Someone recently asked me what I like to do on vacation. For me, an important part of any place, anywhere in the world, is its Botanical Gardens! I was blessed to be born and raised in the South of England, which hosts a plethora of such gardens, including Wisley, Nymans, Heathfield Park, Hampton Court, and Wakehurst Place, to name just a few within easy reach of my home town!
The gardens in Europe are spectacular, with probably the best known in France being Giverny, Les Jardins des Tuileries, Chenonceaux, Villandry. Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Hungary, all sport their own styles of beautiful gardens. (Ever heard of “The Italianate Style”?) And what about Keukenhof in Holland in “tulip time”? Canada has its stunning Butchart Gardens near Vancouver, Birmingham, Alabama has a truly great example, and close to our own backyard we have the Dallas Arboretum and the San Antonio Arboretum. (Gardening in Texas is challenging, to say the least, so hats off to those two.) I have been fortunate enough to visit all of the above, and more, but before the advent of digital cameras! I can’t imagine how much storage space I’d need if I had a digital camera from the time I became interested in gardening and flowers – some 50+ years!!!
New Zealand, Australia and all the former Colonies have their own special Botanical Gardens, some still named “Royal” to this day. All spectacular, but requiring large numbers of gardeners to weed, rake, mulch, plant, remove plants, replant, all according to season. One of the most interesting gardens I have visited is “Kitchener’s Gardens”, located on Elephant Island in the middle of the River Nile, south of Cairo, Egypt. (Incidentally, not that far from the hotel where Agatha Christie wrote her famous “Murder on the Nile”!) Kitchener’s is really more of an arboretum, with its main features being trees and shrubs from all over the world, but with spectacular bougainvilleas cascading from the flat roofs of buildings down to the ground, and over the entrance archways. You can Google it for the history. Another memorable Garden was in the Oasis of Degueche, where they still specialize in the “Three tiered planting system” common to the oases – top of the pile is the towering Date Palm, middle layer consists of fruit trees such as citrus, apricots, and pomegranates, and the bottom layer is salad vegetables, chile peppers, etc. This way all the plants seem to receive the right amount of sun/shade, and use the available water most efficiently.
My next adventure is to the Holy Land in October, and one of the highlights of the trip (aside from the incredible Biblical sites) will be the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. These gardens are supposedly the finest in the Middle East, with other 6,000 plant species from all over the world and especially the Mediterranean Basin, and I can hardly wait!!! Wi-fi permitting, I’ll be updating my blog while there, but if that doesn’t work, I’ll type an update with photos when I return!!
Where are your favourite gardens? Let us know and send pictures if you have them!