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North Hills Monthly

Garden Tours Make for Great Escapes

Jan 30, 2015 04:05PM ● By Denise Schreiber

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space—a place not just set apart but reverberant—and it seems to me that, to achieve this, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”

— Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

There are three things that I like to do for vacation—go to a warm beach, visit bucket-list places like Hawaii and Great Britain, and visit gardens. You would think that since I do this for a living, it would be the last thing I would want to do, but frankly, it is one of my favorite ways to spend a vacation.

Chanticleer, tucked away in scenic Wayne, Pennsylvania, is referred to as a “pleasure garden,” and indeed it is. There is something for everyone in this garden. The 35 acres that make up the garden were donated by the Rosencrantz estate, and include a Teacup Garden situated in a whimsical courtyard filled with wild tropical plants. The Asian Woods is an example of a shady American woodland garden, using mostly native plants from the Far East. My favorite part of the Chanticleer is The Ruins. Built like a long-ago castle now in ruins, it sits atop a hill and features creative pieces of marble sculpture including faces in a fountain, a water table and my personal favorite, what I call the “living room.” A sofa and chair, crafted out of stone and Wissahickon schist (a type of indigenous stone), overlook a blooming meadow below. It even has a remote control representing the four seasons; it is a place I could sit watching the seasons change for an eternity.

Longwood Gardens is perhaps the most well-known garden in Pennsylvania and in the United States. Started by Pierce DuPont, the garden contains 1,077 acres of plants indoors and out that showcase their form and flowers as well as their usefulness. Longwood Gardens has over 9,000 plants and has a plant exploration department that rivals that of any institution. You can wander through the orchid house with its intoxicating blooms or gaze in wonder at the giant lily pads in the water garden that have been developed through Longwood’s breeding programs.

There are water gardens and a large lake, where Pierce’s Love Temple beckons you to sit in serenity overlooking the water. There are also special Longwood water fountain displays held on certain dates throughout the summer, complete with fireworks, lights and music, as well as special displays throughout the year.

For a romantic garden, visit Magnolia Gardens and Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina. Often referred to as one of America’s most beautiful gardens, it is filled with historic camellia gardens that bloom in the winter and azaleas that fill the spring garden, along with much more to see. Established in the 1670s, Magnolia is the ancestral home of the Drayton family, and as the oldest plantation site on the Ashley River, it has earned the distinction as the oldest public garden in the United States. The Rev. John Grimké Drayton expanded the gardens in 1840s, opening them to steamboat passengers three decades later. As a result, Magnolia is also recognized as being Charleston’s first tourist destination.

For a truly exotic garden and getaway, visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden just north of Hilo on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii. It is just like being in a movie. Lush gardens, waterfalls, ocean views—it’s the place that dreams are made of. Those houseplants you have at home are just trees and shrubs here. You can inhale the fragrance of gingers and plumerias filling the air as you walk through the rainforest, and more than 2,000 species of plants are part of this preserve, including many rare plants.

These are just a few gardens of the hundreds we have here in the United States—and what better way to spend a vacation than looking at something pretty?

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