Botany is one of the most fascinating aspects of our planet. And yet, for so many of us, we extend our knowledge to the daffodils in our garden, lillies on the windowsill and oak trees we pass on the way to work.
Yet there are plants out there that can, among other wonderful things, dupe wasps into helping them reproduce, devour annoying insects, grow in any (and we mean any) direction, and even the odd one that serves as a water fountain for monkeys.
With so many weird and wonderful aspects of nature to see, it would be amiss not to visit some of the finest botanical gardens around the world. We check out the best for your convenience.
Kew Gardens, London
Founded in 1759 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003, the 300 acres of land that make up Kew Gardens is one of the most naturally beautiful sites in the world.
The gardens came about in the 18th century, when London became a magnet for cultural exploits. The aristocracy sought solace outside the busy, teeming thrust of the city and so it was that the Royal Family purchased Kew Palace.
Prince Frederick and Princess Augusta, parents of the future George III, started a garden which quickly grew in scale. It was in the Victorian Age, though, that the gardens really expanded – with the famous glasshouses being built.
Yet the history of the gardens may stretch back a little further than first thought. Indeed, it is thought Julius Caesar crossed the Thames at Kew on his first visit to Britain in 53 BC.
Among the highlights today is Evolution House which tells the evolutionary story of plants throughout the earth’s existence.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
The founder of modern Singapore, the Brit Sir Stamford Raffles, was a keen naturalist. It’s no surprise, then, that he built a thriving botanical garden at the heart of the city state.
Thanks to their British connections, rubber was imported from Kew Gardens in London. The garden’s director, the naturalist who came to be known as Mad Ridley, spearheaded rubber cultivation in the gardens, which thrived due to the Singaporean climate.
Ridley persuaded planters across Malaya to take up his ideas and results were astonishing – Malaya became the world’s leading rubber producer and exporter.
The National Orchid Garden is the main attraction, with a collection of over 1,000 species of orchid.
Toronto Botanical Garden
Ontario’s foremost authority on gardening spans four acres, with 17 themed gardens. The story began in 1944, when Toronto businessman Rupert Edwards bought a large, weed-ridden area of space today known as the Edwards Gardens. He transformed the area to include a magnificent rockery and even a golf course.
When Edwards decided to sell, he ensured provisions were made that the space would become a public park. Opening in 1956, this taster of botany they provided charmed the city. The Garden Club of Toronto fought to open a botanical garden nearby to rival the likes of Kew Gardens in London. From this was born the Toronto Botanical Garden.
Today the themed gardens thrive, including Nature’s Garden, which recreates the two distinct habitats that form part of Toronto’s native plant heritage, and the the Beryl Ivey Knot Garden, which demonstrates the art of pruning and shaping plants in wacky ways.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York
Opened in 1911, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden today features a number of oriental inspired collections. Including more than 200 cherry trees, it is one of the foremost cherry-viewing sites outside of Japan. The first of those trees was planted in the garden before World War I – a gift from the Japanese government. The Japanese Hill and Pond Garden extends on this theme.
Another interesting garden here is the Shakespeare Garden. The English cottage style garden includes over 80 plants that are featured in Shakespeare’s plays and poems.
Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro
The 140-hectare Jardim Botânico lies at the foot of the Corcovado Mountain, in the shadow of the Christ the Redeemer statue. It was designed by order of the Prince Regent Dom João in 1808, as a sanctum of serenity. That calmness remains to this day.
The botanical garden’s tremendous lake is worth a look. It beams with huge Vitória Régia water lilies, while there is an enclosed orchard garden nearby that hosts around 600 species of orchards.
The gardens are home to over 6,500 species, with the tropical climate providing an excellent breeding ground for exotic plants.
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
A mile outside Edinburgh’s city centre lies 72 acres of scenic gardens. The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh is world renowned for its landscaped grounds but, more significantly, its collection of tropical plants. Their origins span 10 distinct climate zones.
Also here is the memorial garden to the late Queen Mother and the famous Rock Garden, often cited as one of Britain’s finest gardens. In fact, when the rock garden was initially built it was one of the pioneering gardens of its type. Rockeries were popular, but a fully fledged garden was something quite new back in 1871.