When it comes right down to it – all of Ireland is a garden. Ireland is one of the most fertile places on earth. The mild climate and long growing season coupled with fertile soil and ample amounts of precipitation culminate to create an ideal growing environment. A trip through the lush countryside is a wonder to the eyes. A spectacular patchwork quilt of stonewalled fields unfolds before your eyes. With over 40 shades of green the countryside comes alive and must be personally experienced. There are formal gardens, Victorian gardens, Japanese gardens, and decorative vegetable gardens. Here are some of our favorite gardens in Ireland:
Knappogue Castle & Walled Garden
This garden offers a newly restored 19th century walled garden set against the beautiful backdrop of Knappogue Castle. Dating from 1817, the beautiful 1.25-acre garden is now restored to its former splendor. The tall and imposing walls of the walled garden have now been refurnished with climbing roses, grapevines and many clematis varieties. The garden supplies the Castle with fresh herbs for daily use in the preparation of the mediaeval banquet, which take place nightly at 7:00PM from April to October. The garden is open 7 days a week for viewing.
The National Botanic Gardens in Dublin
The gardens were founded in 1795 by the Royal Dublin Society and taken over by the state in 1878. The gardens feature a rose garden, vegetable garden, an arboretum, and a yew-walk along the River Tolka, herbaceous beds, and various natural habitats. The greenhouses have a multitude of exotic plants. The National Botanic Gardens in Dublin offer free admission or guided tours.
This garden, located in Dublin near St. Stephen’s Green, has been open to the public only a few years. The estate was built during the 18th Century. There are ivy-clad corners, statues, a grotto, landscape gardens, and a maze. A Victorian rosarium has recently been rebuilt.
Powerscourt House, Gardens and Waterfall
This garden is located at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains. Richard Wingfield, the Viscount of Powerscourt, created the gardens in the 1740’s. Daniel Robertson further developed the gardens from 1843 to 1975. Powerscourt has the highest waterfall in Ireland. It also offers many garden attractions including formal gardens as well as landscaped walks comprised of over 200 varieties of trees, shrubs, flowers and plants. There is also a garden center, shops and a café on the property.
Muckross House & Gardens
Outside the town of Killarney lie Muckross House and Gardens in County Kerry. Muckross House is a magnificent Victorian mansion built in 1843. Horse drawn carriages can take you from the carpark to the mansion, about 1 mile, through beautiful tree lined pastures. The famed gardens are world-renowned. They are noted for the collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, a rock garden and the many walk ways along the shores of the lake.
The Victorian Gardens at Kylemore Abbey
These gardens are located in Connemara, County Galway. A wealthy Englishman built it for his bride. After her sudden death, the property sat vacant. During WWII, the Benedictine Nuns purchased the estate. This is one of the most picturesque settings in Ireland. You may tour the country house now used as an international girl’s school and convent or the gardens and long walk ways through the woods. There is also a beautiful but rather steep climb up the mountain to a statue of Jesus, a smaller version of the one found in Rio de Janeiro. Once on top of the mountain, the panoramic views cannot be beat.
The Botanic Gardens in Belfast
These gardens located in County Antrim, were created in 1827. The gardens surround a wrought iron and glass greenhouse, built in 1839, which is considered the largest greenhouse in the world. Many of the plants are over 100 years old. The Tropical Ravine House displays a range of tropical plants grown in a sunken glen.
Stroll along avenues of rustling gardens planted centuries ago. Breathe in the perfume of the flowerbeds as bees buzz happily around you. Watch the herons as they shop for lunch in tinkling streams near by. If you want to truly relax, return to nature in one of Scotland’s beautiful gardens and let natural Scotland soothe your spirits. Here are some of our favorite gardens in Scotland:
Logan Botanic Garden is located at the south-western tip of Scotland in dumfries & Galloway and is unrivaled as the country’s most exotic garden. Visit the walled Botanic Garden and discover a remarkable collection of unusual and beautiful plants. A pleasure for all the family, Logan is an exotic paradise. Visitors can walk through groves of eucalyptus and palm trees or stand in the shade of awesome giant rhubarb-like gunnera.
In the depths of the Scottish Borders countryside, Dawyck Botanic Garden has a stunning collection of trees and shrubs. Dawyck Botanic Garden is home to one of Scotland’s finest tree collections including some of Britain’s oldest and tallest trees. The 65-acre five star Garden offers woodland and burnside walks and is renowned for its seasonal displays of snowdrops, bluebells, Himalayan poppies, rhododendrons, azaleas and autumn color.
ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN
Just one mile from city centre, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh offers visitors peace and tranquillity amongst 72 acres of stunning scenery. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is one of the finest botanic gardens in the world. A pleasure for all the family, the Garden offers fantastic views of the capital’s skyline, featuring Edinburgh Castle, and is located just a mile from the city centre. Visitors can discover its fascinating history, which dates back 300 years, learn about its plantings and walk around 70 acres of beautiful landscape.
NEW HOPETOUN GARDENS
New Hopetoun Gardens – So much more than just a garden center. Stocking the best plants for Scotland’s climate. Themed gardens, tearoom & award winning gift shop. Situated to the west of Edinburgh, Dougal Philip and Lesley Watson first set-up the garden centre over 30 years ago.
LEITH HALL, GARDEN & ESTATE
Leith Hall and Garden features extensive herbaceous borders and a fine collection of alpines and primulas in the rock garden. Leith Hall is one of the hidden gems in the Trust, and is very much a family home. Visitors will also enjoy the beautiful gardens, including the rock garden which is being restored to its original 1900s design, the Moon Gate, orchard and vegetable garden. There are spectacular views of the surrounding hills, three way-marked walks through mixed woodland and an 18th Century stable block and ice house.
BROUGHTON HOUSE & GARDEN
Today, Broughton House is owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Inside, you will find a fantastic collection of art, ceramics, furniture and literature and, having been influenced by his time in Japan; outside you will find a stunning Japanese style-garden offering a tranquil haven for you to relax and enjoy.
CRATHES CASTLE AND GARDEN
Inside you’ll find a labyrinth of cultural history, from family portraits and fine antique furniture to painted ceilings. The walled garden is split into eight sections that encompass every green delight imaginable. Nature spotters will love the waymarked trails along the Coy Burn – keep an eye out here for buzzards, herons and kingfishers.
England is the most garden-loving country in the world, with more gardens open to the public than anywhere else. London is the Garden Capital of the world, in the sense of having a higher proportion of garden-loving residents than any other capital city in the world. The most famous period in English garden history is the eighteenth century, when the original English landscape gardens were made. Here are some of our favorite gardens in England:
Great Dixter’s Garden
Great Dixter was the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd – it was the focus of his energy and enthusiasm and fueled over 40 years of books and articles. Now under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust, Great Dixter is an historic house, a garden, a centre of education, and a place of pilgrimage for horticulturists from across the world.
Located in Staffordshire, this is an ambitious, global garden created by Victorian plant-hunters. On a visit you will go on a journey from an Italian terrace to an Egyptian pyramid, via a Himalayan glen and Chinese-inspired garden.
One of the only remaining gardens where you can still see the influence of Norah Lindsay located in Norfolk. Lindsay was a socialite garden designer in the 1920s and 30s who became a major influence on garden design.
Lord and Lady Armstrong engineered the landscape and experimented with plants on a spectacular scale. Cragside is home to one of the largest rock gardens in Europe. A walk around the garden will take in rocky crags, towering North American conifers and formal gardens.
Discover one of the most influential 20th-century British gardens. This is an Arts and Crafts masterpiece, nestled in a north Cotswolds hamlet. Designed as a series of outdoor rooms separated by walls and hedges, each garden is different in character and scale.
This world-renowned garden was created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. The garden is famed for its vibrant planting schemes and architectural planning. It is set within the ruins of a great Elizabethan house and surrounded by a rich landscape of woods, streams and farmland.
The Courts Garden
Full of variety, this charming garden shows the English country style at its best. Peaceful water gardens and herbaceous borders, with organically shaped topiary, demonstrate an imaginative use of color and planting, creating unexpected vistas. Stroll through the arboretum with its wonderful species of trees and naturally planted spring bulbs.
Everybody associates Wales with imperious landscapes, and the gardens and country parks across the country make the most of the incredible natural scenery, whether you’re an animal lover, a picnic connoisseur or adore exotic plants. Here are some of our favorite gardens in Wales:
Colby Woodland Garden
It’s hard to believe the grounds at Colby once witnessed the rumble of rising industry, because this peaceful space is now a charming garden of unparalleled tranquillity. Amble through a carpet of bluebells and peep through the shade of a gazebo in this woodland wonder full of dragonflies and butterflies.
Treborth Botanic Garden
Conceived by a railway company as a pleasure garden more than 160 years ago, Sir Joseph Paxton’s original design for Treborth was thwarted by funding problems, and the site only re-emerged during the 1960s. Shaped by university experts, its glasshouses now shelter amazing plants from Wales and across the world.
The National Botanic Garden
The history of the Garden of Wales is as fascinating as many of its species. Dating back to a mansion built in the 17th century, its current guise – opened in 2000 – spreads walks, pools, science discovery centers, picnic spots, rare plants, bee gardens and more across almost 600 amazing acres.
Bodnant is blessed with one of the most impressive collections anywhere in the world, with century-old cuttings, 180-foot arch flowers and towering ancient trees against the backdrop of Snowdonia. Relax in the shrub borders, enjoy the Italianate terrace and admire the central Poem, where generations of one family rest.
Cowbridge Physic Garden
Set in a historic market town, the enthusiastic volunteers at Cowbridge have created a homage to centuries of physic gardens and healing plants in an oasis from nearby city life. A relatively small garden which has won high praise over the years, this is a down-to-earth hidden treasure.
Aberglasney is steeped in Medieval history – Henry Tudor even knighted original owner William ap Thomas. More than 400 years on, there is so much to see: a beautiful Cloister Garden and a tunnel of ancient trees are among the highlights. Ghost sightings add to the allure of a spectacular setting.
The captivating Edwardian gardens at Dyffryn are part of a Grade I-listed landmark dotted with beautiful garden rooms, revolving seasonal displays of wonderful plants and an Arboretum housing an international cast of trees. You’ve more than 55 acres to admire here, as well as an imaginative year-round events program.
In terms of design, Italian renaissance gardens are the best in Europe and, arguably, the best residential gardens in the world. Their design was led by wealthy and artistically inclined patrons who were able to draw upon a wide range of brilliant artists and highly skilled garden craftsmen. There can hardly be a better arrangement for making gardens, as proved by the high quality of Italian garden design. Here are some of our favorite gardens in Italy:
Villa d’Este Gardens at Tivoli
The extensive series of gardens created by Renaissance Cardinal Ippolito d’Este to surround his villa stand at the pinnacle of Italian garden design and are, in fact, the model for formal gardens across the continent – and world. They seem to embody the very soul of the Italian Renaissance. The layout – revolutionary for its day – created a set of “rooms” to highlight fountains, set against a backdrop of the surrounding Campagna hills so that each seemed a garden unto itself.
Villa Carlotta, Como
The western shore of Lake Como, on which rise the hillside gardens of Villa Carlotta, has such a mild year-round climate that it’s called Tremezzina Riviera. Foliage here stays green all winter, even when the subalpine peaks that form a backdrop to the gardens are white with snow. More colorful than most classic Italian gardens, which depend more on their intricate formal designs and manicured hedges, Villa Carlotta dazzles with masses of flowers that change with the seasons. The gardens follow the natural slopes and curves of the hillside, backed by woods that open to reveal magnificent lake and mountain views.
Medici Villas near Florence
On the hillsides overlooking Florence, the Medici family built villas where they could retreat from the summer heat of their city palaces. They took advantage of the open space to surround these with opulent gardens designed in the height of Renaissance fashion.
Boboli Gardens, Florence
It took a century to complete the terraced gardens that cover 111 acres behind Florence’s Palazzo Pitti. Always listed among Europe’s best classical garden parks, the Boboli deftly combine landscape gardens and carefully manicured “nature” with the formal parterre, architectural follies, and water features common to Renaissance gardens. All this is tied together by promenades and more intimate paths that make strolling these gardens a welcome respite from the city.
Villa Balbianello, Lenno
One of the loveliest sights from the boats that ply Lake Como is the garden-covered peninsula of Punta di Balbianello, rising steeply from the water. The terraced gardens and Baroque villa were built for a cardinal in the 1700s. You can follow a trail there from the village of Lenno, but the best way to arrive is by the small boat from Lenno’s dock. The boat circles the peninsula for views of the gardens from below before you land and climb to the villa at the top. Paths wind among the plantings, encircling the peninsula, where the stately trees, flowering shrubs, and terraces of columns and statuary were all placed to frame views of the lake and the mountains to its north. The villa is interesting, but no match for the gardens and the views.
Villa Taranto, Lake Maggiore
You could easily mistake the formal beds of massed flowers, manicured lawns, and shaded woodland paths of Villa Taranto for an English garden park – and rightly. It was designed by a retired Scottish army officer in the late 1940s, a botanist who found this microclimate on the western shore of Lake Maggiore to be perfect for growing plants from around the world. You’ll find plants indigenous to northern Italy, but also species from Amazon rain forests and other exotic environments. In the landscape-style gardens and park are more than 20,000 varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, and water plants. The dahlia collection alone numbers more than 300 kinds.
Giardino Giusti, Verona
One of the finest examples of an Italian Renaissance villa garden lies behind the Verona villa of Venetian diplomat Agostino Giusti. He commissioned the garden in 1570 and it is unusual in several ways. First, it is relatively small, and second, instead of leading upwards as a setting for the villa, it rises steeply above the villa, to reveal one of the finest views across the city over the villa’s rooftop. It is beautifully designed for an in-town residence, its formal parterres, hedge maze, and winding walks designed for strolling and as a shaded respite from Verona’s summer heat. Its wilder section is reached by narrow paths enclosed by shrubbery and trees as they climb steeply to a grotto and terrace.
In this land of fire and ice, a visit to a botanical garden isn’t the first stop for most when they travel to Iceland. Sure you can see volcanoes (the Bardarbunga volcano is the most recent to erupt), soak in the waters of the famed Blue Lagoon, and walk on glaciers and through fields of thermal mud pots. But for those curious about plants thriving this far north in such extreme growing conditions, the Iceland botanical gardens are an unexpected delight. Here are some of our favorite gardens in Iceland:
Lystigardurinn (Arctic Botanical Garden)
The country’s top botanical garden, Lystigardurinn, is a mere 60 miles below the Arctic Circle in Akureyri, Iceland. Considered one of the northern most botanical gardens in the world, it features about 6600 types of Icelandic, Arctic and foreign flora. The small garden (about 8 acres) originally opened as a park in 1912 and became a botanical garden in 1957. Its mission is to “identify and test trees, shrubs and perennials whether they fulfill demands upon beauty and hardiness in the region.” The garden also serves as a gene bank for hardy plants suitable to the weather conditions in Iceland.
REYKJAVIK BOTANICAL GARDENS
Reykjavik Botanic Garden is an outdoor collection of living plants. Its main role is to conserve plants for education, research and delight. The garden conserves some 5000 plant species in eight plant collections. The collections give an idea of the enormous diversity of vegetation in the northern temperate zone. In summer there is a variety of events in the Botanic Garden and group receptions are available throughout the year. Café Flora is open in the display greenhouse from May to September. The Café is popular and well known for its delicious treats with ingredients grown in the garden and served in beautiful surroundings.
The founder of Skrúður was Reverend Sigtryggur Guðlaugsson, the dean at Núpur. The garden was officially opened on August 7th 1909. Vegetation in the garden grew and flourished through 1980, but after that time the garden did not receive much attention. In 1992, a group of people decided on their own to restore the garden, and on August 18th 1996 they formally returned the garden to its owner – the Ministry of Education. In November of the same year the Ministry handed over the garden to the town of Ísafjörður to own and care for. The formal aim of the garden is to be a memorial to itself and to the concept of school gardens where the sustaining of natureís bounty and environmental education are linked to the operations of public schools. The garden is also an example of successful horticulture in such northern climes, and as such, a notable part of the country’s horticultural history.