gardens with winter wonder, spring blooms, a festival of fountains, a chrysanthemum festival, and a Longwood Christmas, each showcasing seasonal plants from bright tulips to bold poinsettias. The expansive indoor conservatory is separated into sections from the acacia passage to the orchid house to the silver garden of prickly plants. Tickets are available for purchase on the Longwood Gardens website.
Desert Botanical Garden
WHERE: Phoenix, Arizona
Come for the cactus forest, and stay for the five scenic trails at the Desert Botanical Garden. Not only will nature enthusiasts see plants that thrive in the desert, but they’ll also learn a lot along the way as each trail specializes in educating visitors on plant survival strategies, home-garden tips, plant adaptation techniques, the crucial roles of insects and birds, and how indigenous people use native plants. Don’t forget to check out the butterfly pavilion that is home to thousands of beautiful wonders. General admission tickets can be purchased on the Desert Botanical Garden website.
Norfolk Botanical Garden
WHERE: Norfolk, Virginia
Over 60 gardens with styles from various parts of the world reside at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. The garden is categorized into gardens for learning, gardens for display, and gardens of tomorrow’s innovations (expected to be completed in 2024). Gardens for learning encompass native Virginia plants, a wildflower meadow, a conifer garden, and a butterfly house, to name a few. Gardens for display, the largest of the categories with 17 gardens, showcase a hydrangea garden, a Japanese garden, a perennial garden, a rhododendron garden, and a rose garden. Their website offers a bloom chart so visitors know exactly what they should expect to see each month. Entry tickets can be purchased on the Norfolk Botanical Garden website.
Mt. Cuba Center
WHERE: Hockessin, Delaware
The formal gardens of Mt. Cuba Center are located on the property of a Du Pont mansion. Walk along the center’s well-marked trail garden, and you will come across wild hydrangeas, native echinacea, and helenium, which are prevalent in the Americas. The trail is well-marked with the names of various plant species and goes through woodlands, charming meadows, and peaceful ponds. Mt. Cuba is open to the public from April through November. Tickets and tours can be purchased on the website.
United States Botanic Garden
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
The nation’s capital is more than just a political focal point; D.C. is also home to a beautiful botanical garden. About 44,000 plants can be found within the botanic garden, including succulents, medicinal plants, orchids, and carnivorous plants. Fun fact: The garden also acts as a rescue center for plants that have been seized at U.S. borders. Unique exhibits are displayed throughout the year, from holiday displays to learning how to grow your own food. Admission to the United States Botanic Garden is free.
Missouri Botanical Garden
WHERE: St. Louis, Missouri
Aside from the Japanese and Children’s Gardens, a highlight of the Missouri Botanical Garden is their Geodesic Dome Conservatory called the Climatron. The Climatron has a tropical rainforest theme, focusing on ecology and diversity. Enter and immediately be transported to the tropics with dense, lush greenery, a native hut, waterfalls, cliffs, exotic fish, and a forest canopy. Over 2,800 plants grow inside the Climatron, including banana, cacao, coffee, and numerous rare plant species. Tickets can be purchased online.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
WHERE: Henrico, Virginia
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens offers visitors 12 different gardens to explore. From the native plant garden to the cherry tree walk (best in the springtime) to the classical domed conservatory, there’s a garden for every plant enthusiast. A garden favorite is the Kroger Community Kitchen Garden which grows fresh produce for Virginia’s hungry children and homebound seniors. Tickets can be purchased at the door. For more information, visit the website.
WHERE: Wilmington, Delaware
Nemours Estate, a 77-room mansion and a Chauffeur’s Garage housing vintage Rolls Royce’s and Cadillacs, is set on 200 acres of formal French gardens and grounds. Alfred Du Pont gifted his second wife Nemours Estate, in which he had built according to the French style his wife loved. The gardens have a mix of annuals and perennials, a large tulip poplar, and a reflecting pool that holds 800,000 gallons of water. The mansion, garage, and gardens can be visited all year round. Tickets should be purchased in advance and can be done here.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
WHERE: San Marino, California
The Huntington Botanical Gardens offers visitors a look at 28,000 different types of living plants within 16 themed gardens. Garden highlights include the herb garden, the Japanese garden, and the Shakespeare Garden. The herb garden contains well-known and lesser-known herbs and details on how the herbs are used in medicines, drinks, cosmetics, insect repellants, and dyes. The Japanese garden houses a Zen Garden, a bonsai square, a tea garden, and a ceremonial teahouse offering visitors a traditional tea service. The Shakespeare Garden features plants found in England during the late playwright’s time or that are mentioned in his plays. Tours and tickets can be booked online.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
WHERE: Kāneʻohe, Hawaii
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden’s palm-tree-lined entrance and breathtaking mountainous backdrop can be admired via walking or driving. This unique botanical garden initially developed to provide flood protection for Kāneʻohe, groups plants by their geographic region of origin. The tropical regions represented at the garden are the Philippines, Malaysia, Tropical America, India, Sri Lanka, Melanesia, Hawaii, Polynesia, and Africa. Admission is free. More information can be found on the website.
New York Botanical Garden
WHERE: The Bronx, New York
Believe it or not, 250 acres of The Bronx, New York, is home to over one million living plant species. Among the millions of plants found at this botanical garden are daylilies, magnolias, daffodils, and a conifer collection. As if the variety of plants available aren’t impressive enough, the 131-year-old New York Botanical Garden also has a grandiose collection of botany-related texts. The garden hosts educational programs for over 900,000 local schoolchildren every year. Tickets can be purchased online.
WHERE: Albuquerque, New Mexico
New Mexico’s ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden showcases plants from arid climates like the American Southwest and local and medicinal plants. Olive trees, snapdragons, mints, and sages can be viewed in the Mediterranean Conservatory, while Saguaro cactus, yucca, and elephant trees are found in the Desert Conservatory. In addition to these conservatories, there’s a Rio Grande Heritage Farm and a dragonfly sanctuary pond at the garden. When planning to visit, explore tickets and the schedule of events, as many activations happen throughout the year, from woodcarving to bird watching.