The famed moss gardens of the Saiho-ji Zen Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, Japan, feature more than 120 types of moss which blanket the ground surrounding Saiho-ji's Golden Pond. To protect the delicate moss, the temple's caretakers now require visitors to request entry to the garden no less than a week in advance. Once at the temple, which was originally built in 1339 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, visitors must chant or copy on paper a Zen sutra before gaining access to the garden.
Daffodils and tulips are two sure signs that spring's really gotten its grip, nowhere more so than in the Canadian capital city, Ottawa. Ottawa's Canadian Tulip Festival is the world's largest such tulip festival, showcasing over three million of these seasonal favorites around the capital city. The festival brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors from Canada, the United States, and around the world.
Credit: Ottawa Tourism
Given the harsh desert environment, winter rainfall totals are a fairly predictable indicator of when the colorful desert wildflowers will bloom in the Mojave's Death Valley National Park (and elsewhere in North America's other three major deserts, the Sonoran, Great Basin, and Chihuahuan deserts). Blooms typically arrive in mid to late March, with higher elevations seeing color later in April and into May.
Credit: Phil Schermeister/National Geographic
Set at the foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens was created in 1913 to showcase distinct regional flora like this Protea nerifolia. Kirstenbosch was the first botanical garden in the world created specifically to conserve unique local flora.
The brilliant color of the floral displays at Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island in British Columbia draw more than a million visitors each year. The gardens were created as part of the Butchart family home over the course of several years beginning in 1909, and the gardens are still family owned.
Often referred to as 'America's Alps,' North Cascades National Park in Washington state is home to 318 glaciers, 248 lakes, hundreds of waterfalls, and extensive old-growth forests. Alpine meadows are carpeted with glacier lilies, paintbrush, lupine, and scores of other wildflowers from early July through August.
Designed by landscape architect and theorist Charles Jencks, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack House outside of Dumfries, Scotland, is one of the world's more unusual gardens. It features Jencks' odd landforms, which explore mathematic and scientific principles in a beautiful, natural setting.
Originally built in 1606, Salzburg, Austria's Mirabell Palace Gardens were redesigned in 1730 by Franz Anton Danreiter. Today they are considered some of the finest gardens in the Baroque style in all of Europe. The gardens are known not only for their ornate parterres, fountains, and sculptures, but also for appearing in the much beloved film The Sound of Music.
Part of the historic Alhambra fortress complex in Granada, Spain, the Palacio de Generalife houses the Sultan's Garden. Lush, orderly, and peaceful, the Sultan's Garden is widely considered the finest example in all of Andalusia of the Persian-style garden.
Japan's Awaji Island, just across Osaka Bay from the city of Osaka, is home to the Hyakudanen Botanical Garden. The garden's unique design features 100 flower beds arrayed in a series of terraces on the slope of a mountain. The garden was built as a memorial to those who died in the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
Each spring, a ring of over 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees around Washington, D.C.'s Tidal Basin burst with puffy, cloud-pink petals and herald the arrival of the new season. The trees were a gift from the city of Tokyo in 1912 as a mark of international fellowship; today they continue to draw travelers from all over the world to the U.S. capital.
Opened to the public on May 31, 1931, the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri was the largest man-made lake in the world. Stretching 92 miles end to end, the lake's 1,150 miles of shoreline are lined by flowering dogwood, Missouri's state flower. Six of the 17 dogwood species in North America grow naturally in the 'Show Me State.'
Credit: Lake of the Ozarks (courtesy, Missouri Division of Tourism)
Beginning as early as January, Japan celebrates the coming of spring with the colorful sweep of cherry blossoms from Okinawa north to Honshu and Hokkaido. The beautiful sakura draw tourists from all over the world to enjoy Hana-mi ('flower-viewing') festivals, which include picnics, karaoke, dancing, costume contests, and plenty of sake!
Credit: Cherry blossoms (Corbis)
The exuberant Floralies festival of flowers in Ghent has been taking place since 1809, though it's only held once every five years. A botanical masterpiece, the event showcases plants native to Belgium as well as exotic creations from around the world, and is one occasion that's not to be missedor smelt!
Georgia's 14,000-acre Callaway Gardens, located in Pine Mountain in the southern Appalachians, remains true to its 50-year-long mission to provide 'beauty, relaxation, inspiration, and a better understanding of the living world.' Today's attractions include world-class tennis facilities, North America's largest glass-enclosed tropical conservatory, and a veritable Eden of flowers, plants, lakes, and trails perfect for that soul-nourishing escape.
Credit: Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens (courtesy, Georgia DED)
Despite tracing one of the world's most spectacular roadways, this is one journey where leg power is the only way to go. Start in Jasper and follow the interweaving trails south through Jasper National Park toward the Columbia Icefield. A breathtaking 90-mile, weeklong trip, you'll trek through lodgepole-pine forests, ford pristine streams, pass wildflower-filled meadows, and sleep at peaceful backcountry campsites where you'll forget cars even exist as a mode of transport.
Credit: Columbia Icefield (courtesy, Travel Alberta)
More than 90 percent of Hawaii's flora and fauna can be found nowhere else on earth. Hike the Halema'uma'u Trail and you'll think you saw every one of 100 land birds, thousands of flowers and plant species, and countless insects and spiders that call Hawaii home.
Credit: The Big Island, Hawaii (Comstock)
Late June or early July brings out the highlights of the Alaskan Interior's wildflower blooms. These include goldenrod, deep blue wild larkspur, and yellow, daisy-like arnicas; hot-pink fireweed along the roadsides; and Alaska's state flower, the tiny blue forget-me-not. Much of Denali is dry tundra, and a wide range of color lights the hillocks every summer: bright pink moss campion, Lapland rosebay, and alpine azalea.