The World’s Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

With rare plant species, state-of-the-art observatories and awe-inspiring designer landscapes, a visit to a botanical garden really helps us reconnect with nature. Whether you wish to see the first blooms of spring, year-round Victorian Glasshouse species or want to photograph autumn colours in all their glory, here is our guide to the world’s most beautiful botanical gardens.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England

It’s hard to believe southwest London is home to one of the largest and most diverse botanical collections in the world. But it is! Kew Gardens opened in 1759 with a design greatly influenced by the royal residences in the area. Kew Gardens successfully cultivated rubber trees outside South America, plus it houses multi-record-breaking flowers such as the 9ft 10-inch titan arum from the rainforests of Sumatra.

As you wander through verdant gardens, seek out the ‘Five Lions’. These are five trees which have survived since the gardens opened in the mid-1700s. They consist of a pagoda tree, a ginkgo, oriental plane, false acacia and a Caucasian elm.

Guided tours are available, where you can explore The Hive, stroll along treetop walkways and discover plant species of the Palm House. With rare orchids, ferns and bromeliads to discover, you’ll need more than a day to immerse yourself in this vibrant kaleidoscope of colour.

Kew Gardens, London

Credit: Brett Andersen

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, South Africa

Nestled beneath the lush eastern slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden boasts one of the most awe-inspiring garden settings in the world. But it was constructed quite by chance.

In 1660, Jan van Riebeek ordered a hedge of brambles and wild almonds to be planted to protect the perimeter of the Dutch colony. When the British took over, chestnut trees were planted and a vineyard was grown, and when Cecil Rhodes purchased the land in 1895, there were pigs feeding on acorns and languishing in ponds. Thankfully, Henry Harold Pearson, a renowned botanist of Cambridge University saved the day when he took up a professor position at the now University of Cape Town. With little funding, he planted cycads and began to cultivate the Dell, thus beginning the botanical gardens we see today.

Kirstenbosch is one of the most breath-taking garden landscapes in Africa and it’s possible to walk or cycle along the trails. It’s a popular place with mountaineers and hikers and during summer months outdoor concerts are held here on Sunday evenings.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Cape Town

Credit: Neja Hrovat

Singapore Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Singapore’s futuristic Gardens by the Bay reimagines everything you thought a botanical garden should be. With 25 to 50-metre-high wire Supertrees which illuminate themselves courtesy of sustainable energy, hanging tiered gardens and misty cloud forests with mountains and endemic plant species, it’s difficult to know where to begin in this magical wonderland.

The resplendent city garden on the edge of the marina is home to the Flower Dome – the largest glass greenhouse in the world and Bay Central Garden features a scenic 1.9-mile waterfront promenade from where you can admire exquisite floral architecture.

The conservatories and greenhouses are energy efficient too, as rainwater collected from the surface circulates in a special cooling system. These systems, connected to the Supertrees, are then used to vent hot air and cool circulated water throughout the buildings, keeping thousands of flowers and plants alive! If Gardens by the Bay is a benchmark for the future of botanical gardens, we want to see more of them!

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Credit: Richie Chan

Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar, India

Shalimar Garden is one of the most famous in India’s Kashmir Valley. Set on the shores of tranquil Dal Lake, the gardens were built as an abode of love by Mughal Emperor Jehangir for his wife in the early 1600s. The origins of the gardens, however, can be traced back as far as the 2nd century during the reign of Praversena II.

Whilst the layout of the garden is Persian in design, the exquisite fountains, flower beds and marble pavilions are distinctly Mughal. With ornate arched niches, garden waterfalls, tiered terraces and mountainous backdrops, it’s a perfect place for a romantic walk beneath the Chinar trees.

Shalimar Bagh Mughal Gardens, Srinagar

Credit: NaughtyNut

Trauttmansdorff Castle Gardens, Italy

Trauttsmandorff Castle Gardens are nestled on the outer fringes of spa town Merano in Northern Italy. Flanked by a castle, amphitheatre and snow-capped mountains, it boasts myriad colourful plant species from around the world.

The fragrant gardens were laid out in 1850 by Count Trauttsmansdorff and include themes such as forests of the world – featuring deciduous trees from Asia and the Americas, the sun gardens – showcasing Mediterranean cypress, lavender and fig trees and water garden terraces – home to a variety of wildlife.

If you visit during summer months you can listen to world-famous musicians by the lily pond or even play a game on the world’s largest pinball machine.

Trauttmansdorff Castle gardens

Credit: rkl_foto

Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, Canada

Fifty-five acres of gardens, 900 bedding plant species and 26 greenhouses are what you can look forward to at Butchart Gardens on Canada’s Vancouver Island. The picturesque gardens are one of Victoria’s top attractions as ranked by National Geographic and CNN.

They date to 1904 when Robert Pim Butchart and his wife Jennie arrived on Canada’s west coast. They established their home near his quarry on the Saanich Peninsula, but it was only when Japanese garden designer Isaburo Kishida arrived in 1907 the gardens began to take shape. Jennie commissioned Kishida to design several sunken gardens for their estates and today, you can still see the masterpieces as you stroll pathways sprinkled with scarlet, lilac and evergreen and cascading waterfalls.

During summer, fragrant roses and lush foliage adorn the landscape and during autumn months, you can enjoy a veritable feast of crimson and gold leaves in the Japanese Gardens.

Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island

Credit: kavram

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