By Randy Yagi
After a long and often gloomy winter where many record low temperatures were observed, particularly in the Northeast, there is no question that springtime couldn’t arrive any sooner. One of the best ways to celebrate the arrival of the clearer, warmer and certainly brighter months of spring is to visit a botanical garden and marvel at nature’s awakening beauty, with a full spectrum of radiantly colored plants and flowers that are just now starting to bloom across America. For a few noteworthy suggestions to celebrate the advent of spring and thankfully the end of winter, the following is a brief preview of five of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the country.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
990 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
Free admission on weekdays may be coming to a seasonal end but the best time of year to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is just around the corner. Although not nearly as large or nearly as famous as the New York Botanical Garden, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) does have some clear bragging rights of its own, especially when it hosts Sakura Matsuri on April 28-29, the famed annual cherry blossom festival that’s been described by the New York Times as the “biggest event in an American public garden”. But before then, nearly 200 cherry blossom trees are expected to begin blooming in late March or early April within the Garden and coincides with the arrival of the bright yellow trumpet daffodils that will blanket Daffodil Hill and dazzle its earlier springtime visitors. Spread across 52 glorious acres in the heart of Brooklyn, the BBG features several specialty gardens to consider as part of a spring tour, such as Magnolia Plaza, Osborne Garden and Shakespeare Garden which will all feature peaking blooms in March and throughout the season. The BBG is easily accessible via the Metro, with two stations nearby and an added plus is the opportunity to visit the prestigious Brooklyn Museum, which is practically surrounded by the Botanical Gardens and very close to the main entrance.
Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden
8525 Garland Road
Dallas, TX 75218
Currently hosting its annual Dallas Blooms festival, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is well deserving of its recent mention as one of the “15 Breathtaking Botanical Gardens to Visit this Season” by the Architectural Digest. Located along the southeastern shores of White Rock Lake in Northeast Dallas, this 66-acre botanical garden is ranked No. 1 for TripAdvisor’s Top Things to Do in Dallas amongst 250 other notable selections that includes leading attractions like the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Dallas World Aquarium and the Dallas Museum of Art. The Arboretum and Garden’s premier event of the year, Dallas Blooms: “A World of Flowers” runs from February 24-April 8, and with over 100 varieties of brightly colored spring bulbs with an estimated 500,000 blooms, is by far one of the largest floral festivals in the Southwestern U.S. and the entire country. Among the signature event’s other top highlights are one of the largest public gardens of tulips outside of Holland, the 3,000 vibrantly colored azaleas and the beautiful Japanese cherry blossom trees, with peak colors expected around mid-March, in addition to number of family-friendly activities over Easter weekend.
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA 19348
Founded by American entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist Pierre DuPont in 1906, Longwood Gardens is widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest gardens and among the most visited public garden in the country attracting more than 1.5 million visitors last year. With five seasonal displays presented during the course of the year, Longwood Gardens is currently hosting its famous Orchid Extravaganza at its 4-acre Conservatory through March 25, which features more than 4,500 dazzling orchids, including the acclaimed 17-foot tall orchid curtain. Just recently, the Gardens began presenting its new Winter Blues Festival, which showcases hundreds of blue colored flowers such as the Pride-of-Madeira in its Main Conservatory and Exhibition Hall, along with a number of appearances from blues musicians, and on March 31, the Garden’s most popular seasonal display – Spring Blooms is set to begin. On view through May 6, Spring Blooms will be highlighted by a “symphony of colors” from countless numbers of daffodils, azaleas and wisteria and more than 240,000 tulips in the Idea Garden and Flower Garden. Gracefully situated across nearly 1,100 acres in the Brandywine Creek Valley, Longwood Gardens is located about an hour’s drive west of Philadelphia, which among others, call itself America’s Garden Capital, with much of the credit going to these magical gardens within the small community of Kennett Square.
Missouri Botanical Garden
4344 Shaw Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63110
Home to one of the world’s largest collections of rare and endangered orchids, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis is definitely worth at least one visit during the springtime. The country’s oldest botanical garden in continuous operation, the award-winning 79-acre Garden is currently presenting its annual Orchid Show through March 25 and will host additional Signature Events during this colorful season, such as the spring kickoff celebration – Meet Me (Outdoors) in St. Louis Garden Weekend April 7 & 8, a Sake and Sakura event under the Garden’s cherry trees and Chinese Culture Days April 21 & 22, featuring a Grand Parade complete with a crowd-pleasing 70-foot long dancing dragon. The 14-acre Japanese Garden is one of the largest in North America and in addition to its more than 230 cherry trees that bloom in March to early April, also has on display a vast number of other flowering plants like the early arriving azaleas, gloriously abundant rhododendrons, and the carnation-like pink and red peonies. Among the other points of interest at the Botanical Garden are the Geodesic Dome Conservatory known as the Climatron, Children’s Garden, the historic Linnean House and Tower Grove House, the former residence of the Garden’s beloved founder Henry Shaw. Among St. Louis’ top rated attractions and a National Historic Landmark, the Missouri Botanical Garden is easily accessible throughout the St. Louis metro area, particularly with the Metro public transportation system.
United States Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Ave., SW
Washington D.C. 20001
Formally established in 1850, the U.S. Botanic Garden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in North America yet far from being among the largest. Located near the famous Capitol Reflecting Pool that faces the U.S. Capitol, the Garden only occupies a few acres although the outlying area also includes the highly recommended 3-acre National Garden, with exceptional attractions like the Rose Garden, First Ladies Water Garden and the Butterfly Garden. Despite its small size, the Botanic Garden holds several thousand plants in its renowned collection and includes plants from around the world, as well as several rare and endangered plants in the historic Conservatory, completed in 1933. The Garden recently hosted its Orchid Family Day on March 11, which coincides with its the annual Orchid Spectrum show on display through April 8, which showcases a diverse collection of captivating orchids from every continent except Antartica. Springtime visitors to Washington D.C. should also consider attending the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which will be highlighted by leading events like the Blossom Kite Festival on Saturday, March 31 and the always popular National Cherry Blossom Parade on Saturday, April 14. The National Cherry Blossom Festival will take place around the Tidal Basin near the Washington Monument from March 17 to April 15. Visitors should also consider taking the low cost Washington D.C. Circulator to easily get around many of the important sites along the National Mall.