By Colleen Vanderlinden, Planet Green
Every garden is amazing. From the smallest container to the most dramatic botanic garden (such as those listed here), gardens help us appreciate the natural beauty around us, amaze us with the diversity that exists in the plant world, and stand testament to the creativity of those whose art consists not of brushes and paints, but of flowers and plants.
Whether they stand as symbols of a leader’s greatness, as a wealthy man’s monument to his love of plants, or as a beautifully cataloged collection of a particular type of plant, the world would be a sad place without its botanic gardens. Here are five of the most dramatic, amazing gardens from around the world.
1. Musee du Quai Branly Vertical Garden, Paris
The streets in this area of Paris mimic the meandering curves of the Seine, and at the heart of it is the Quai Branly Museum. The building itself is a hodgepodge of shapes, but it is the administrative wing that really draws attention. The four-story building, with its gently curving facade, is covered from sidewalk to roof in plants.
Designed by botanist and landscape designer Patrick Blanc, the garden comprises 15,000 plants. With 170 species represented, the garden is an amazing spectacle of urban vertical gardening that celebrates biodiversity. Plants included in Blanc’s design include heuchera, ferns, ivy, grasses, sedges, mosses, liverwort and bergenia.
The patented system Blanc designed to support the garden (and others he’s designed) is constructed of heavy-duty felt attached to a strong plastic backing. The felt and plastic support plant roots and provide a medium for water and nutrients to reach the plants. The entire thing is supported by a metal frame that holds the plants off of the facade of the building to reduce the potential for damage from plant roots. A drip irrigation system at the top of the wall runs constantly, bathing the plant roots in moisture and nutrients.
Image: Lauren Manning / Creative Commons
2. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, UK
From the mid-1700′s through the early 20th century, the Tremayne family of Cornwall designed and maintained an extensive garden on the family’s estate. After losing the majority of its gardening staff in World War I, the gardens fell into a state of disrepair that only continued and worsened through the second World War and thereafter. The gardens became overgrown and neglected, and any of its former splendor was lost in the mess that remained. That changed, though, in the 1990′s when a descendant of the Tremayne family inherited the estate. Upon looking around, the family realized that there was beauty amid the chaos, and undertook the enormous task of bringing the gardens back to their former glory.
The magnificent Heligan Gardens are designed in what is known as the “gardenesque” style, which means that different parts of the garden have entirely different moods and focuses. The gardens include several very old rhododendrons and camellias, an Italian-style garden, a large vegetable garden, Europe’s only productive pineapple pit, and “The Jungle,” which is filled with sub-tropical tree ferns. The gardens are now open to the public, and the “Mud Maiden,” above, has become one of the garden’s most beloved features.
Image: Fimb / Creative Commons
3. The Nong Nooch Botanical Garden, Thailand
This amazing, 500-acre garden was originally destined to be a fruit plantation. Instead, the owners decided to plant tropical plants and flowers. The result is nothing short of magnificent.
The 500 acres are divided among several themed gardens and display gardens, including a cactus and succulent garden, a French garden, a garden inspired by Stonehenge, a display garden featuring variegated plants, an orchid and bromeliad display garden, and “Butterfly Hill” — which features tropical plants that attract butterflies. Nong Nooch is also home to a vast collection of cycads that boasts at least one member of every single cycad species on the planet.
Image: Zoe Goodacre / Creative Commons
4. Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden, Tromso, Norway
The world’s northernmost botanical garden boasts a wide ranging collection of Arctic and alpine plants from across the entire Northern hemisphere.
The garden is arranged geographically, grouping Arctic and alpine plants together by continent, as well as by botanical association (so related plants within a specific region are grouped together.) All together, the garden showcases thousands of botanical taxa within its 20 collections.
The garden also strives to educate visitors about the relationship between the plants and the terrain of Alpine regions. A “Geology Walk” explores rocks of Norway, and signs throughout the garden help visitors appreciate the uniqueness of alpine plants.
Image: Harald Groven / Creative Commons
5. Rikugien Garden, Tokyo
The work “rikugien” means “six poems garden” in Japanese. This breathtaking garden in Tokyo features gardens with 88 scenes that bring famous places in Japan and China, historical references, and poems to life.
Rikugien Garden was constructed in the late 1600s through early 1700s by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, with permission from the fifth shōgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. Some of its most popular features include a serene pond and islands, teahouses, and forested areas. In all, the garden is home to over 6,000 trees, particularly maples, camellias, magnolias, and azaleas.
Gardens like these are wonderful not only for the pleasure they provide just by being there, but by the inspiration they can provide for our own gardens. They also open our eyes to the diversity of plants on our planet and the creative ways we’ve found to celebrate them.
Image: Thejas / Creative Commons