Our Favorite Not-So-Secret Gardens to Visit Across the United States
Plan a trip if you're passing through these locales.
We all know what it's like to happen upon a serene, sleepy garden, unencumbered by travelers passing through. We also know that something that good can only stay a secret for so long—which is true of all of the below not-so-secret gardens and plant-filled spaces. These botanical retreats are some of the Living team's favorites; and with options listed across the country, you're bound to find one that becomes your go-to, as well. Best of all, the cat is already out of the bag—so feel free to share these incredible locales within your circle.
The Spheres, Seattle, Washington
This greenhouse-meets-public-workspace is actually a venture spearheaded by Amazon's horticulture team, who set out to redefine and reimagine the urban office. Home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries, the glass sphere (seen above)—it's aptly named—is a botanical oasis dedicated to community and conservation.
Lotusland, Montecito, California
Enter the estate of the late Madame Ganna Walska—a Polish opera singer and garden enthusiast—and much of what you'll see was the vision of the property's illustrious owner. Walska assumed control of the the landscape in the 1950s, and nearly singlehandedly saw the transformation of the swimming pool into a water garden filled with lotus blossoms (this is the estate's showpiece). She dedicated 40 years to amassing the unique collections—collectively, there are 3,000 species of exotic plants on the property, sourced from all over the world—that have been diligently preserved today.
Longue Vue House & Gardens, New Orleans, Louisiana
This historic home and its surrounding gardens were the visions of New Orleans powerhouses Edgar and Edith Stern; the gardens were executed by the lauded landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman, who began her project in 1934. The house you see today, however, was not the first built on the land. After Shipman worked her magic, the Sterns realized that their current residence didn't allow for the best views of the landscape—so they had the original moved, and built a new one in its place. All to say, this retreat is—quite literally—all about the flowers.
The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, Bishopville, South Carolina
Combine sculpture with botanical shrubs and you have artist Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden, where over 300 throwaways—Fryar rescues the majority of his material from local nursery compost piles—have been transformed into delightful, abstract shapes.
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, Seal Harbor, Maine
Passing through Maine in August? Then be sure to also pass through this historic garden, which reaches its floral peak come towards the end of the summer. Helmed by its namesake, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, and brought to fruition noted garden designer Beatrix Farrand between the years of 1926 and 1930, the landscape melds an Eastern statuary with a border garden, full of perennials that explode with color. Also noteworthy is the property's Spirit Path, which is defined by six pairs of Korean tombs; they were placed there, along with other sculptures from China and Japan, to foster a meditative environment. This dedication to serenity transfers to their visitation policy, as well. You must reserve a time slot ahead of your trip, which limits crowding and betters your experience.
Martha Stewart Living, July/August 2020