10 Underrated and Beautiful Botanical Gardens to See This Spring


There are nearly 600 public and botanical gardens nationwide, according to the American Public Gardens Association, and many are big, well-known attractions. However, others – like these 10 gardens – are smaller and lesser-known, yet equally travel-worthy.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens | Sarasota, Fla.

Photo courtesy of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

This former home of William and Marie Selby is now a tropical oasis filled with rare and beautiful plants on the Sarasota bayfront. Open 364 days per year, the gardens encompass 15 acres and 12 buildings, including a tropical and subtropical bamboo garden, koi pond, fern garden and a wooden boardwalk through a mangrove forest.

Long Hill | Beverly, Mass.

Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

The former hillside estate of Atlantic Monthly publisher Ellery Sedgwick is today a 114-acre public garden with lovely views of the North Shore. Outdoor rooms blend with the surrounding woodlands, laid out around the Federal-style brick estate. A 1.2-mile trail runs through the New England woodlands, past natural features like pools and boulders.

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens | Vail, Colo.

Photo courtesy of Daderot / Wikimedia Commons

Considered the world’s highest botanical gardens (situated at an elevation of 8,200 feet), Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail showcases an exquisite collection of alpine and mountain plants from all corners of the globe. Visitors can wander between over two dozen named gardens and features, including a Himalayan Garden, Aspen Grove, Children’s Garden and Meditation Garden.

Anderson Japanese Garden | Rockford, Ill.

Founded in 1978, the Anderson Japanese Garden was inspired by the more famous Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon. This authentic Japanese-style garden uses three major elements (stone, water and plants) to create colorful landscapes in all seasons. Other elements, like bridges, pagodas, arbors and stone lanterns, are placed carefully throughout to create a sense of calm and discovery.

Lotusland | Santa Barbara, Calif.

Spread across 37 acres, Lotusland showcases more than 3,000 species of plants from around the world. Striking features of this underrated garden in Santa Barbara include an Aloe Garden Pond, Water Garden, Japanese Garden, Moroccan Fountain and a Horticulture Clock and Topiary Garden.

Peckerwood Garden | Hempstead, Texas

The collection of more than 3,000 plant species, many of them rare and no longer found in the wild, at Peckerwood Garden in Texas plays an important role in plant conservation. Hour-long, docent-led tours take visitors through the gardens, pointing out seasonal highlights along the way. Visitor favorites include the Magnolia and Mexican oak collections.

The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College | Swarthmore, Pa.

Free to the public, the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College focuses on the horticultural diversity of the Delaware Valley. Collections of cherry, crabapple, holly, hydrangea, magnolia and peony create a colorful show throughout the year. There are more than 4,000 varieties of flora on display, most labeled with their scientific and common names.

Wave Hill | Bronx, N.Y.

Perched along the Hudson River, Wave Hill is a 28-acre public garden occupying the mid 19th-century country home of William Lewis Morris. Throughout its long history, the house has hosted the likes of Theodore Roosevelt (as a teenager) and Mark Twain, and today, its gardens and woodlands delight visitors from across the nation.  

Chase Garden – Orting, Wash.

Photo courtesy of Chase Garden

Situated about an hour south of Seattle, Chase Garden is a relatively small public garden at only 4.5 acres, but it’s often ranked among the most beautiful in the country. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Puyallup River Valley (with a stellar view of Mount Rainier), the garden is divided into several themed areas, including an alpine meadow, woodland garden and summer color stroll.

Mt. Cuba Center | Hockessin, Del.

The living collections at Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware focus on plants native to the nation’s eastern temperate forests, particularly the Appalachian Piedmont region stretching all the way from New York to Alabama. While there is a formal garden surrounding the Colonial-style main house, many of the gardens are more naturalistic, blending in with the surrounding woodlands.



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