Travel Picks: Top 10 botanical gardens

SYDNEY Thu Mar 27, 2008 11:18pm EDT

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - For travelers with little interest in beaches, golf or spas but a passion for horticulture, Travel + Leisure magazine has come up with a list of the world's top 10 botanical gardens.

Elizabeth Scholtz, director emeritus of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, said there's been a huge increase in garden travel.

"Gardens are such a wonderful refuge, and more and more, people are looking for a haven from the stress of modern life," said Scholtz.

Following is Travel + Leisure top 10 gardens list (here

s-of-the-world) which is not endorsed by Reuters:

1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York

Founded in 1910, this 52-acre New York institution boasts 12,000 resident plant species as well as the Steinhardt Conservatory, Shakespeare Garden, and the C. V. Starr Bonsai Museum. It also boasts a unique claim to fame as in 2006, one of the rarest, largest and stinkiest flowers, the Sumatran Amorphophallus titanium or corpse flower, blossomed there.

2. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Western Cape, South Africa

An 89-acre spread in the eastern slopes of Cape Town's Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch is remarkable aesthetically and historically. Founded in 1913, this is the first national botanical garden established for the express purpose of local flora conservation. Perhaps most famous is the garden's trademark Crane Flower, a yellow version of which is named Mandela's Gold.

3. Kyoto, Japan

On what was once a country estate on the outskirts of Kyoto, this 4.9-acre garden is as of 1994 on UNESCO's World Heritage list. An 11th-century temple complex created for the worship of Buddha Amida, Byodoin blends Chinese- and Japanese-style pavilions, a pond, and a circuit of bridges.

4. Jardin Botanique de Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Established in 1931, this 185-acre garden has adapted admirably to the Quebecois winter. The outdoor and indoor offerings are equally compelling. The Insectarium, with its 160,000 live and preserved specimens, is a favorite with its standout resident and collection's mascot, the monarch butterfly.

5. Reid's Palace, Madeira, Portugal

This seaside spread, established in 1891 by wine baron William Reid and since acquired by Orient-Express, reinforces Madeira's reputation as the Garden of the Atlantic. Set atop a cliff, the Palace is surrounded by 10 acres of semitropical gardens where Winston Churchill reportedly contemplated his memoirs and George Bernard Shaw learned to tango.

6. Claude Monet Foundation at Giverny, Normandy, France

No matter how many times you've seen Monet's Water Lilies, there's no preparing for the living painting that is Giverny. Created in the 1880's and 90's and inspired by Monet's fascination with Japanese pastoral prints, this 2.5 acre estate is where the artist lived, painted, and gardened until his death in 1926.

7. Seychelles National Botanical Gardens, Seychelles

The Seychelles' national tree, the coco de mer, is a highlight of the 15-acre, 107-year-old National Botanical Gardens. It's surrounded by cabbage palms, walking palms, and Latanier Hauban palms and an endless assortment of tropical flowers but however impressive the plants, they're rivaled by their backdrop -- a range of jungle-smothered mountains.

8. Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

Built at the turn of the 20th century by George Washington Vanderbilt III, he hired the so-called founding father of U.S. landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, to design the grounds. Now the estate's 8,000 acres encompass an Italian garden, an English walled garden, and an Azalea Garden.

9. Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona

Tohono Chul is a 49-acre study in color and variety. From the Hummingbird Garden's indigenous salvia and honeysuckle to the flowering desert ironwood trees that stand outside the property's 1937 adobe house, life abounds. Plants used medicinally and ceremonially by the Tohono O'odham people make up the garden.

10. Andromeda Botanical Gardens, St. Joseph, Barbados

Set along a stream, embellished with ponds and waterfalls, and overlooking the Atlantic, this six-acre enclave has amassed one of the Caribbean's best collections of indigenous and imported tropical plants since horticulturist Iris Bannochie began her work here in 1954.

(Editing by Sophie Hardach)

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