It may come as a surprise, but the gardens of Europe are rather luscious. For that they have imperialism to thank, as many of these collections consist of the specimens brought home from colonies far and wide. For many, the chance to see these plants only comes around once or twice in a lifetime. Not being ones willing to miss out on most things, we’ve assembled some inspiration on where to go to learn about them.
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Botanic Garden Miese, Belgium
This garden, established in 1840, is home to 6% of species known to inhabit the earth, and one of the planet’s most important collections of plants. Its herbarium alone has more than 3 million specimens, which just goes to show. The gardens are featured by 7 themed tours throughout parts of the year, and surround the stunning 12th century Bouchout Castle.
Visit Botanic Garden Miese
Chateau de Villandry, France
In France you’ll find the gargantuan Versailles gardens and Giverny’s not-so-vast Monet’s Garden, but if anything you’ll want to witness the greenery found in the Loire valley – a place where many a noble chose to build his chateaux. Chateau de Villandry is one of them, and boasts one of the most famous vegetable gardens in the world dating back to the Middle Ages.
The UK is blessed with a fine selection of gardens, from the splendour of Sissinghurst, to Hever Castle’s 4,000 rose bushes in a 125-acre estate. Chief among them however are Kew Garden’s 300 acres that contain the world’s largest living collection of plants. Tours take place almost all year with seasonal themed tours such as ‘Autumn Colour’, ‘Wild Evergreens’, and ‘Spring Buds’.
Visit Kew Gardens
credit: Michael Button
The Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden, situated inside the borders of the German capital, span a massive 106 acres, and are home to collections of exotic plants bought back from former German colonies. Biologists provide tours of the immaculate gardens regularly to inform visitors of these organic curiosities.
Gardini Botanici Villa Taranto, Italy
A bit of a mouthful it may be, the Gardini Botanici Villa Taranto is not compensating for anything. 40 acres containing some 20,000 plant varieties cover the garden’s grounds, while some of those flowers are exceedingly rare. A white lily from the Amazon, for instance, grows up to 2 metres in diameter.
Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra, Portugal
This little garden in Coimbra only occupies 32 acres, but is arguably Europe’s most beautiful. Its arboretum is a highlight, sporting an impressive bamboo forest, a collection of 51 varieties of Eucalyptus, and a formidable Morton Bay Fig tree. Walking tours take place throughout the year.
St. Petersburg Botanical Garden, Russia
The oldest botanical garden in Russia was once one of the world’s biggest, second only to Kew Gardens. During WWII, unfortunately up to 90% of the garden’s specimens were destroyed, but the collection continues to grow. One particularly rare plant – the flowering cactus ‘tsaritsa nochi’ – blossoms only one night a year. To celebrate, champagne is popped open while visitors are invited to attend until early in the morning.
Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid, Spain
For botanical gardens in Spain, look no further than this wonderful specimen in the heart of Madrid. The garden takes up 20 acres of the city and, while it’s only a fraction of the size of its fellow European counterparts, the gardens are every bit as enchanting. The herbarium is particularly impressive, housing over a million species of plant.