I know all this self-isolating and social distancing isn’t easy. And for most of us, the thought of just being able to go, sit and have a coffee and a croissant at our favorite local coffee shop sounds like the most amazing outing ever.
But let’s think bigger than that for a moment here. Let’s take full advantage of our health and be thankful for what truly matters, and that includes some of the real beauty that this world has to offer. On that note, I have three public gardens and parks to recommend in three different countries.
BUTCHART GARDENS (Canada)
It might be hard to imagine today, but the amazing Butchart Gardens began as a limestone quarry. In 1904, Robert and Jennie Butchart moved from Ontario, Canada to Vancouver Island to set up a cement plant on the aforementioned quarry. In 1912, what probably looked like a used up quarry to most, looked to Jennie Butchart like the potential for a grand garden. She used horses and carts to haul in topsoil, and today, we have the Sunken Garden. And while the Sunken Garden is worth the visit on its own, it’s only a small portion of the entire Butchart Gardens experience.
According to the official site, the Gardens sit on 55 acres of land, with 900 different bedding plant varieties, 26 greenhouses, and 50 full-time gardeners working to maintain it all year round.
One of the most popular areas is the Rose Garden, which is home to 2,500 rose plants, seven types of roses, 280 different varieties, and 30 beautiful rose arches. I visited the gardens in April a few years back, so the Roses weren’t really doing their thing yet (summer to early autumn is when they full bloom). However, there is so much to see that even with parts of the gardens not in bloom, it was still well worth the visit. I spent hours meandering around and would go back in a heartbeat!
BILTMORE ESTATE (United States)
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina is the spectacular mansion built for George Vanderbilt and his family at the end of the 19th Century. The chateau-style mansion is the largest privately-owned estate home in America with 250 rooms throughout its 175,000 square feet of space. The house is impressive and a must-see. However, don’t ignore the gardens and grounds.
The Estate sits on over 8,000 acres of land (yes, that’s three zeros) in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of Asheville. The views from the house alone are beautiful, but walking along the miles of pathways is a true feast for the eyes.
The grounds and all the gardens therein were designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. You might also know Mr. Olmsted as the guy who created a little place called Central Park in New York!
Again, as with the Butchart Gardens, what you see and what is in bloom will depend on the time of year you visit. But, just like the Butchart Gardens, I can’t imagine a bad time to go as there is just so much beauty to see regardless.
TIVOLI PARK (Slovenia)
For our last stop, we will leave North America behind and head across the Atlantic Ocean to Tivoli Park, in one of my favorite cities in the world, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
You can think of Tivoli Park as Ljubljana’s Central Park. It covers about 5-square kilometers, stretching into the city-center so it is easily walkable from almost anywhere you are staying in the city.
The park was designed by French engineer Jean Blanchard in 1813 and has three large walkways lined with grand horse chestnut trees as well as plenty of pathways. Flower beds ornament the landscape, and a bunch of fountains and statues can be found throughout.
In the center of the park is the Jakopic Promenade which is often used as a venue for large photograph exhibits. When I visited, there happened to be an architectural photography exhibit lining the promenade.
It might feel like we are a long way away from being able to go out and enjoy the world again. But it will happen one day. So, why not take this time at home to make a list of everything you want to do when that day comes? And maybe throw one of these suggestions on that list.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For now, take a virtual tour of one of these gardens!