The Lost Gardens of Heligan are the fantastical folly of a landed family whose overgrown country estate in Cornwall, England, obscured a secret garden for almost 100 years until its rediscovery in the 1990s. Today visitors can explore over 200 acres of the Wider Estate, featuring knotted old-growth forest, sub-tropical jungle foliage, and whimsical landscaped characters like the one pictured here.
Some gardens are intimate and reflective by design; others are so grand and ostentatious that they can but only reflect upon the patrons who gave them shape. Like Versailles, Vienna's UNESCO World Heritage-listed Schönbrunn Palace and its sprawling Baroque gardens are a mark of the prestige and power of one of Europe's great ruling dynasties, the Habsburgs.
Credit: Stuart Gregory/Photographer's Coice
The botanic gardens in Padua are some of the oldest in Europe, created in 1545 with the purpose of teaching medical students about medicinal plants. Europe's first potato was grown in Padua in 1590. The exotic flora cultivated here also explains the gardens' impressive protective wallsthey were constructed in the 1700s to guard against thieves who would break in to steal the rare plants.
London's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was inscribed as a World Heritage site in 2003 in recognition of its 'contributions to botanical and environmental science since 1759, together with its unique collection of plants from all over the world, and its international influence on the history of landscape and garden design.' The 300-acre gardens also feature 39 listed structures, including Kew's famous Palm House and a number of other distinctive glasshouses.
Credit: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Nobody does gardens like France. Villandry, in the Loire Valley, is just one French garden that sets the hearts of the world's top horticulturalists racing. The French have been blessed with, shall we say: le pouce vert.
Merzig's 200-acre Garden of the Senses is divided into 11 enclosed 'rooms' designed around the five senses (we all know roses smell great, but did you know day lilies have a delicious nutty taste?). Visitors are invited to lose themselves in this recreation of an early 20th-century English garden. Merzig is located west of Stuggart close to Germany's border with France and Luxembourg.
Credit: Winfried Götzinger/Germany Tourism
The Palace of Versailles, on the outskirts of Paris, shadows what is arguably the world's greatest ornamental garden. Designed and landscaped over the course of four decades between 1661 and 1700, the gardens and park feature grand fountains (like the Apollo fountain, pictured here), boulevards, a canal, an orangery, and forested groves. There's even a mock village where Marie Antoinette would frolic with her friends in those halcyon days before the French Revolution.
The former country house and gardens of impressionist artist Claude Monet, Giverny's Gardens are more beautiful than their watercolors. Monet spent 43 years in these gardens painting his famous water lily series and other flowery landscapes.
Credit: Joe Sohm
Oslo's 80-acre Vigeland Park is the city's most-visited attraction, offering walking trails, two museums, and over 200 bronze and granite sculptures by the park's namesake, Norwegian artist Gustaf Vigeland.
Credit: Digital Vision
Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden is a popular local spot for summer picnics and outings. The view back toward the city center is spectacular, a vista crowned by the castle and its gray-haunched walls. In fact, the Inverleith area is a great spot to take in any one Edinburgh's spectacular firework displays, either to mark the end of Edinburgh's month-long series of summer festivals or the city's famed New Year's Eve festivities.
Credit: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Wales' Bodnant Gardens include world-class plant collections, a canal terrace, and a 148-foot redwood tree. After you've covered those 80 acres, the Snowdonia Mountains offer a spectacular view just across the River Conway.
One of Portugal's finest gardens, Parque Monteiro-Mor in Lisbon contains plants that have lived for more than 100 years. Monteiro-Mor fronts an historic 18th-century palace complex.
Set above the Arno Valley and dating back to the 16th century, Villa Gamberaia has undergone a magical rebirth since the garden burned to the ground, along with the villa, during World War II.
The gardens are, perhaps, Seville's only remnant of the original Arab fortress that was Alcazar. Designed in Arabic style, including waterfalls, tile work, and sprays of jasmine, the gardens are a floral haven in their Spanish environment.
Credit: Krista Rossow/National Geographic
Holland's Keukenhof Gardens offer a vibrant display of color come April and May. Every year, a new variety of tulip is created and added to the existing thousands, which flourish in the region's damp, sandy terrain.