When did the Cactus become so cool?
Every hipster who loves cacti must get themselves to Lanzarote’s Jardin de Cactus. Situated in a disused quarry within Lanzarote’s volcanic landscape there are over 1,100 species of cacti. The oustanding garden was designed by Cesar Manrique, a famous artist and architect. Cesar’s design philosophy was to work in harmony with nature and from a young age he was totally consumed by the unique beauty of the island’s landscape. The garden is extremely impressive and highlights the diversity of cacti and succulents on our planet. There are towering giants to tiny spiny balls and visitors will have their eyes opened to another world which meanders through volcanic pools and soils. This garden is the best of art and nature combined incorporating lava rocks and the use of black volcanic sand to highlight the planting. Look closer and you will notice cacti motifs incorporated into the brass work, door handles and even the spectacular light fitting in the restaurant. Paths lead up to a windmill, restaurant and these look over the breathtaking amphitheatre. In the warmth of the sunken quarry many plants are featured in stylish containers, terraces and on steps.
One of the National Trust for Scotland’s flagship gardens. The walled garden at Crathes Castle near Aberdeen is world class and worth exploring, particularly during the summer. It is one of the UK’s most northerly Arts and Crafts Gardens which Gertrude Jekyll visited and influenced. The walled garden is positioned South East of the Castle and covers 3.75 acres. It is divided into 8 sections or ‘garden rooms.’ The diversity of shrubs, plants and trees is outstanding. Much of the framework of the garden is made up of yew which dates from the 1700s which adds a magical charm to the atmosphere. There are superb glasshouses with vines and peaches and also a display of tender plants and the Malmaison carnations. These carnations came from France where its large flower that was scented soon became popular in the 19th century. Many in the past would reach 6ft with blooms reaching 15cm wide which were hugely popular in country homes. The white plantings at Crathes pre date that of the famous Sissinghurst white garden. There is also a perfectly manicured croquet law, fountain, rose garden and world renowned June borders which provide outstanding summer hues. Outside the walled garden there are large areas of woodland to explore as well as the castle itself.
The High Line is a unique greenspace providing an oasis in the bustling urban jungle of New York City. This valuable regeneration project is the result of a visionary community of New Yorkers who fought to transform a derelict, elevated railway line into a free open park. Now enjoyed by locals and tourists from all over the world the High Line welcomes around two million visitors a year. It is maintained and operated by the Friends of the High Line in partnership with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The planting design was conducted by Dutch designer Piet Oudolf who is famous for his naturalistic approach. He took inspiration from the existing landscape looking firstly at the plants which had colonised the disused space after it had stopped operating. He decided to use a sustainable planting choice that consisted of native, drought tolerant and low maintenance plants. The High Line also provides jobs, art installations and community benefits. As we learn more about living in our rapidly expanding cities we must not lose our vital connection with nature which today is more important than ever. The High Line is an inspiring example of changing a derelict urban space into a new greenspace that will enrich the lives of people who experience it. Not only does it have huge community therapeutic benefits but it is also now becoming a “must see” tourist destination. Visitors can return home encouraged to replicate something similar in their own cities. Even in winter visitors will be impressed by this example of reconnecting people with nature in their urban greenspace. If you can’t visit in person learn more from their website and blog.
Enter the Scotland district of the island and you will find the tranquil flower forest. This beautiful garden has a half mile path that winds through the 53.6 acres of grounds. The garden has some breathtaking scenery looking out towards the rugged east coast of the idyllic island. It is an oasis of calm with the odd monkey crossing the path and the call of tropical Caribbean birds. The land and property was once a sugar plantation but today it is home to more than a hundred different varieties of tropical flora. You will see vibrant heliconia, ginger lilies, hibiscus and palms. Located 750ft above sea level the garden has been established since 1985 and is a real hidden gem in the countryside. The best time of year to visit for flowers is during the dry winter season from January to March. Barbados was once a useful holding station for Kew Gardens and other important plant hunters of the world during this era. After a period of quarantine on the island the plants were shipped to Great Britain. This is how plants from around the world reached the UK.
Step away from Singapore’s urban hustle and bustle into an oasis of beautiful gardens to enjoy and explore the Gardens by the Bay. Singapore’s newest open greenspace is owned by the National Parks Board of Singapore and was steered by CEO Tan Wee Kia. He helped create the vision from the beginning stages to completion. It represents the greening projects that have been taking place across the city since 1963. The project epitomizes the city’s links between environmental advances, history, heritage, recreation and tourism. In the early 2000s the Singapore government allocated 101 hectares of reclaimed land down by the waterfront. In January 2006 an international design competition was launched to find a world class designer for Gardens by the Bay. This was followed by an 11 member jury comprising of local and international experts. Two winners were shortlisted and put on display at the Singapore Botanic Gardens as an interactive exhibition which allowed 10,000 people to visit and give valuable feedback. It opened to the eager public in 2011 showcasing high standards of horticulture, technology and innovation. It cost S$1 billion to construct with an annual operation cost of S$50 million. The expanse of greenery is free to explore. Within this area are biospheres which replicate a dry, mild climate in one and a tropical cloud forest in the other. These help to produce and display plant habitats and environments that do not climatically occur in Singapore. The inspiring flower dome showcases the largest glasshouse in the world with spectacular changing floral displays. Inside this flower dome stands the African Baobab tree which weighs more than 32 tonnes and is the largest on display. This unique tree is pollinated by fruit bats with the dispersal of seeds by terrestrial animals such as elephants and baboons by digestive tract which is needed for germination to occur. Inside another biosphere named the cloud forest is a 35 metre tall mountain covered in vegetation that showcases the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Here plant species from 2,000 metres above sea level are displayed to convey the unique biodiversity, geology and ecological aspects of cloud forests. It also highlights the global threats that face the nine zones of the conservatory. This is a people’s garden and acts as an education tool as well as a recreational green oasis in a vibrant city.
Vizcaya House and gardens stand as an oasis in Miami, away from the hustle and bustle of the city in Southern Florida. The name ‘Vizcaya’ traces back to a northern province in Spain which highlights the strong influence of European inspiration. This beautiful villa and estate was the winter home of the International Harvester Vice President, James Deering, and created between 1914 and 1916 to look like it had stood there for centuries. Originally covering 180 acres including farm land Deering wanted his house to be designed in the style of the Italian Renaissance and French Baroque villas. The gardens were designed by Diego Suarez, a Colombian designer who trained in Florence and are one of the best examples in the USA of Italian garden design. They were adapted and manipulated to look Italian in design and form but planted using Miami’s subtropical plant species. Due to the garden’s location on Biscayne Bay, it is susceptible to high winds and storm surges during the hurricane season and mangroves surround the property offering protection. Inside the plants have been chosen to cope with salt spray, high humidity and wind damage. Limestone elements are used throughout the garden to create an aged feel which complements the planting design. Bromeliads spill out of stone urns and give a subtropical feel. Throughout the garden Italian influences from statuary, and water features are present that cascade and flow. In many areas plants have been clipped and trained neatly to resemble a formal presence next to the house. The orchidarium has recently been restored to its former 1917 design and showcases a beautiful display of seasonal flowering orchids. Visitors who arrived from the bay must have felt they were arriving in Venice and enjoyed taking tea in the teahouses in the warm winter subtropical climate.
This historically globally renowned botanic garden became a UNESCO World heritage Site in 2015. It is the first tropical botanic garden to be awarded this prestigious award. Sir Stamford Raffles established the garden in 1822 at Fort Canning. In 1859 the present gardens were founded and laid out by the Agri Horticultural Society. In 1974 the gardens were handed to the British colonial government. Following on from this the gardens grew and developed with the great assistance of a few Kew trained botanists. Today the beautiful Gardens are owned and managed by the National Parks Board. SBG has been instrumental in the greening and transformation of Singapore into a garden city. The garden consists of 183 acres and has a visitor pull of 4.4 million people a year. It is very famous for its orchid collection which has more than 450 species. In the 1920s, it spearheaded new techniques in raising orchids in aseptic media and founded a regional orchid breeding industry. It is also a regional centre for plant science, research and conservation in South East Asia. It is well worth a visit and was named Asia’s top park by TripAdvisor in 2013.