Vernal pools, fairy gardens, acres of walkable landscapes — just some of the wonders of local gardens

Spring is ideal for shaking off the winter blues — and where better to do it than immersed in Mother Nature’s finest flowers, plants and trees in extraordinary gardens perfectly landscaped for strolling, reflecting and finding your Zen.

While some of the world’s best gardens are in far-flung locales like the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in Cape Town, South Africa, and Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, Morocco, there are some fantastic local gardens a lot closer to home. Here’s a look at a few of them.

Berkshire Botantical Garden
The 24-acre Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, blooms throughout the spring and summer and features dozens of garden spaces, ponds and a topiary collection. Photo courtesy of Berkshire Botantical Garden.

Berkshire Botanical Garden 

Stockbridge, Massachusetts

The Berkshire Botanical Garden is a New England gem. It’s been around since 1934, cherished by locals and tourists. There’s a lot to love with 24 acres and dozens of garden spaces, like the pond garden, herb garden, the Daylily Walk, the Children’s Discovery Garden and the Foster Rock Garden, to name a few. One favorite spot is Lucy’s Garden, a topiary collection of 22 creatures and sculptures. In the historic renovated and restored 18th-century Center House, the Leonhardt Galleries host seasonal exhibits of works inspired by nature. Throughout the year there are special events like the Spring Hoppening, which includes egg hunts, a story walk, crafts, pony rides, games, food trucks and drinks. 

  • General admission is $18; $16 for 65+, veterans and military; and free for members and children under 12. 5 West Stockbridge Road, Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden (photo by Steven Severinghaus)

Brooklyn Botanic Garden 

Brooklyn, New York

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a refuge in the go-go city that is Brooklyn. Founded more than 100 years ago, it’s on 52 acres and has some 12,000 plants and 30 specialty gardens. You can forget you’re in the city. You can get your green therapy year-round. Highlights include an aquatic house and orchid collection, rock garden, rose garden and more. There is always something going on, be it flower-arranging classes, workshops on planning your spring garden, birding, drawing and watercolor classes, or tours of the Steinhardt Conservatory, where you can learn about plants from around the globe. Kids will love the Discovery Garden, an acre just for them to learn about plants and their habitats and the wildlife they might find there. The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden was created by landscape designer Takeo Shiota and was one of the first public gardens in America. You’ll find turtles, ducks and carp in the pond. Relax at the Yellow Magnolia Café or the Magnolia Canteen. If you want a quick bite, stop in the Coffee Bar. 

  • Admission is $18 for adults; $12 for seniors 65 and older and students 12 and older with ID; and free for members and children under 12. Entrances are at 150 Eastern Parkway, 455 Flatbush Ave. and 990 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, New York.
Hammond Japanese Stroll Garden
Hammond Japanese Stroll Garden (photo credit Westchester County Tourism & Film)

Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden

North Salem, New York

If you’re looking for serenity, a Japanese garden is a good place to start. The Japanese Stroll Garden is purposely designed with large stepping stones where you walk slowly to take in the atmosphere, rows of smaller stones, paths that lead to the pond and more. Every step matters in the journey. Each plant and tree on the garden’s nearly four acres is in its place for a reason. Enjoy the museum’s traditional tearoom, which was imported from Kyoto and hosts tea ceremony events. The Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden was founded in 1957.

  • Admission is $12 for adults; $8 for seniors 65+, students with ID and veterans; and free for children 5 and under and members. The address is 28 Deveau Road, North Salem, New York.
Kelleher Rose Garden
The Kelleher Rose Garden in Boston showcases more than 200 varieties of roses that are at their peak in June and late September. Photo by Evan Bradley.

Kelleher Rose Garden 

Boston, Massachusetts

A rose is a rose, and everything’s coming up roses at the James P. Kelleher Rose Garden. The garden dates back to 1931. Today there are more than 10 classes and 200 varieties of roses. Imagine seeing more than 1,500 roses in full bloom — they peak in June and again in late September. It’s a beauty indeed. The cherubs, statues, arched trellises and fountain add to the bucolic setting. The gardens are in Boston’s Back Bay Fens, which were once wetlands. 

  • Free. The address is 73 Park Drive, Boston, Massachusetts.

King’s Garden

Ticonderoga, New York

The magnificent 6-acre King’s Garden is yet another reason to visit this most historic corner of the Adirondack region. You can explore centuries of garden history, savor the fragrant heritage flowers and discover how Fort Ticonderoga cultivates its gardens to feature its history and create curated culinary experiences and sustainable agricultural practices. It’s a photographer’s dream to visit these gardens in full bloom. The gardens and fort have been called “the first historic preservation and reconstruction effort in America.” Historic in so many ways, including being the oldest and largest private garden in the Adirondack/Lake Champlain area. Do not miss this!

Linwood Gardens

Linwood, New York

Linwood Gardens, a private garden, is located in Linwood, 35 miles southwest of Rochester. The original garden landscape was designed with an Arts and Crafts-style summer house, walled gardens with pools and fountains, ornamental trees and a view of the valley beyond. The highlight of the gardens is an extensive and rare collection of Japanese and American tree peonies. Not really a tree, these flowers are a bush or a shrub that can grow up to eight feet tall and explode in vibrant, pillowy blossoms at their peak. Linwood Gardens hosts a popular annual Tree Peony Festival of Flowers. The garden has been in existence for over 125 years and is a popular place for private guided tours, weddings, events, painting and photography workshops, and open garden days.

Mountain Top Arboretum
Photo Courtesy of Mountain Top Arboretum

Mountain Top Arboretum 

Tannersville, New York

You can’t go wrong on a mountain top. Enjoy the views from on high where the air is fresh and the land vast with more than 175 acres of meadows, wetlands, forests and fields that blossom in all their glory in spring and summer. The Mountain Top Arboretum is a haven for nature lovers. The educational center offers an array of public events, exhibits, lectures, workshops and more. Children will love using birch bark, moss, stones and whatever else they can find to build fairy houses, mini-gardens and forts for the Fairy Garden. This is also a great spot for birders, as more than 60 species visit during the year.

For something special, experience the spiral labyrinth and stroll inward to the circular stone bench. Kids won’t be able to resist the opportunity to race to the center and back. Walk the wetland boardwalk and absorb the beauty of spirea, asters, goldenrods and more. Another plus is the view across the wetland to the mountains. The gardens have been a go-to spot in the Catskills since opening in 1977. 

  • Admission is free for members; a $5 donation is suggested for nonmembers. The address is 4 Maude Adams Road, Tannersville, New York.

New York Botanical Garden 

Bronx, New York

New York doesn’t like to take a back seat to anyone about anything. That goes for gardens, too. The New York Botanical Garden sits on 250 acres and has more than 1 million unique specimens. It bills itself as a museum of plants, a hub of education and a plant science laboratory. There’s so much to see and do that you should consider spending the day there. If you can’t, hit some highlights. 

The Conifer Arboretum has some of the first trees planted in the garden in the early 1900s — more than 250 pines, spruces and firs. Walk in the Thain Family Forest along Native American hunting trails, and find the marks left by glaciers and trees that date back to the American Revolution. The rock garden is a rock star and has been called one of the world’s best gardens of its kind. It’s nearly three acres of alpine flowers snug in gravel beds and rocks. If all that walking stirs your appetite, try the Pine Tree Café, or if you’re in a celebratory mood, dine at the upscale Hudson Garden Grill. 

Check the calendar for exhibits, workshops and events like the Orchid Show and the Holiday Train Show. The All-Garden Pass includes daytime access to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and Tram Tour, plus garden features including seasonal children’s pop-up programming and outdoor collections. 

  • Pricing is $35 for adults; $31 for students with valid ID and visitors 65+; $15 for children 2-12 years old; and free for patrons/members and children under 2. The address is 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, New York.

Parker F. Scripture Botanical Gardens and Nature Trail

Oriskany, New York

The Parker F. Scripture Botanical Gardens and Nature Trail is a must-see beautiful 15-acre site with a butterfly house, beehives and a woodland nature trail. Wildflowers are in abundance and all lovingly cared for by more than 50 master gardener volunteers. Their extensive daylily garden is very popular. Many informative brochures are available to educate you on the surroundings.

  • Public garden viewing is free.
Wethersfield Garden
Wethersfield Estate & Garden, part of the 1,000-acre Wethersfield Estate in Amenia, New York, is home to more than 20 miles of trails featuring statues, vernal pools, stone features and wildlife. Photo by Ngoc Minh.

Wethersfield Estate & Garden 

Amenia, New York

Wethersfield’s gardens are full of statues, like the limestone and marble ones from Greek and Roman mythology in the woodland garden nicknamed “The Wilderness.” Along more than 20 miles of trails you can find the unexpected, including an array of birds and vernal pools that are home to endangered amphibian creatures. The gardens are part of the 1,000-acre Wethersfield Estate, on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the gardens, check out the Carriage Museum, which has more than 20 antique carriages, and take a tour of the Colonial Revival Wethersfield House. The former site of two abandoned farms, the land that is Wethersfield Estate & Garden was purchased in 1937. 

  • Admission is $15 for nonmembers; $10 for 65+; and free for members and children under 12. 257 Pugsley Hill Road, Amenia, New York.

Top image: The Maureen K. Chilton Azalea Garden at New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is set among the dramatic rock outcrops, steep slopes and dappled shade of native trees. Photo courtesy of New York Botanical Garden.

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