Just say yes to the power of flowers. For much of the United States, it has been a frigidly cold, extra snowy and icy winter. Thankfully, spring is around the corner: March 20. Get a jump on the joy that new blooms bring, by resting your eyes on soothing florals from five of our nation’s many gorgeous public gardens. Since most of us are staying close to home as we ride out the pandemic, these virtual peeks at pretty petals are more appreciated than ever.
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Orchid Daze — a fragrant and fantastical exhibition — has already sprung forth (through April 11) at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which nurtures one of the prodigious collections of orchid species in the U.S. At 30 acres, this urban oasis proves that big jewels can come in small(er) packages.
Thousands of crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips boost spring’s transformative mood, as young stems push skyward. A hybrid deciduous azalea (named My Mary) is a favorite here for its fragrance and golden yellow hue. Also look for Creeping Mazus, native to the Himalayas, a small purple flower that makes lovely ground covering. This Southern-charm garden excels with the unique, tranquil 600-foot-long Kendeda Canopy Walk — a 12-foot-wide, treetop-level, pedestrian walkway perched 40 feet in the air — that overlooks Storza Woods, home to hickory, oak and tulip poplars, as well as several gardens, such as Azalea Walk and Camellia Walk.
Biltmore Estate Gardens and Grounds
The 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, masterfully tends exceptional gardens and grounds (see video above), originally designed by famed American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also orchestrated plans for New York City’s Central Park.
This horticultural wonderland surrounds the largest privately owned home in the United States today, built as a lavishly elegant 250-room French Renaissance-style château in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, grandson of renowned industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Biltmore’s spring blooms number into the hundreds of thousands: daffodils, hyacinths and tulips among them — in a rainbow of hues, patterns and flourishes. Its Walled Garden, near the grand glasshouse Conservatory, was even commemorated as a U.S. postal Forever stamp. The Rose Garden, during summer, cultivates more than 250 beguiling rose varieties with prize-winning and trend-setting flair. The Azalea Garden has often been called magical.
Clusters of crabapple, flowering dogwood and saucer magnolia trees have long drawn arboretum aficionados from far and wide. Meadows — lushly dotted with wildflowers — and verdant forests offer enchanting escapes. More than 20 miles of hiking trails, as well as horse-, Segway- and bike-riding paths, crisscross the meticulously groomed landscape.
Chicago Botanic Gardens
Spring is an especially uplifting season in the Windy City, as 385-acre Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois (on Chicago’s North Shore) stretches its open arms toward the sun. More than a score of themed areas — such as the Aquatic Garden, Circle Garden, English Walled Garden, Heritage Garden, Japanese Garden, Landscape Garden, Native Plant Garden, Rose Garden, Sensory Garden and Water Gardens — focus on specific interests.
Take a virtual walking tour, powered by Google, directing your computer cursor to move forward along winding paths. At the Lakeside Gardens, 300 flowering crabapple trees ring the Great Basin and are mirrored in the water. Stare at profusions of lilacs, as well as videos of breeze-dancing tulips and daffodils. Experienced gardeners and aspiring green thumbs are grateful for the wheelbarrows of expert tips provided.
New York Botanical Garden
A serene retreat amid Big Apple bustle, the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden — a National Historic Landmark — is transforming its beloved annual spring orchid extravaganza for a more compact yet still exquisite Spotlight on Orchids (through April 4) this year. Because of limited visitor admissions due Coronavirus precautions, a more intimate view of delicate Orchidaceae stems will be set against backdrops of aroids, bromeliads and ferns at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.
Wrap your thoughts around this fabulous fecund fact: More than one million plants from around the world grow at the New York Botanical Garden in 50 specialty gardens and collections. Pay keen attention now to its spring offerings (click the “spring” season button). This mesmerizing “museum of living plants” digs deep to serve up insight and delight in its gardens of azaleas, flowering cherries, crabapples and daffodils — all which have online anticipatory bloom-time trackers. Magnolias are also a treasured spring blossom. And lilacs fill the garden air with an intoxicating scent. Concentrate on the photos and you may imagine sweet results.
A particularly pleasing place is the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden (see video above), applause-worthy for both its exemplary roses (750 different varieties, including some of the oldest known species), as well as its sustainable cutting-edge gardening. The Native Plant Garden heralds the diversity of northeastern North American plants. Plus, there are 30,000 diverse trees, many more than 200 years old.
Get ready to be wowed. More than 250,000 tulips and other spring buds will brighten the new season at astounding Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Its 1,100 acres of floral splendor, elaborate fountains and picturesque woodlands include a 4.5-acre conservatory (see video below; which will close on March 1 for an expansion, enhancement and preservation effort: Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience).
Revel in fun, whimsical indulgences at Longwood: giant tree-houses and artistic topiaries. In spring, the Meadow Garden displays Eastern redbuds, flowering dogwoods, Carolina silverbells and azaleas. Celebrated are the flowering magnolia and cherry trees — odes to spring’s rebirth.
For more virtual exploration near Longwood Gardens, go to Historic Kennett Square, Visit Philly (the Philadelphia region — known as America’s Garden Capital — embraces more than 30 public gardens) and Visit PA.