10 Famous Gardens That Are Worth the Visit
1. Butchart Gardens: Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
When Robert Pim Butchart’s cement business took off at the turn of the 20th century, he and his wife, Jennie, left Ontario for Vancouver Island and built a home and factory near a limestone quarry. In 1906, Jennie added a Japanese garden to the site, and as her husband exhausted the quarry, she began to transform the unsightly crater into the now-famous Butchart Gardens.
By 1929, the Butcharts had added an Italian garden and replaced their tennis courts with a rose garden. Today, 50 gardeners maintain the year-round blooms of Butchart Gardens’ more than 700 varieties of flowers that, along with world-class dining and entertainment, attract nearly one million annual visitors.
For eight days, Road Scholar will take travelers on tour to see the botanical beauty of Victoria and Vancouver, where there are some of the world’s most beautiful gardens to visit.
2. Boston Public Garden: Boston, Mass., United States
Boston Public Garden, across Charles Street from another famous garden — Boston Common — was established by jurist and philanthropist Horace Gray in 1837 and added to the National Park Service’s registry of historic landmarks 150 years later. It is recognized as the first public botanical garden in the United States.
Among the garden’s statuary are Thomas Ball’s equestrian statue of George Washington and a set of ducklings in file behind their mother, depicting the central characters in Robert McCloskey’s children’s book "Make Way for Ducklings." The book, which won the Caldecott Medal in 1942 for its illustrations, tells the story of a family of ducks living on an island in the garden’s lagoon. The duck statuary is an iconic landmark in Boston.
Road scholar offers an incredible trip to see Boston and all its sites on the tour Boston: Birthplace of American Liberty.
3. Monet’s Garden: Giverny, France
On the “right bank” of the Seine River, 50 miles west of Paris, lies the village of Giverny. French painter Claude Monet — whose work "Impression, Sunrise" gave the Impressionist movement its name — spotted the tiny community from the train running between Vernon and Gasny. He decided to move his family there, and the gardens he raised at his new home inspired much of the last 30 years of his career.
The gardens at Giverny were the subject of Monet’s iconic "Water Lilies," a series of about 250 oil paintings that continued the artist’s career-long motif of serial works. In June 2007, 81 years after Monet’s death, a Sotheby’s auction in London fetched 18.5 million pounds for one of these pieces.
Road Scholar has curated a tour called French Art Voyage: Paris, the Rhône and the French Riviera.
4. International Rose Test Garden: Portland, Ore., United States
In 1905, to help spur a flagging economy, legislators in Portland, Oregon, held an international fair marking the centennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition’s arrival at the Pacific Ocean. The fair left Portland with 20 miles of rose-lined streets and a number of enthusiasts who, with the help of Portland Parks and Recreation and the American Rose Society, created what is today the oldest continually operating rose test garden in America.
With more than 7,000 rose plants in 550 varieties, the garden tests new cultivars from all over the world for color, fragrance and disease resistance and, on clear days, provides visitors with spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains and majestic Mount Hood.
Learn about the “City of Roses” with the Road Scholar tour Signature City Portland, where travelers explore the Portland Art Museum and the most beautiful gardens.
5. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: London, England
With his marriage to Dorothy Bennett, heir to Sir Richard Bennett’s estate in Kew Park in today’s Greater London, 17th-century British noble Sir Henry Capel developed the first gardens in what is now the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the RBG continues its 250-year tradition of contributions to botanical science. Scientists pursue hundreds of scientific projects on the grounds, ranging from individual doctoral research to large-scale undertakings involving dozens of international partners. In addition to its many exhibits throughout the year, the gardens host an annual photography contest, with the top 100 images displayed in an outdoor exhibit.
Join Road Scholar on the tour The Quintessential Britain, where you will have a chance to see the famous gardens and sites of London and beyond.
6. North Carolina Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, United States
The North Carolina Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is a 434-acre public garden located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest south of Asheville. The North Carolina Arboretum contains 65 acres of cultivated gardens, including one of the most famous bonsai collections in the United States.
Here are some of the features of the North Carolina Arboretum and Botanical Gardens:
- 65 acres of cultivated gardens, including the Bonsai Exhibition Garden and the National Native Azalea Collection
- Over 10 miles of hiking and biking trails
- Self-guided nature explorations
- An Ecolab containing live reptiles and amphibians
- Rotating art, science and educational exhibits
Explore the gardens of Asheville with Road Scholar on a tour aptly named A Garden’s Delight: The Private & Public Landscapes of Asheville.
7. Bermuda Botanical Gardens
The Bermuda Botanical Gardens were established in 1898 on 36 acres of lush foliage. Meander through tropical plants and trees from all over the world, including banyan trees from India, a Japanese Zen garden and meticulously manicured English gardens. There is even a sensory garden for the blind, with braille signs and fragrant plants.
Also on the grounds of the botanical gardens is Bermuda’s Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. The museum houses island-inspired artwork from 19th-century and 20th-century artists, including Georgia O'Keeffe and Andrew Wyeth.
Be sure to check out the sculpture called "Double Fantasy," a tribute to John Lennon, who wrote his final album in 1980 after a visit to these gardens.
Join Road Scholar for the tour Bermuda Unveiled: Historic Forts, Secret Gardens & More!
8. Longwood Gardens, Philadelphia, Pa., United States
Longwood Gardens is 200 acres of highly manicured plantings and water fountains that are equally beautiful and stunning. Within the gardens are sunny spaces with forever-blooming flowers, walking paths through woodlands and beautiful sparkling lakes, including:
- Chimes Tower District: Here, you'll find a collection of rare plants, a historic bell tower, a 50-foot waterfall and award-winning trees.
- Conservatory District: The centerpiece of Longwood Gardens is a 19th-century conservatory housing a flower show through a series of breathtaking rooms.
- House & Theatre District: With expansive views out to Peirce’s Park and Peirce’s Woods, this district features a 600-foot flower garden and an open-air theater.
- Pierce-du Pont House: The Heritage Exhibit at the residence shows 300 years of history and horticulture at Longwood. There are lush gardens and shaded benches.
- Peirce’s Park: This area is home to woodland wildflowers and soaring trees, many more than 100 years old.
- Peirce’s Woods: Walk through an award-winning woodland garden filled with oaks, ashes, maples and tulip trees, over 200 species of native plants and cultivars.
Discover one of the best gardens in the U.S. in Philadelphia on the Road Scholar tour, Topiaries, Pleasure Gardens and Botanical Gems in Philadelphia and Beyond.
9. Chelsea Flower Show and Gardens, London, England
The British love their beautiful flower-filled gardens properly manicured and doused with just the right amount of rain each year to make them come alive with color. The Chelsea Flower Show and Gardens is the world's most famous, high-profile flower show and the place to see cutting-edge garden design and new plants — and find ideas for your own garden.
Chelsea Flower Show and Gardens is the ‘haute-couture’ of the international gardening scene where plants are revealed for the first time. Where else can you sip on champagne and enjoy a great meal on the grounds of the most famous gardens in the world?
Don’t miss the Road Scholar one-day Chelsea Flower Show and Gardens tour.
10. Villa Rufolo Gardens, Ravello, Italy
This spectacular villa, built by a wealthy merchant family in the 13th century, sits on a hill overlooking the sea in Ravello, Italy. In its time, it was considered the largest and most expensive villa on the Amalfi Coast.
Italians consider Villa Rufolo the jewel in the crown of Ravello, and its garden is known as the "Garden of the Soul." The garden occupies two levels and is reached by following a Victorian-style, tree-lined avenue. Ancient walls cloaked in lime and cypress trees guide visitors to the Moorish cloister.
The town of Ravello has become “la città della musica“ — the city of music, for the annual summer concert series that features piano concerts, chamber music and a grand orchestral performance looking out over the Mediterranean Sea.
Join Road Scholar on a tour of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, where you will eat and breathe the romance of the Mediterranean.
At Road Scholar, we have a wide range of tours to choose from, including city tours throughout Europe, America and Canada. Our programs are designed to open the world to all our scholars. No matter which educational learning adventure you choose, you'll be placed in a cohort of like-minded adventurers, ranging from families to couples, business people to retirees, and intellectuals to solo travelers like yourself.
Each of our programs is led by local experts who will walk you through your destination's history, culture, traditions and landscape. Our immersive experiences will allow you and members of your group to partake in spirited conversations, learn more about the world and return with lifelong friendships and memories.
Enroll in one of our Road Scholar tours today to visit the best gardens in the U.S. and beyond.