Gardens are perfect for those seeking a tempered outdoors experience. Brimming with blooms and ingenious design, they appeal to horticulturalists that patiently tend to their shrubs, as well as plant lovers who still haven’t brought a sapling home. Here’s a scan around the globe for some of the most rewarding outdoor garden experiences.
The Classical Gardens of Suzhou, in eastern China, date from the 11th to 19th centuries. Each of the nine UNESCO-listed gardens is a microcosm of the natural world and incorporates traditional craftsmanship. The Net Master’s Garden is the smallest, yet it conveys a sense of space with its cleverly placed pavilions. Couple’s Garden Retreat comprises two gardens, bordered by water, and united by a central living space (en.visitsz.com; admission fees and opening times vary with season).
A 15-minute drive from the town of Benidorm, Asia Gardens Hotel and Spa is located in what the World Health Organisation decrees is one of the world’s healthiest micro-climates. The retreat has Asian-inspired pools and gardens with over 200 plants on display. There are Japanese bonsai, pomegranate and orange trees, and love trees that blossom with fuchsia flowers in spring (www.asiagardens.es; two-day spa package €362/₹27,000 per person).
The plant beds at Jiwa Damai, in a lush Indonesian valley, form a mandala shape that symbolises “oneness.” Learn about permaculture—a holistic garden philosophy to suit community and environmental needs—on a tour that covers medicinal plants and indigenous species (jiwadamai.net; tours Wed and Sun 10a.m.; suggested contribution $3/₹200).
The Husbandry School, with a 360°-view of the Devon countryside, grows exotic and heritage fruit, vegetables, and edible flowers. Top chefs from London, a four-hour drive away, prize its tree spinach, which has a dusting of iridescent magenta on its green leaves. The school’s founders, Carole and Jonty Williams, nurtured the abundant land from “nothing but thistles” and impart their passion for husbandry in two-day workshops (husbandry.co.uk).
In the spectacular forests of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, Bumthang Valley is an Eden-like kaleidoscope of flowers and birds. Adventurous botanists will love the many plant varieties—from rare species of rhododendrons to magnificent magnolias—that survive at altitudes of 2,240 to 4,160 metres. Campsites in forest clearings, such as Phokphey, allow visitors to immerse themselves in the wilderness.
The Secret Garden festival is held on the resplendent grounds of a Georgian house. It spills over ten acres of landscaped garden around a lake, and hosts some major music acts. The “gardeners”, as revellers are known, are encouraged to express themselves through interactive installations, alternative art projects, and outlandish costumes (2016.secretgardenparty.com; 21-24 July 2016).
These magical medieval gardens are located in a former monastery. The garden’s architects, Sonia Lesot and Patrice Taravella, were inspired by medieval tapestries and illustrated manuscripts. Keep an eye out for the Three Orchard Cloister, with its pear, cherry and sorbus trees; the Maze Garden which symbolises the spiritual journey to Paradise and the dreamily romantic Flowered Field (www.prieuredorsan.com; open 10a.m. to 7p.m. daily from Apr to Sep; entry adults €10/₹740, children €5/₹370).
There’s no better guide to South Africa’s floral wonders than the U.K.’s Royal Horticultural Society. The organisation holds a 16-day tour that includes visits to the sun-baked Karoo Desert and the incredible Karoo Botanical Garden, and an architect’s tour of the Italian-style Garden of St. Christopher in Johannesburg (worldwide.rhsgardenholidays.com).
American photographer Allen Rokach has been travelling the world since 1975, zooming in on flowers, gardens, and landscapes on assignment forNational Geographic and the New York Times. The former Director of Photography at the New York Botanical Garden imparts his knowledge through workshops like the five-day garden trip in Chicago (11-15 July 2016; $799/₹53,300) and excursions to New Mexico (2-9 December 2016; price to be announced) to capture the countryside (www.allenrokach.com).
Located in New Zealand’s northern mountains, Shangri-La promotes vegan organic living through hands-on lectures and workshops. Volunteers tend 454 acres of vegetable patches, flower gardens, and fruit trees that feed them and other visitors. Guests and volunteers are welcome during the summer to help with tasks from food preparation to landscaping. (Closed end-April to early Nov; apply at gentleworld.org; no fee, but donations are welcome.)
Appeared in the November 2015 issue as “Not Just A Stroll In The Park”. This story has been updated in March 2016.
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