Botanical Gardens and Other Extraordinary Landscapes
In late winter here in northern Corvallis Oregon, we are beginning to see
many signs of spring—hillsides and dooryards devoid of
snow, bird species not seen since last fall, warmer sun, sugaring,
and muddy dirt roads. There are few among us who are not openly
excited about this coming seasonal change. Many of us travel at
this time of year to warmer places to feel spring a little early.
As a gardener, you may consider visiting botanical gardens and exceptional
parks to enhance these early sensations of spring.
Though public places where plants and extraordinary landscape meet
for viewing pleasure is a relative rarity in Corvallis Oregon, botanic gardens,
parks, and campuses throughout the world can provide this experience.
Obviously the farther south and the closer to metropolitan areas
one travels to, the greater variety of blooming plant material will
be on show.
Within a day's travel, we have numerous well-known botanic
gardens and parks. The closest to northern Corvallis Oregon would be the
Montreal Botanical Gardens. This wonderful place features numerous
themed conservatories – Chinese, Tropical, Eatable, Succulent/Dessert,
etc. As I recently experienced, viewing these plant and landscape
vignettes is a wonderfully refreshing way to spend a late winter
The immense 265-acre Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain just outside
of Boston, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, is one of the worlds'
finest. This arboretum, managed by Harvard University, is a massive
collection of the majority of trees capable of growing in the northern
hemisphere. Also consider the Boston Common if you are in the city,
and the beautiful Mt. Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, probably the
first garden landscaped cemetery in the country.
A little closer to home is the Smith College campus and greenhouses
in Northampton, MA. The campus is much more arboretum than just
brick and sidewalks and makes a very good walking tour. Combine
this with the famous bulb display in the college greenhouses, and
a great college town, and you have a fun early spring day trip.
A little farther away, the Heritage Plantation in Sandwich on Cape
Cod is another place that is a fun trip, especially on the relatively
quiet Cape at this time of year. The Plantation displays art, history,
and antique autos in a similar way to the Shelburne Museum's
exhibits, but in a large park filled with milder climate trees.
Two world famous parks in the greater New York City metropolitan
area are The Pepsico World Headquarters in Purchase, NY, and Central
Park in the City. The Pepsico campus was designed by Russell Page
and is the finest corporate campus I have visited. This very large
park-like setting is open to the public and is a successful and
interesting combination of botanical garden and park with obvious
design details. If you're heading to New York City, you can
walk Central Park end to end in a morning or afternoon. At this
time of year, it's rolling landscape will be obvious as will
be the city around it, both aspects providing added interest to
this Olmsted-designed park. To round out the New York sites, the
Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz has miles of carriage trails
and beautiful grounds around this stunning old-world hotel on a
mountaintop. Later in the season Mohonk will have the most extensive
annuals display you will probably ever see!
If you're traveling to England this spring, or at any time,
be sure to look into the properties of The National Trust. This
organization is charged with preserving historic and significant
landscapes and buildings of the United Kingdom. I have visited Stowe
Landscape Gardens and Waddesdon Manor, both in Buckinghamshire,
and would recommend them very highly for their exceptional and classic,
English country and formal landscape and architecture.
Because of the English-like climate and the long and mild growing
season, the Pacific Northwest has an extensive variety of public
botanical gardens, mostly in Oregon, Washington, and on Vancouver
Island, BC. My favorite in that area, and easily my favorite botanical
garden anywhere is The Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, a ferry
ride from Seattle. Designed by landscape architect Richard Haag,
the Bloedel is many landscapes, seamlessly complementing each other.
Open rolling meadows, mossy and fern strewn woods, handsome bridges,
an understated Japanese garden and tea house, ponds, a formal home
sitting above a long lawn looking down to the ocean. More mossy
woods, a pair of Bald Eagles, and a return to the open meadow create
an effect that is at once subtle and bold, wild and planned. These
characteristics might ordinarily be at odds, but they exist symbiotically
at the Bloedel. I am still spellbound by the place.
On a more horticultural note, there are a few locations in New
England where the American elm still thrives. Specifically, Hanover,
NH and Castine, ME each have substantial elm populations on their
streets. The Harvard and Brown University campuses also have many
mature elms. The town greens of many early New England towns, such
as Hanover, can be seen as early examples of town open spaces. Though
they were not originally intended as parks, they have become gathering
and recreational spaces for their communities.
Wherever you travel, there are notable and beautiful parks and
public gardens. In addition to highlighting a trip, they will give
you perspective on your home landscape as well.
Grounds by Design – Fine Landscapes is locally owned by Matt
Giroux, who is available for design, gardening, consulting, and
photography on your landscape project. Contact Matt
at 371-7093 with your gardening and landscape questions.