GARDENS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
A garden in bloom is a picnic for the senses, and an escape from the hustle of daily life. Almost every state has at least one garden that is free or less than $15 for adults (usually with cheaper admission for children, seniors, and the military). Many are botanical gardens dedicated to education, research, and conservation. A visit can be a learning experience, providing ideas for creating a plot at home. Many public gardens offer classes and workshops that teach gardening techniques and stewardship of a patch of earth -- as well as related activities such as meditation and photography. Some host concerts, art festivals, and other events. Day in and day out, these gardens offer enjoyment and respite across the country.
ALABAMA: BIRMINGHAM BOTANICAL GARDENS
With more than 67 acres and 30 separate gardens, there is always something blooming at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Themes include Japanese, all-American, crape myrtle, rose, fern, and rhododendron, as well as gardens for the disabled and the bereaved. Classes run the gamut from photography to native plant studies. Weeklong summer camps teach kids about insects, bugs, or dinosaurs, and growing, cooking, or drawing and painting plants.
ALASKA: ALASKA BOTANICAL GARDEN
Admission: $12 for adults in summer
Open: Dawn to dusk year-round
Alaska's botanical garden is on the pricey side from May to September, but since daylight lasts almost 24 hours in summer, patrons can really get their money's worth. Perennial, wildflower, and herb gardens as well as trails adorn the garden's 110 acres. There are plenty of lectures, workshops, and classes for adults and children.
ARIZONA: TUCSON BOTANICAL GARDENS
Admission: $13 to $15 for adults
Claiming 5 acres in central Tucson, this garden covers several different themes, including cacti and succulents, butterflies, birds, and children's discovery -- and a miniature train runs through it. Kids can attend a weeklong summer camps, and classes, lectures, and workshops include painting, yoga, and flower arranging.
ARKANSAS: BOTANICAL GARDEN OF THE OZARKS
Admission: $7 for adults
With 12 themed gardens and a butterfly house, this garden pays tribute to the unique ecosystems of the Ozarks. An arboretum was added in 2012. Classes for adults and kids highlight birds, butterflies, and gardening, and there are plenty of events such as concerts to entertain visitors.
CALIFORNIA: SAN FRANCISCO BOTANICAL GARDEN
Admission: Free for city and county residents; $8 for other adults
It's hard to choose among the many beautiful gardens in California, but this one located right in Golden Gate Park has unmatched diversity. The microclimate of the 55-acre park allows plants from all over the world to thrive. A California garden features native redwoods, while other gardens showcase the flora of South America, Asia, Australia, the Mediterranean, Mexico, and South Africa. Monthly plant sales let visitors bring the gardens home, and a horticultural library includes books for kids.
COLORADO: BETTY FORD ALPINE GARDENS
Showcasing the unique topography of the Rocky Mountains, these gardens promote conservation of alpine plants. The five garden areas incorporate water features, and each has a different theme. Kids’ activities such as a treasure hunt are held throughout the summer. Adults can participate in yoga classes or volunteer to work in the gardens, among other offerings.
CONNECTICUT: ELIZABETH PARK CONSERVANCY
Where: West Hartford
For people who can't get enough of roses, Elizabeth Park is the spot, with more than 450 rose beds. Dating back to 1894, this is the oldest public rose garden in the country. There are also shade, annual, and herb gardens; perennial borders; and greenhouses, as well as a wooded park area and tennis courts. Although no classes are offered, volunteer opportunities are available.
DELAWARE: MT. CUBA CENTER
Admission: $10 for adults
Open: Wednesday to Sunday, April to November
With more than 50 acres of gardens and 500 acres for hiking and strolling, Mt. Cuba features dogwoods, meadows, a trillium garden, a formal garden with perennials, ponds with aquatic flora, and a picnic area. A trial garden evaluates plants for ornamental value, as well as resistance to pests and disease. Classes, internships, and certificate programs are offered.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: THE U.S. BOTANIC GARDEN
George Washington's vision of the capital included this botanical garden, in operation since 1820. The conservatory focuses on plants of the jungle, desert, and primeval times. The National Garden features plants native to the mid-Atlantic, a butterfly garden, and a First Ladies Water Garden. A plant library contains 65,000 species, including medicinal and carnivorous plants, orchids, cacti, bromeliads, ferns, and exotic plants confiscated at the nation's borders.
FLORIDA: FLORIDA BOTANICAL GARDENS
Along with formal gardens, a demonstration garden, and displays of tropical plants, Florida Botanical Gardens contains an aquatic habitat and natural area that showcases the diversity of plant and animal life unique to this landscape. Native fruits, butterflies, succulents, and palms are among the highlights. The garden features a children's trail and annual events such as a holiday lights show and a Valentine's Day group wedding.
GEORGIA: STATE BOTANICAL GARDEN OF GEORGIA
The gardens here include shade and native flora, herbal and medicinal plants, an international garden, and a heritage garden that celebrates the region's horticultural history. Flower gardens are designed to attract native pollinators, and there are greenhouses and nature trails. This garden is active in plant conservation and research, with many classes for adults and children.
HAWAII: HAWAII TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDEN
Admission: $20 for adults
In this preserve, visitors can follow a long boardwalk through a lush tropical forest. Other trails lead through a world-class collection of 200 species of palms and gardens of giant ferns, passing waterfalls, heliconias, banyan trees, orchids, bromeliads, a giant koi pond, and abundant wildlife. The entry fee is relatively steep, but reviews on TripAdvisor almost unanimously declare the cost well worth it. The garden supports a tropical plant database, and a florist ships lush bouquets anywhere in the U.S.
IDAHO: IDAHO BOTANICAL GARDEN
Admission: $7 for adults.
Open: Daily, March 12 to Oct. 31; weekdays Nov. 6 to March 11
The Idaho Botanical Garden's many horticultural holdings include a typical English garden, a rose garden, and greenhouses. Demonstration gardens highlight plants that thrive in the Rockies and High Plains. Other garden areas showcase xeric, native, and fire-wise plants, succulents, and vegetables. The garden hosts events such as concerts, a harvest festival, plant sales, and story time for kids.
ILLINOIS: CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN
Admission: Free (parking $25 during the week; $30 on weekends)
Chicago is home to one of the country's largest botanic gardens, with 385 acres and more than 2.6 million plants. Learning opportunities for home gardeners abound, and a program for kids teaches basic planting and harvesting. The 27 gardens range from an English walled garden to a Japanese garden and include aquatic, prairie, rose, sensory, residential, and model railroad gardens, as well as a large bonsai collection.
INDIANA: TALTREE ARBORETUM AND GARDENS
Admission: $10 for adults
This nature preserve in northern Indiana is chiefly an arboretum, so its signature plants are woody -- that is, trees and shrubs including native oaks, viburnums, and dogwoods. There are seven gardens for plants, with native flora, roses, and a miniature railroad on display. Landscapes include prairie, wetlands, and woods. The venue offers classes for adults and children, concerts, exhibits, and hiking.
IOWA: GREATER DES MOINES BOTANICAL GARDEN
Admission: $10 for adults
Tropical plants fill the conservatory while temperate gardens adorn the outdoor spaces at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. An allée of maples comes alive in the spring with a display of 3,400 irises. The rose collection intermingles with herbs, and a waterfall garden contains swaths of lilacs and shrubbery as well as thousands of spring bulbs. Classes teach gardening basics and more advanced techniques. For kids, an interactive story time explores themes of nature and plants.
KANSAS: OVERLAND PARK ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
Admission: Free on Tuesdays; otherwise $3 for adults
A majority of this 300-acre park in the Kansas City area is devoted to the preservation and restoration of native ecosystems, including prairie. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, a Monet garden with pastel blooms, a xeriscape garden that requires no watering, and a model train garden, as well as quiet glades beside waterfalls, brooks, and ponds. Special events are offered most weekends during warmer months.
KENTUCKY: YEW DELL BOTANICAL GARDENS
Admission: $9 for adults; free in winter
Open: Tuesday to Sunday in summer; Tuesday to Friday in winter
Once the home and grounds of a noted plantsman, Yew Dell hosts an English walled garden, serpentine garden, sunken rock garden, seasonal annual gardens, more than a mile of hiking trails, and impressive collections of hellebores, camellias, and ferns, among others. Events include children’s programs, plant sales, and gardening workshops.
LOUISIANA: GARDENS OF THE AMERICAN ROSE CENTER
Open: Daily, April to October
For rose lovers, this is mecca, home to the national headquarters of the American Rose Society. More than 20,000 rosebushes feature at least 65 varieties on more than 118 acres. Rosarians are on hand to offer expert growing and cultivating advice, and events abound, including plant sales and classes on pruning, sustainability, and soil testing.
MAINE: MCLAUGHLIN GARDEN AND HOMESTEAD
Where: South Paris
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, May to October
This old farm plot, planted for almost 60 years by a self-taught gardener, houses the largest collection of lilacs in New England. The formal garden contains phlox, hostas, succulents, lilies, native Maine wildflowers, and ferns. Walk under a serene canopy of trees alongside many varieties of woody shrubs. Events, field trips, and classes at McLaughlin Garden are offered throughout the growing year.
MARYLAND: BROOKSIDE GARDENS
Admission: Free (except some special exhibits)
A 50-acre display garden, Brookside contains two conservatories housing tropical plants. Seasonal events such as a butterfly exhibit and winter holiday show dot the calendar. Displays include aquatic, Japanese, azalea, butterfly, children's, and fragrance gardens. The park offers a vibrant plant introduction program, and many cultivars of popular plants and shrubs have shown merit for home gardens.
MASSACHUSETTS: THE GARDENS AT ELM BANK
Admission: $10 for adults
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, May 1 to Oct. 12
Situated on 36 acres, the Gardens at Elm Bank are managed by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Visitors will find a trial garden of new and unreleased annuals, a four-season display garden, and themed gardens for children, herbs, daylilies, rhododendrons, and seed-to-table vegetables. A library holds one of the country's oldest and largest collections of horticultural books. Along with classes, workshops, and lectures, there's a botanical art course and master-gardener training program.
MICHIGAN: HIDDEN LAKE GARDENS
Admission: $3 (free the first Monday of every month)
This 775-acre plot owned by the University of Michigan includes an arboretum, a conservatory, and gardens featuring hostas, dwarf and rare conifers, bonsais, and perennials. A conservatory houses tropical plants, arid plants, and houseplants, and 10 miles of hiking trails give nature lovers ample room to roam. Many themed hikes and walks, as well as classes, seminars, and other events, are offered during the year.
MINNESOTA: MUNSINGER CLEMENS BOTANICAL SOCIETY
Where: St. Cloud
Open: Daily, spring to fall
Munsinger Gardens, on the site of a former sawmill, grew out of a Depression-era Works Progress Administration project that produced trees, flower beds, a lily pond, rock-lined paths, and a greenhouse. Clemens Gardens comprises a rose garden with more than 100 varieties, a rest area with fountains and vines, a white garden, a formal garden, a perennial garden, and a treillage garden with a giant arbor surrounded by four large one-color beds. Free public concerts, an art fair, and other events are on the calendar.
MISSISSIPPI: CROSBY ARBORETUM
Admission: $5 for adults
Open: Wednesday to Sunday
The Crosby Arboretum, with 700 acres and more than 300 species of plants, teaches visitors about the habitats of the southeastern coastal region. The savannah contains trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers adapted to reduce the possibility of devastating wildfires. Wetlands showcase aquatic plants and wildlife, and woodlands contain more than 12,000 newly planted trees. There are several trails for exploring and many events for adults and children.
MISSOURI: MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN
Where: St. Louis
Admission: $12 for adults ($6 for St. Louis residents)
One of the oldest botanical gardens in the U.S., Missouri Botanical Garden is known for its research, trial gardens, and work in conservation and sustainability. It attracts visitors with 79 acres of formal gardens, international gardens, demonstration gardens that teach home gardening skills, and conservatories, including a half-acre geodesic dome that houses a tropical rainforest. Many home gardeners are familiar with its excellent and descriptive plant database. Programs include a master gardener program and help with community-garden plans.
MONTANA: TIZER BOTANIC GARDENS AND ARBORETUM
Where: Jefferson City
Admission: $7 for adult
Open: Daily, May to September
Plants that flourish during Montana's short growing year include vegetables, roses, herbs, and wildflowers. The gardens feature plants for hummingbirds and butterflies and a meditation space with a large stone Buddha. The nursery sells plants and trees, and events include a fairy and wizard festival, high tea in the garden, and Mother's Day and Father's Day celebrations.
NEBRASKA: LAURITZEN GARDENS
Admission: $10 for adults
This living museum offers four seasons of displays on more than 100 acres. The Lauritzen Gardens include an arboretum and bird sanctuary, woodland areas for hiking, water features, English perennial borders, and Victorian, conservation, herb, tree peony, model railroad, and children's gardens. A conservatory hosts tropical plants and a revolving series of exhibits. Events include walking clubs, plant sales, lectures, and concerts.
NEVADA: WILBUR D. MAY ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL GARDEN
Located in a transitional zone between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Great Basin Desert, where temperatures can fluctuate up to 40 degrees in a day, this 13-acre site is a testament to the hardiness of 4,000 species of plants, which survive in an arid climate with less than 8 inches of annual rainfall. Among the gardens are a secluded, shady grove bedecked with wisteria and honeysuckle, a songbird garden, a rose garden, a rock garden, and a wetland area.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: FULLER GARDENS
Where: North Hampton
Admission: $9 for adults
Open: Daily, mid-May to mid-October
Once the summer estate of a New Hampshire governor, these gardens (designed by the esteemed Olmsted firm) have been maintained continuously since the late 1920s. A formal rose garden with 1,500 rose bushes, Japanese garden with a koi pond, English perennial garden, and shady hosta garden are interspersed with statuary and water features at Fuller Gardens.
NEW JERSEY: DEEP CUT GARDENS
This county-run nature preserve is dedicated to the home gardener, offering classes for beginners as well as experienced gardeners. There's a home-composting demonstration site, a vegetable demonstration garden, and a horticultural center. Those who want to just walk through and delight in the scenery will find shade, rose, and Japanese gardens, a bonsai display, meadows, ponds, and more.
NEW MEXICO: SANTA FE BOTANICAL GARDEN
Admission: $10 for out-of-state adults April through October; $7 for all adults off-season
Open: Daily, April through October; Thursday to Sunday, November through March
There's plenty to see and learn at this 14-acre garden. Each location reflects a piece of New Mexico's geology and natural history. Arroyo trails demonstrate restoration of this landscape feature and Ojo y Manos combines art and landscape architecture. Classes and workshops on water-wise gardening and art, classes for kids, plays, and nature walks are offered.
NEW YORK: WAVE HILL, BRONX
Admission: $8 for adults; free on Tuesday and Saturday mornings
Open: Tuesday to Sunday
Just outside the concrete jungle of Manhattan, visitors can enjoy 28 acres of flower, aquatic, alpine, herb, and shade gardens; wooded walks of conifers; and flowering ornamental trees. At Wave Hill, the Palm House conservatory holds bulbs and plants from around the world. The mission of this garden is to combine plants with the arts through frequent exhibits, concerts, and family art projects. Events include lectures, cooking programs, bird watching, and nature hikes.
NORTH CAROLINA: BOTANICAL GARDENS AT ASHEVILLE
The Botanical Gardens’ grounds are home to a botanically diverse collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachians. Sunny and dry locations, as well as shady and wet areas, showcase a wide variety of flora. A walking trail covers streams, meadows, woodlands, and wildflower groves. Classes for adults include guided walks, tips for home gardeners, and botany.
NORTH DAKOTA: NORTHERN PLAINS BOTANIC GARDEN SOCIETY, FARGO
This botanic garden and arboretum showcases the biodiversity of the northern Great Plains. It also houses many specimens of exotic plants. Featured displays include butterfly and hummingbird gardens; a chrysanthemum test garden; and an alphabet garden with plants placed in alphabetical order. Classes have covered garden design, building fairy-garden furniture, and herbs.
OHIO: TOLEDO BOTANICAL GARDEN
In this 60-acre botanical garden, visitors can stroll through gardens dedicated to perennials, annuals, dahlias, roses, woods, and herbs. The facility operates an urban farm and agriculture center that supports more than 125 community gardens. The garden also serves as an arts center for the city, with studio space and a jazz concert series. It hosts the two-day Crosby Festival of the Arts the last weekend in June.
OKLAHOMA: MYRIAD BOTANICAL GARDENS
Where: Oklahoma City
This 15-acre horticultural museum and park is well-named: There are many gardens to explore, including a prairie garden and gardens for drought-tolerant plants. Several pools invite kids to splash around and dogs can run unleashed in a designated area. Classes for adults range from yoga and dancing to horticulture and art. Kids can attend classes, storybook times, or nature walks. The conservatory ($8 for adults) is a tropical paradise complete with waterfalls.
OREGON: PORTLAND JAPANESE GARDEN
Admission: $15 for adults
Portland built this garden to honor its sister city of Sapporo, Japan. The harmonious 5.5-acre site features a tea garden; a flat garden that creates balance among the ground, stones, and clipped shrubbery; a strolling pond garden with a stream, waterfall, and moon bridge accented with irises and shrubs; a garden of indigenous deciduous plants; and a sand and stone garden. At Portland Japanese Garden, cultural events including tea ceremonies, lectures, and demonstrations are offered throughout the year.
PENNSYLVANIA: BARTRAM'S GARDEN
A historic landmark, this site was purchased by John Bartram in 1728 and has become America's oldest botanic garden. Today, 45 acres of parkland, wetlands, and meadow sit in the heart of the city. The historic garden features plants native to North America, including the continent's oldest gingko tree. Field trips, gardening help, artist workshops, yoga, and programs for kids entice visitors.
RHODE ISLAND: ROGER WILLIAMS PARK BOTANICAL CENTER
Admission: $5 for adults
Open: Tuesday to Sunday
Visitors to this city-run park will find perennial gardens, a wooded garden, and a rose maze, but the preserve's best feature is a 12,000-square-foot indoor display. A conservatory contains tropical blooms and trees; a Mediterranean greenhouse represents a more arid climate; and a third, smaller greenhouse is filled with cacti and other succulents.
SOUTH CAROLINA: SOUTH CAROLINA BOTANICAL GARDEN
On the campus of Clemson University, a geology museum, an art gallery, historic homes, and nature trails sit on a 295-acre site with the Senn Horticultural Gardens. Visitors will find a butterfly garden, wildflower meadow, and specialty gardens for camellias, hostas, magnolias, native plants, and more. Lectures are offered throughout the year, along with programs for kids. Nature walks and concerts round out the roster of events.
SOUTH DAKOTA: MCCRORY GARDENS
Admission: $4 for adults
This 25-acre formal garden on the campus of South Dakota State University serves as a testing ground for new species. Plants with their own areas include irises, lilies, mums, peonies, shrub roses, hostas, and ornamental grasses. Butterfly and hummingbird gardens feature plants that attract these fleeting pollinators, and a prairie garden showcases native habitats. A medicinal garden highlights plants used by local Native Americans. The adjacent arboretum offers nearly 2 miles of walking trails.
TENNESSEE: KNOXVILLE BOTANICAL GARDEN AND ARBORETUM
This preserve began as a nursery in 1786. Today the park's 47 acres hold eight display gardens, including beds designed and cultivated by Knoxville Master Gardeners, which are used for teaching. Local residents learn to grow food at the Center for Urban Agriculture, and visitors enjoy a dogwood trail, a butterfly meadow, and stone terraces shaded by old trees, where events such as dinners and fundraising galas can be held.
TEXAS: FORT WORTH BOTANIC GARDEN
Texas' oldest botanic garden comprises 22 specialized gardens. A water-conservation garden features xeric plants, and a working vegetable garden includes fruit trees and a greenhouse. An elevated boardwalk through a shaded selection of native plants offers activities for kids. The highlight is the Japanese garden ($7 for adults), site of spring and fall festivals and a monthly tea ceremony. During the summer, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra plays under the stars.
UTAH: CONSERVATION GARDEN PARK
Where: West Jordan
Open: Monday to Saturday, April through October; Monday to Friday, November through March
Like much of the Intermountain West, Utah receives little rainfall and uses significant stores of fresh water to maintain outdoor landscaping. Conservation Garden Park seeks to reduce the amount by testing and showcasing landscapes best suited to arid and semi-arid regions. Visitors will find artful displays and also plenty of resources, including classes, landscape ideas, and events -- all geared toward helping nature lovers become better stewards of water resources.
VERMONT: GREATWOOD GARDENS
Designed by a protégé of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Greatwood Gardens is on the campus of Goddard College. This is a small preserve for a small state. It consists primarily of two areas with perennial borders divided by a wide pedestrian walk. Noteworthy features include boxwood hedges cut into an intricate design in the formal garden, a fountain pool, and a rose garden.
VIRGINIA: MAYMONT GARDENS
The grounds and gardens on this 100-acre estate are truly stunning, showcasing the style of landscaping favored by the wealthy during the Gilded Age. An Italian garden features stonework, fountains, and gazebos. A Japanese garden, shaded by pruned trees, offers a cool respite in an intimate setting. Also on the grounds are a farm for children, wildlife exhibit, butterfly trail, lily and daffodil display garden, herb garden, and wetland habitat.
WASHINGTON: BELLEVUE BOTANICAL GARDEN
This 53-acre urban garden showcases the natural habitats of the Pacific Northwest. Gardens highlight collections of fuschias, dahlias, rhododendrons, ferns, and perennials. A Japanese contemplative garden and forest trail add to visitors' enjoyment. A water-wise garden demonstrates conservation practices -- an unexpected feature in an area known for abundant rainfall. Classes focus on gardening skills, finding art in nature, or grade-specific curricula for children.
WEST VIRGINIA: WEST VIRGINIA BOTANIC GARDEN
This 82-acre site might be considered a “late bloomer.” It started in 2000 and is still developing but also offers much to see and do. Displays include an herb garden, a home landscape demonstration garden, and rock and sensory gardens. Summer camps and nature classes aim to foster young gardeners. Adults take classes on planting and container gardening. The park also features extensive trails through woodlands, wetlands, and display gardens.
WISCONSIN: OLBRICH BOTANICAL GARDENS
First envisioned by Michael Olbrich almost 100 years ago, these 16 acres of gardens have something blooming all year. The Bolz Conservatory ($2) -- replete with orchids and other tropical plants, a waterfall, and free-flying tropical birds -- is especially delightful in bone-chilling Wisconsin winters. A gilded pavilion, a gift from the Thai government, is surrounded by lush grasses and bamboo that look tropical but can survive the climate. Classes include meditation, yoga, and photography in addition to gardening.
WYOMING: CHEYENNE BOTANIC GARDENS
The 27 specialty gardens on this 9-acre site include rose, herb, cactus, perennial, rock, sensory, conifer, and historic gardens. Situated in a difficult growing climate, the gardens feature water-saving xeriscaping. The Paul Smith Children's Village (closed Mondays) is a hands-on experience in sustainability with windmills, pumps, water works, a doghouse with a green roof, a color-coded geodesic dome, and more.