These lush and picturesque gardens are artworks in themselves, ones that encapsulate nature’s beauty and humanity’s deep connection with the environment.
The timeless yet simple beauty of a verdant garden is unparalleled. These spots of land have their own special place in humanity’s collective memory. One might remember the homey collection of native flowers and trees in a grandparent’s house, or the colorful and polished evergreens of a public park. Whether manicured or left to grow more organically, a garden represents the intimate relationship between nature and people.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “garden” as a plot of ground where one cultivates “herbs, fruits, flowers, or vegetables” or “a public recreation area or park usually ornamented with plants and trees.” In other words, there’s always a form of human touch in gardens. We create, shape, and enjoy them—they exist because we need or want to gain a certain proximity to our natural environment.
As psychotherapist Thomas Moore once wrote in his book The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life: “The garden reconciles human art and wild nature, hard work and deep pleasure, spiritual practice and the material world. It is a magical place because it is not divided.”
Every garden holds its own unique and alluring qualities. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, there are gardens around the world that are so stunning that they possess an almost universal appeal. Below are six marvelous spots that have captured the imagination and hearts of millions:
Monet’s Garden (Giverny, France)
Fans of art are likely familiar with painter Claude Monet’s works “The Artist’s Garden at Giverny” and “The Water Lily Pond.” The inspiration and reference behind these exquisite paintings was Monet’s actual garden in Giverny, France. Though these are old works, the garden still exists to this day—and looks just as beautiful as it does in these masterpieces.
Monet’s garden is the perfect example of a homey piece of nature. “Claude Monet did not like organized nor constrained gardens. He married flowers according to their colors and left them to grow rather freely,” wrote the garden’s official website.
Nearly 500,000 visitors come to Giverny just to see the artist’s slice of pastoral paradise. Perhaps the most stunning thing is that Monet planted many of the plants seen today, all those years ago. These include the wisterias by the Japanese bridge that overlooks the garden’s lily pond, as well as the weeping willows.
Though a firm from Vernon had to rebuild the Japanese bridge due to disrepair, Givernet—the nonprofit organization that manages the property and its tours—ensured that many of its natural wonders would remain in pristine condition. Givernet prohibits guests from bringing pets or holding picnics within the premises. They’ve also closed off particularly significant areas to prevent people from treading on precious flowers.
However, visitors may roam around the garden’s designated paths, take pictures, and soak in the majesty of the garden pond from the Japanese bridge.
Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew, United Kingdom)
UNESCO named The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a world heritage site in 2003. The expansive plot of land is a living record of garden art sensibilities from the 18th to 20th centuries.
Since its creation in 1759, people have closely associated the gardens with “scientific and economic exchanges established throughout the world in the field of botany,” according to UNESCO. Up to this day, the Royal Botanic Gardens has made great contributions to studies concerning plant diversity, plant systematics, and economic botany. In other words, it’s as scientifically and historically significant as it’s beautiful.
It boasts a botanical collection of 50,000 living plants spread across different areas. These include the Great Broad Walk Borders, Rhododendron Dell, and the Woodland Garden and Temple of Aeolus. The gardens’ beating heart is, of course, the Temperate House—which is the largest Victorian glass house in the world. It houses 1,500 rare and threatened plant species from Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
“Filled with 10,000 individual plants, this vast collection may help us find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues, from climate change to loss of biodiversity or food security,” wrote the official Royal Botanical Gardens website.
Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens (Tokyo, Japan)
Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園) is “arguably the most beautiful Japanese landscape garden in Tokyo,” according to The Official Tokyo Travel Guide. It also happens to be one of the oldest in the city, as feudal lord Mito Yorifusa and his son started and completed its construction during the early Edo period (1603-1867).
On an aesthetic level, the beautifully landscaped garden incorporates both traditional Japanese and Chinese elements, such as small hills, ponds, trees, and stones. The towering trees change colors depending on the season, which means there’s always something new to see whenever tourists and locals visit the gardens.
Orange and fiery-red maple leaves appear during the fall, plum blossoms bloom in late winter, and pink cherry blossoms spring forth come spring, along with an assortment of colorful flowers.
Though the garden is at the heart of Tokyo and just a stone throw away from the modern Tokyo Dome City, it retains a tranquil and quiet atmosphere, providing a pocket of peace within the bustling cityscape.
Volksgarten (Vienna, Austria)
Austria’s Volksgarten (which translates to “People’s Garden”), is another must-see spot for garden enthusiasts. The public park is located on the grounds of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Believe it or not, the scenic and peaceful garden rose in the wake of destruction. When Napoleon and his troops destroyed a portion of the city’s walls in 1809, Volksgarten took its place.
Initially, the verdant piece of land was meant for the archduke, though it eventually became a public park in 1823. It’s the first one of its kind owned by the imperial court, as per an article from the Austrian Embassy in Washington, and remains a public spot to this day.
The lush space has served as an inspiration to many, including composer Johann Strauss I, who produced a piece named after it (“Volksgarten Quadrille, Op. 157”). The spacious garden is known for its 3,000 tiered rose bushes with 200 varieties of roses. It also hosts a monument to 19th century Austrian writer and poet, Franz Grillpazer—a contemporary and friend of Beethoven.
Keukenhof Gardens (Lisse, Netherlands)
Up next is the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Netherlands. The spot isn’t nicknamed “The Garden of Europe” for nothing, as it happens to be among the largest flower gardens in the world. It boasts 32-hectares of colorful spring blooms, which consist of roughly 7 million flower bulbs and 800 different species of tulip. As such, the spot is considered an “international and independent showcase for the Dutch floricultural sector,” according to its official website.
Keukenhof was established as a public park in 1950, and will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2024. However, the gardens’ beginnings go as far back as the 15th century.
Its website wrote: “Countess Jacoba van Beieren [Jacqueline of Bavaria] used Keukenduyn [meaning “kitchen dunes,” as the Dutch word keuken translates to “kitchen”] as hunting ground for the kitchen of Teylingen Castle. Keukenhof Castle was built in 1641 and the estate grew to encompass an area of over 200 hectares.”
Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher, both renowned landscape architects, redesigned the gardens in 1857. It wasn’t until 1949 when a group of flower growers and exporters decided to transform the plot of land into an exhibit of spring flower bulbs for all to enjoy.
Butchart Gardens (British Columbia, Canada)
Finally, there’s the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, Canada. The colorful and verdant spot is a designated National Historic Site of Canada due to its collection of gorgeous and diverse flora. The property consists of 55 acres of gardens, 900 bedding plant varieties, and 26 greenhouses, all maintained by 50 full-time gardeners.
Butchart is open year-round and its history is a long yet simple one. It started with Jennie Butchart, a woman who dreamed of transforming her limestone quarry garden into a spectacular sunken garden for her family, friends, and visitors.
So the garden became her passion project in 1912, and its growth would stretch on for a whole century. In 1929, the Butchart family added a seaside Japanese garden, rose garden, and Italian garden to expand the magnificent property.
The garden celebrated its 100th anniversary back in 2004. Butchart’s heirs marked the special occasion through two custom totem poles made by Master Carvers Charles Elliot of the Tsartlip Nation and Doug La Fortune of Tsawout Band.
Today, the garden stands strong as a legacy of love passed down from Jennie Butchart to the rest of her family, who’ve added their own additions to the destination’s appealing must-sees. These include a yearly fireworks display, Children’s Pavilion, and Menagerie Carousel.
Banner photo via Instagram @visitkeukenhof.