There’s something about botanical gardens that can really capture the imagination. Whether it’s a rare plant that has been painstakingly preserved for years, or the chance to escape from a sea of grey urbanisation into a sculpted green landscape, the world’s botanical gardens have been providing people with joy for centuries.
A botanical garden is simply a green space where plants are cultivated and grown, with scientific study as a primary purpose; however, the imagination and creativity of the designers and landscapers of these gardens means many of them are effectively living, breathing works of art. They are used extensively for research purposes, but can also provide an atmospheric setting for theatre performances, concerts and art exhibitions. While almost all of the world’s 1,755 botanical gardens – spread across 148 countries – can provide respite from the pace of everyday life, some stand out in particular- and are well worth visiting – because of their history, beauty or influence.
Kew Gardens, London
Achieving UNESCO World Heritage site status in 2003, Kew Gardens is a stunning contrast to the hustle and bustle of London. Attracting two million visitors each year, its plants have made a huge contribution to the schools of medicine and science over the years. The garden’s three vistas, which radiate from the Park House Pavilion, are especially spectacular, and were sculpted by William Andrews Nesfield to encourage visitors to explore the full extent of the green space, following its expansion in 1845. Dramatic trees – such as the North American Pin Swamp Oak and Turkish Hazel – line the delightfully designed Pagoda Vista, which ends at the looming Chinese Tower.
Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam
For those who would like to explore the roots of botanical gardens a little further, Amsterdam’s Hortus Botanicus is steeped in history. With 4,000 different species on show, stepping through the 300-year old gates is like walking through a portal to another world. Established in 1638 as a medicinal garden, it offers a heritage few others can come close to, and celebrated its 375th birthday in 2013. Staying at one of the numerous cheap hotels in Amsterdam makes it easy to experience the history of this garden, whether arriving by air, road or sea.
India has more than its fair share of beautiful botanical gardens, with the Government Botanical Gardens in Ooty being particularly noteworthy. The gardens are landscaped into a steep hillside – 2,500 metres above sea level – and were designed by Kew Garden’s William McIvor in 1948. Japan, meanwhile, is represented by the Koishikawa Botanical Garden – which provides great photo opportunities with its stunning Cherry Blossom Trees – while Italy’s Orto Botanico di Padova has the honour of being the oldest botanical garden in the world.
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona.
For something a little different, the Desert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix Arizona, gives a fascinating insight into species that can survive in the toughest of conditions. In season between March and May, the 55 acres of cultivated garden blooms with colour, as 17,000 plants and cacti come to life, triumphantly defying the harshest desert conditions.
Feature image by KLMircea via Flickr. All other images provided by guest blogger.