Happily for garden enthusiasts like me, many Tauck journeys provide entrée to some of the must-see gardens of the world – masterpieces that inspire, astound, and perhaps arouse a bit of envy in the garden-variety gardener (also such as me). Every botanical tour de force that we visit – in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia – is aesthetically glorious, of course, but also rooted in history, and abloom with fascinating stories of people, horticulture, design, ambition, love…
So how could I ever choose a short list of favorites? The answer is, I couldn’t! Instead I’ve divided our favorite gardens of the world into two groups – one to share today and one to post later this summer. Today’s list includes gardens on some of our European land tours and riverboat cruises, some North America journeys, and our small ship cruises in Japan and Australia. Dig in!
1. Giardino Torrigiani in Florence, Italy, the largest privately owned garden in a European city, was created by the Marquis Torrigiani in the 16th century and later expanded into an idyllic 17-acre retreat of gardens, sculpture, and woods – a hidden gem tucked away in the Oltr’Arno quarter. On World Cities: Florence Tauck introduces you to this secret park in the Romantic English style on a guided visit led by the current Marquis or another Torrigiani family member.
2. Levens Hall Topiary Garden in Cumbria, England is the finest, oldest and most extensive topiary garden in the world – and a surreal living sculpture gallery. There are more than 100 pieces here, each clipped and manicured into a unique and surprising design. On England, Scotland, & Wales, keep a lookout for the Chess Pieces, Judges Wig, Queen Elizabeth and her Maids of Honour, and four Peacocks.
3. The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia offer an answer to this age-old question: what in the world does one do with an exhausted limestone quarry? In the early 20th century, Jennie Butchart, the chemist at her husband’s cement company, turned their used-up limestone quarry into a spectacular Sunken Garden. Next, she added the Italian Garden, Japanese Garden, and Rose Garden. Her gardens are now a National Historic Site of Canada – and in uninterrupted bloom from March through October. See them on Pacific Northwest and Grand Canadian Rockies.
4. The Gardens of Château de Villandry in Villandry, France have been painstakingly restored to their Renaissance glory so as to complement to perfection the château, a World Heritage Site constructed in 1532. On Normandy, Brittany, Paris & the Loire Valley, view some of these famous gardens – perhaps the Water Garden, the Sun Garden, ornamental flower gardens, or organic vegetable gardens. They are laid out in formal patterns outlined with low box hedges and divided into “rooms,” such as the salon d’amour. Each has a story to tell.
6. Kröller-Müller Sculpture Garden in Otterlo, the Netherlands, renowned for its innovative and surprising juxtapositions of sculpture and nature, is part of the Kröller-Müller Museum (home of the world’s largest van Gogh collection). On Holland & Belgium in the Spring and The Rhine and Moselle, stroll through this paradise, one of the largest sculpture gardens in Europe, dotted with works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Jean Dubuffet, Barbara Hepworth, Richard Serra, Claus Oldenburg...
7. Chiran Samurai Gardens in Kagoshima, Japan provide tranquil settings for the 250-year-old Chiran Samurai Residences, where feudal rulers once lived. The gardens, rich with symbolism, range from “stroll gardens” to some in the evocative Karesansui style, using nothing but rocks, gravel, and sand to represent all the elements of a garden landscape. See them on our Cruising the Land of the Rising Sun – and you’ll also have plenty of time to explore the many celebrated gardens of Kyoto.
8. Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, Australia, an oasis in the heart of the city, is filled with an illuminating array of feature gardens, starting with Cadi Jam Ora, which tells the story of the Cadigal people, the traditional Aboriginal owners of the Sydney area, and the First Farm display, about the first farm established by European settlers. Also not to be missed: the Succulent Garden, the Camellia Garden, the Rare and Threatened Plants Garden… They’re all possibilities when you travel with us on Grand Australia and New Zealand, Spotlight on Australia, and Cruising Down Under.