Best botanical gardens
With the Chelsea Flower Show (23 to 27 May) getting ready to bloom, and our never ending love of all things horticultural, we Brits know we're spoilt for choice when it comes to admiring the flora and fauna of the world. Even when the Show finishes, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew is always at our disposal and holds one of the largest collections of rare and exotic flowers in the world.
But travel further afield and the breadth of botanic gardens opens up. The range of climates and specialisms means flower power can be the focal point of a trip abroad, even for those with a passing interest in tending their own gardens.
From tropical flowers to desert plants, here are the Flexicover team's top picks of great gardens across the globe.
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, USA
The sprawling metropolis of New York might not be the most obvious place for arguably the world's most-loved botanic gardens, but in the borough of Brooklyn over 52 acres are given over to 10,000 types of plants. The space is used wisely, with a large number of speciality areas as well as pleasant main areas. While it's now the typification of a global city, New York's original greenery is preserved in the Native Flora Garden. Elsewhere, the Japanese-inspired areas are particularly spectacular in the spring and there's a garden specifically designed for the visually impaired, where the texture and smells of the plants and flowers are waiting to be explored.
Andromeda Botanical Gardens, Barbados
Donated to Barbados by eccentric horticulturalist Iris Bannochie, Andromeda Botanical Gardens is a real-life visualisation of what the word 'tropical' really means. Brimming with Bajan charm, the luscious paradise sees a babbling stream run through its six acres, in which there’s a simply stunning display of orchids, palms, ferns, heliconia, hibiscus, bougainvillea, begonias and cacti to enjoy. One aspect you won't fail to see is the Bearded Fig Tree: a ginormous tree whose aerial roots dominate its skyline. Plus, it’s best to visit these gardens at the start or end of the day, as that’s when the area’s playful monkeys come out from hiding.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Museum, South Africa
When it comes to the weird and wonderful, few displays can beat the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens on the Western Cape. With the extraordinary Table Mountain as a backdrop to remind us again about the power of nature, it encompasses a natural forest and 7,000 types of flowers and plants indigenous to South Africa. That aspect means visitors discover its contribution to horticulture - including the baobab tree, pincushions and birds of paradise - along with themed areas like the medicinal garden and the protea garden - a homage to their national plant. Visit between December and March, as sunset concerts take place on the lawn, rounding off a fun and informative day in the gardens.
Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum, Germany
Originally opened in 1910 to preserve flowers and plants from German colonies, Germany's foremost botanical gardens is now part of the Free University of Berlin. The stars of the show are not only planted in the outdoors, but also in its many pavilions which define this botanical garden. Inside these impressive structures lies an awe-inspiring 22,000 plants. From rare orchids to carnivorous plants, there's plenty to explore and admire so it’s a good idea to set aside a full day to enjoy the grounds at a steady pace.
Desert Botanical Garden, USA
If you are after a botanical garden with a difference, a visit to the desert state of Arizona is a good call. Their 140-acre ground features 50,000 plants that grow in some of the harshest conditions on Earth, with cacti taking the centre stage of course. Helpfully, there are five themed trails to explore: desert discovery, plants and people of the Sonoran Desert, Sonoran Desert nature loop, the centre for desert living and the desert wildflower loop trail. But before embarking on these walks, check out their busy events schedule to help plan your day; workshops, talks, photography lessons and night time tours are all available to enhance the desert experience.
So wherever you plan to head this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.