America's Prettiest Public Gardens (PHOTOS)
You don't need to be a green-thumbed gardener to surround yourself with nature's beauty. Here, a round-up of America's 10 most beautiful public green spaces.
The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
Where you'll find it: 125 Arborway, Boston, MA. (617) 524-1718
At 138 years old, Arnold Arboretum is the oldest public arboretum in America (it was established in 1872). To most visitors, the Arnold, which sits on 265 acres in Boston's Jamaican Plain neighborhood, is simply one of the gems in a string of beautiful parks sometimes referred to as Boston's Emerald Necklace. But there's more to this oasis than meets the eye. "The Arnold Arboretum is also a living laboratory for science research," says Julie Warsowe, manager of visitor education at the Arboretum. It boasts well over 7,000 varieties of plants, some 5 million dried plant specimens and 40,000 volumes in its library. After all, it is part of Harvard University.
Spring Blooms: Magnolias, forsythia, cherry trees, lilacs, azaleas.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Where you'll find it: 1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. (718) 623-7200.
This is easily one of the country's most glorious public gardens, although it's sometimes overlooked by visitors to New York City and residents alike. The garden got its start in 1897, when the New York state legislature set aside 39 acres for a botanic garden, but it formally opened in 1910. Today it's 52-acres are filled with artwork, sculptures and many gardens. Among these is the country's oldest children's garden, one of the first gardens for the visually impaired, and the C. V. Starr Bonsai Museum, which was redesigned in 2007. "The way BBG sits in the middle of Brooklyn, we're really 52 acres of beauty, retreat and refuge," says Kate Blumm, communications manager at BBG. "We take the responsibility of offering that to urban dwellers very seriously."
Spring Blooms: Japanese cherry trees, tree peonies, Spanish bluebells, roses.
Capitol Park (California State Capitol)
Where you'll find it: 10th and L Streets, Sacramento, CA. (916) 324-0333.
Surrounding California's state capitol building is the 33-acre Capitol Park, a stunning collection of flowers, plants and enormous trees, including Coastal Redwoods and the California big tree -- all this smack-dab in the middle of downtown Sacramento. The park also has several gardens, but it is best know for its Rose Garden. Situated in the heart of the city, the park is frequented by an active crowd of politicians, professionals, students and visitors. "It reminds me of a small Central Park in the middle of the city," says Judith Garcia, a fifth-grade teacher at Trinity Christian School in Sacramento. "It changes the atmosphere of downtown. People walk around the Capitol and Capitol Park. That makes the area really stand out."
Spring Blooms: California golden poppy, camellias, roses.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Where you'll find it: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL. (847) 835-5440.
This serene garden is unlike most other public gardens. Its millions of plants are spread out over nine islands on 385 acres, about 20 minutes from downtown Chicago. Open since 1972, the Chicago Botanic Garden is one of the most visited gardens in the country, with nearly 900,000 people flowing through each year. It's more than a garden, however. It's an education center, including its Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, which opened last year. "Our collection of 2.4 million plants has been recognized by the American Association of Museums as a living museum collection," says Kris Jarantoski, executive vice president and director of the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Spring Blooms: Tulips, daffodils, crocuses.
Denver Botanic Gardens
Where you'll find it: 1007 York Street, Denver, CO. (720) 865-3500.
This garden, begun by local gardeners in the early 1950s, is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Beautiful and renowned for its conservation efforts, the Denver Botanic Gardens has three locations, with its main location on York Street in downtown Denver. The Gardens have 32,000 plants from more than 90 countries. Its 40 gardens represent a wide array of environments, including its South African Plaza and the French-inspired Monet Garden. "The interaction between us and our visitors is what makes this place so special," says Larry Jackel, a volunteer at the Gardens. "I spend a lot of time simply answering questions, giving tips and having friendly conversations with the folks who visit the Gardens."
Spring Blooms: Mini iris, snowdrops, daffodils, tulips.
Desert Botanical Garden
Where you'll find it: 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ. (480) 941-1225.
A garden in the desert? Seems unlikely, but Phoenix's stunningly beautiful 50-acre Desert Botanical Garden proves that the Sonoran Desert is lush with plant life. DBG opened in 1939. It's a breathtakingly beautiful garden year round with a huge stock of cactus -- many varieties are highly unusual and rare. In spring, the Sonoran Desert bursts out in color, blanketed by Mexican poppy, yellow and purple fiddlenecks and a slew of other varieties. Cactus blooms also begin popping out this time of year. "Almost no one expects to see flowers in the desert," says Jose Salazar, a restaurant manager in nearby Scottsdale. "Whenever I take my friends to DBG, they're always shocked by what they see."
Spring Blooms: Globemallow, desert bluebells, Mexican poppy.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Where you'll find it: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA. (626) 405-2100.
Less than a mile from where the world-famous Rose Parade passes by each January is the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Its world-class art collection alone is worth a visit to San Marino, a Northeastern Los Angeles suburb, but it's the Botanical Gardens where you find the Huntington's true beauty. The garden got its start in 1903, when Henry Huntington purchased a citrus ranch. His superintendent, William Hertrich, was largely responsible for building up the botanical gardens. Today, it's comprised of more than a dozen gardens, including its 100-year-old Rose Garden and its two-year-old Chinese Garden – the Garden of Flowing Fragrance. "The garden is big enough that there's a sense of quiet and peacefulness there," says Margaret Fulmer, a volunteer at the Huntington since 1980. "And in the midst of Los Angeles that is really a treasure."
Spring Blooms: Camellias, wisteria, roses, Siberian iris.
Memphis Botanic Garden
Where you'll find it: 750 Cherry Road, Memphis, TN. (901) 576-4100.
The Memphis Botanic Garden has officially been in operation since 1964. But it got its start in the 1950s when a group of locals began planting and tending to makeshift gardens in a public park. Today, MBG has a slew of gardens, including a sensory garden where people with disabilities can enjoy the feel and smell of plants. "Where else can one find Tennessee's Bicentennial Iris Garden, 270,000 blooming daffodils, 28,000 tulips, a world-class 2.5-acre children's garden, a Japanese Garden of Tranquility and other gardens on 96 acres in the heart of a metropolitan area?" says Jim Duncan, executive director of MBG. These days the Garden may be best known for My Big Backyard, its popular kids' area that opened last fall. Among its displays is a Redwood tree that is set up like a tree house, with 16 distinct play areas.
Spring Blooms: Tulips, daffodils, Japanese cherry trees, violas.
National Tropical Botanical Garden
Where you'll find it: 3530 Papalina Road, Kalaheo, HI. (808) 332-7324. The Kampong: 4013 S. Douglas Road, Coconut Grove, FL. (305) 442-7169.
There are lush gardens, then there are astonishingly lush gardens -- such is the case with the National Tropical Botanical Garden. This isn't merely a garden. This is a network of six tropical gardens. Five are in Hawaii -- two, including the main location, are on Kauai; one is on Maui; two are on the Big Island. The sixth garden, The Kampong, opened in Florida in 1984.
The gardens were established by an act of Congress in 1964 -- its main location opened in 1970. The mission is to preserve tropical plants and ecosystems. "These are really special gardens," says Hiroko Letman, an employee at Kauai Nursery and Landscaping in Lihue, Hawaii. "You can see a lot of mostly native plants and flowers." The Kampong in Florida was originally a private garden owned by Dr. David Fairchild and then Catherine Hauberg Sweeney. When it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, it became part of NTBG.
Spring Blooms: Bougainvillea, kou trees, orchids, plumeria and tiger claws.
United States Botanic Garden
Where you'll find it: 100 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, D.C . (202) 225-8333.
More than a public garden, the U.S. Botanic Garden is a national treasure. It was first proposed for the National Mall by our country's founding fathers, in 1820, but it took another 30 years until it was formally founded. It has been in its current location near the Capitol building since 1933. At the beginning of the new millennium, the Botanic reopened after a massive, five-year renovation. "There is a beauty here with the flowers and plants that makes this place special," says Judy Gordon, a longtime docent at the garden. "Visitors really like the tours and the staff, in my opinion, is extremely helpful."
Each year, more than 1 million people visit the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is set up in three sections: The Conservatory, where a slew of gardens are set up, including the Children's Garden and the World Deserts garden; The National Garden which focuses on mid-Atlantic plants; and Bartholdi Park (closed for renovations until 2011) which zeroes in on modern horticulture styles.
Spring Blooms: Roses, irises, peonies, rhododendrons, orchids.
Click through the slideshow below to see the public gardens before you visit each one!
Kevin Downey contributed to Shelterpop.com using Seed.com. To find out how you can contribute, go to Seed.com