If there’s a garden, Mary will find it. Wherever travel takes us, while I search out ships and boats, my chief mate discovers the beauty, the floral fragrances and the sculptures that define some of the world’s most inviting botanical gardens. With travelers on the move for summer vacations, here’s a peek through the ferns at gardens in some of the most popular destinations. – Jay Lloyd
The vast Boboli Gardens surrounding the Pitti Palace of Florence have an air of mystery, grandeur and wealth. They date to the 17th century and to the most storied family in Italian history, the Medicis. The statuary here competes for attention with the topiary. Fountains and manicured grounds evoke images of grand parties hosted by the Medici family for the nobility. Uniformed polizia patrol the grounds, mounted on white horses. They simply add to the splendor of the palace and terraced landscape. Admission is $9.50 and the gardens can be reached by local buses that run on a frequent schedule.
ST. ANDREWS BOTANICAL GARDEN
St. Andrews, Scotland
If you don’t plan to spend the entire day combing the rough at the most famous golf course on the planet, take a short walk from The Old Course to a garden that opens the door on what grows in the soil of Scotland from just north of Hadrian’s Wall to the Highlands. But climate controlled indoor exhibits also take a visitor to more tropical climes, rich with the color and contour of exotic orchids. Once again, unique fountains and statuary punctuate the green of a garden visit. The fee is two pounds, or about $3.50.
POWERSCOURT ENNISKERRY GARDENS
Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland
Having a leg injury left me stranded at a splendid pub in the laidback Irish village of Enniskerry while Mary marched up the hill to roam the Powerscourt Garden. She brought back pictures of the twin winged horses that dominate the landscape over a small, picturesque lake where individual garden sections mimic Italian and Japanese horticultural exhibits and architecture. Terraced grounds and an 18th century mansion set against nearby mountains and accented by a cascading waterfall create a more visually dramatic experience than you’d expect to find in a garden. The admission is $11.50 and Enniskerry can be reached by public transit buses from Dublin. If you visit, stop into McGill’s Pub to see if I’m still lingering over the pint of Kilkenny and the incredible lamb stew.
HALIFAX PUBLIC GARDENS
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
The public gardens of Halifax are truly meant for public enjoyment and relaxation. Summer concerts set the mood for strolling among floral and shrubbery displays, a pond, a stream and one of the rare statues in North America that honors the Boer War soldier. It’s a stroll through Victorian England. The garden here is a place where locals feel perfectly comfortable walking up to a stranger and asking, “Where are you from?” then offering helpful advice for getting around the town or gardens. Because Halifax played a leading rescue and recovery role in the Titanic disaster, a floating model of the ill-fated ocean liner is permanently moored in the garden pond. Admission here is free, but the gardens are funded by public money and donations, so just leave a Looney or two. By the way, the Loon on the Canadian dollar coin gives its name to the currency – hence, the “Looney.” Two hour non-stop flights are operated from Philadelphia to Halifax by the newly merged American and U.S. Airways.
BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN
990 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
There’s a pristine floral oasis just a short subway ride from midtown Manhattan. The 52-acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a place where New Yorkers escape the busy city pace and just wander, sit and reflect or take in the sights of sun bathing turtles, a rose garden, the Japanese garden, a conservatory holding a display of tropical growth and the connecting lakes in the heart of Brooklyn. New York is a top destination for vacationing Philadelphians. If it’s in your summer plans, you can get away from the “Great White Way” by taking the subway (Q train) to the Prospect Park station. Adult admission is $10. Seniors pay $5. One note: The main entrance closest to the subway is closed for construction. We took about a 10 minute walk to the visitor center on Washington Avenue.
1001 Longwood Rd
Kennett Square, PA 19348
If summer plans involve unique day trips, put Longwood Gardens — with that eye-filling Du Pont mansion in the Brandywine Valley — on the list. Something colorful and fragrant is always in bloom and on display, and it’s all very photogenic. Amidst waterfalls, tropical forests and desert-scapes, the conservatory is awash in cameras. Right now, a new Meadow Garden is attracting attention while regular summer concerts along with fireworks and colorful fountain displays provide pleasant evening entertainment in a fragrant setting. Adult admissions are $18 while seniors pay $15. Advance tickets are recommended and can be bought here.