The Best Botanic Gardens in the US

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

Tulips at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Pops of red, yellow, and purple mingle with the blush of pale pinks and the glow of fiery oranges. It is spring’s cacophony … a riot of color to expunge winter’s canvas of blinding white and uninspiring gray. Don’t let spring’s confetti of blooms pass you by! Take some time to (literally) stop and smell the roses at one of the country’s awe-inspiring botanic gardens. Here are some of the nation’s best:

You probably wouldn’t expect to start the tour in Brooklyn, but the often-overlooked Brooklyn Botanic Garden is stunning. Relax at the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, enjoy the scents of the Herb Garden, stroll beneath the pink canopy of the Cherry Walk, and marvel at the gorgeous plants in the Native Flora Garden.  April and May are the peak months to see blooms that include cherry trees, forsythias, lilacs, native wildflowers, orchids, rhododendrons, and wisteria. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is located near Prospect Heights in New York City. It spans 52 acres and includes the Steinhardt Conservatory, an art gallery, and the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum.

Created in 1820, the United States Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in the nation. It is located in Washington, DC and includes a Conservatory, the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park. Admission is free and the USBG is open year-round. Visit before April 27 and enjoy the Orchid Symphony in the Conservatory, which features orchids from all over the world. Other terrific features include an amphitheater, the First Ladies Water Garden, the Butterfly Garden, the Rose garden, and the Lawn Terrace.

Located in Pine Mountain, Georgia, Callaway Gardens covers a jaw-dropping 6,500 acres – plus another 4,610-acre nature preserve. The gardens include an enclosed butterfly habitat, a lakeside discovery center, a pioneer log cabin, several gardens, zip lines, a bike trail, a white-sand beach, and two golf courses. Spring at Callaway Gardens is simply incredible, with more than 20,000 azaleas in bloom — plus dogwoods, tulips, daffodils, and more.

Bok Tower Gardens is located in Lake Wales, Florida. It covers 250 acres and has a 205-foot tower with a 60-bell carillon. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. in the 1920s, Bok Tower is a National Historic Landmark. The art deco tower is built from pink and gray marble and native Florida coquina stone, and it is surrounded by a Koi pond. There are two walking trails and picnic areas, as well. Spring is considered peak bloom time, with over 150 varieties of camellias and hundreds of azaleas in bloom, along with flowering plants, orchids, irises, and Mexican flame vine.

The Missouri Botanical Garden, located in St. Louis, is also a National Historic Landmark. It is one of the nation’s oldest botanic gardens, dating to 1859.This beautiful late-Victorian-style garden includes a Japanese strolling garden, a pioneer village, a playground and children’s garden, and Henry Shaw’s 1850 estate home. The Climatron greenhouse simulates a rainforest and is the first geodesic dome to be used as a conservatory. The Linnean House, built in 1882, is the oldest continuously-operating greenhouse west of the Mississippi River.

In Phoenix, Arizona you’ll find the unique Desert Botanical Garden, established in 1939 and featuring more than 50,000 plants – including over 130 rare, threatened, and endangered plants. Spring is the ideal time to stroll the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail, a two-acre area containing North American desert wildflower exhibits. Be sure to catch the Spring Butterfly Exhibit, the Spring Plant Sale, Music in the Garden spring concert series, and Agave on the Rocks.

No matter where you live, you’re sure to find a beautiful botanic garden to explore. The Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, for example, is a small gem. Denver, Colorado’s Denver Botanic Garden is stunning, complete with a sunken amphitheater.  And if you are lucky enough to travel (or move) to Hawaii this spring, the National Tropical Botanical Garden contains 2,000 stunning acres of gardens and preserves featuring thousands of species from the topics around the world. So go ahead – find a garden and take a moment to enjoy spring’s beautiful artwork!