In 1939, Arizona’s Desert Botanical Garden opened its doors eight miles outside of Phoenix. Seventy-five years later, its location turned out to be a fortuitous one. “Now we are in the middle of a metropolis,” says John Sallot, director of marketing. With sprawling cities on all sides, what began as a humble research plot is now a brilliant oasis in an area of otherwise unceasing development.
Verdant oases around the world have similarly noteworthy origins. Canada’s Butchart Gardens was a project fueled by a woman’s distaste for the worn-out quarry in her backyard. Claude Monet’s farmhouse garden in Giverny, France, was—and still is—a serene world of water lilies where the artist could paint. Villa Lante in Rome, a property once owned by Italian nobles, combines hundreds of years of gardening aesthetics.While colorful flowerbeds sourced by professionals attract throngs of avid visitors, some gardens are turning away from the old guard. Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden features primarily South African–sourced flora, and Ganna Walska Lotusland in Santa Barbara, California, focuses on exotic varieties of aloe, agave and lotus.
Even those eager to get their own hands dirty can find places to glean inspiration. Keukenhof in the Netherlands, known for its abundant tulip display, highlights a DIY section of the park intended to motivate home gardeners.
No matter what you prefer on the floral front, these gardens are well worth a trip.