From the sunniest of daffodils to the most elegant of orchids, scientists have confirmed what early gardeners had already surmised more than 5,000 years ago when they first began cultivating posies for pleasure – flowers are natural mood enhancers. Visit some of the world’s brightest blooms without worrying about crowds (or pollen allergies!) with 10 of our favourite virtual garden tours from around the planet. You might even find yourself inspired, whether you have an entire plot or just a modest pot or two, to grow a garden of your own.
The Buchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, B.C. Spanning 55 acres, the Buchart Gardens is a family affair, transformed from a nondescript limestone quarry to a lush green oasis by Jennie Buchart, who began transferring topsoil for her sunken garden by horse and cart in 1912. Today, a virtual tour of this National Historic Site offers seasonal glimpses of what’s growing now, along with arresting views of two totem poles carved in classic Coast Salish style by master carvers Charles Elliot of the Tsartlip Nation and Doug La Fortune of Tsawout Band.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, U.K. Back in 1759, Princess Augusta (mother of King George III) founded a modest, nine-acre botanic garden at Kew Palace on the banks of the River Thames. In 2003, it was officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is now home to more than 50,000 plants, as well as 350 scientists studying new species and the effects of climate change. A trip to Kew, virtual or otherwise, is like a horticultural world tour, whether you’re in the mood to explore the diversity of a Mediterranean habitat, wander through an indoor rainforest or spend a few moments of quiet contemplation in a Japanese bamboo garden.
Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania “Our Gardens, Your Home” is the tagline for the wide-ranging online offerings at Longwood Gardens. In the mood for music? Watch principal organist Peter Richard Conte’s performance of Aria on the Longwood organ, or read up on the history of the garden’s chimes tower with the sound of the bells pealing melodically in the background. (The Longwood bells can be played the traditional way with a live performer, or carillonneur, at a baton keyboard – you can even give playing the bells a try yourself.) Feel like getting your hands dirty? Learn how to press flowers, create a bonsai, build beautiful floral arrangements or make a plant maze with your kids. Just want to look at a breathtaking array of stunning flowers? You can do that, too.
The Gardens of Villandry, France Built during the Renaissance in the Loire Valley, the chateaux at Villandry was once home to Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon I. Its gardens were legendary back in 1532 and remain so today. Choose your own adventure on your virtual tour, whether it involves a moment of serenity in the water garden, a visit to the “Audience” (a neoclassical pavilion where the Marquis of Castellane granted an audience to his farmers and peasants in the 18th century) or a stroll through the ornamental kitchen garden, where elaborate geometric motifs of vegetables, from blue leek to red cabbage, create vibrant patterns.
Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Plan to spend a little extra time in this virtual garden, which offers online yoga and fine art photography classes (not to mention a host of other handy resources designed to help keep you grounded, including a family activity guide). Twenty-seven gardens and four natural areas are also yours to discover, including the Krasberg Rose Garden (more than 5,000 roses!) and the Esplanade, which comes complete with sculptural cone topiaries and a row of waterspouts, designed by renowned landscape architect Dan Kiley.
The Gardens of Villa Taranto, Verbania, Italy Home to rare botanical species (including Metasequoia Glyptostroboides, a conifer with deciduous leaves that was once believed extinct) this garden comes to you courtesy of Scottish Captain Neil McEacharn, who amassed his collection with plants plucked from the far corners of the globe. The interactive garden tour includes a visit to a pool of rose-coloured lotus flowers and the not-to-be-missed Dahlia Maze, with 1,700 plants in full, spectacular bloom.
Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California Boasting one of the world’s greatest independent research libraries, a celebrated art collection, research center, educational programs and 120 acres of fabulous flora, the Huntington has a lot to offer, whether you’re able to visit in person, or not. Since it’s likely to be the latter for now, they offer a virtual array of the “something for everyone” variety: you can tune into an educational podcast, add some pizazz to your Zoom backgrounds with Huntington garden views, whip up a historic whisky cocktail and even shop Huntington at home.
Keukenhof, Amsterdam In the 15th century, the countess Jacoba van Beieren (a.k.a. Jacqueline of Bavaria), gathered fruit and vegetables from the Keukenduin, or kitchen dunes, for the kitchen of Teylingen Castle. The estate grew when Keukenhof Castle was built in 1641 – and the gardens grew with it (7 million flower bulbs are planted every year and, yes, there are tulips). Take a virtual tour with head gardener Stefan or just lose yourself among the blooms on the spirit-lifting spring tour.
United States Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C. These days, where would we be without Google Street View? We wouldn’t be visiting the United States Botanic Gardens, that’s for sure. But, thanks to technology (and a handy virtual map), you can visit this living museum any day you like with 360-degree tours of the Conservatory, National Garden and Bartholdi Park – all of which are constantly changing so no two virtual visits will be the same. You can also explore the garden through historic photos and video tours – the Orchid Show is a must.
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Papaikou, Hawaii Spend a few moments in virtual paradise in the natural greenhouse that is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, where exotic plants gathered from distant rainforests grow amicably alongside native Hawaiian specimens. Brush up on the garden’s history with a video tour or simply start your journey from the Palm Vista (home to nearly 200 species of palms, from fan, fish-tail and sago to date and betel nut). Next, wander through the Fern Circle before you suddenly find yourself in the quiet of the Palm Jungle Trail beneath a forest of towering Alexandra palms that evoke the feeling of a silent, stately cathedral.