Garden Vacations

As the world's green patches grow smaller and smaller, garden vacations grow in popularity. Here are some of the world's most flower-powerful destinations.
By: Gretchen Kelly

Who doesn't love flowers and green fields? Although lucky city dwellers get the satisfaction of watching tomato plants grow in window boxes, sometimes you just find yourself wanting the real thing.

As the world's green patches grow smaller and smaller, garden vacations grow in popularity. Here are some of the world's most flower-powerful destinations:

The nation's capital, Washington, DC, is now home to the new National Garden, part of the US Botanic Garden, which also includes the USBG Conservatory and Bartholdi Park. The USBG IS a living plant museum on the National Mall at the foot of the U.S. Capitol.

Cape Town, South Africa, is home to an amazing and incredibly exotic array of flora, including the otherworldly-looking protea blossoms that are appearing more ubiquitously in American florist shops. See them in all their glory at Cape Town's Kirstenbosch Garden, which also has an extensive botanic shop filled with scented bath treasures, seeds, botanic prints and indigenous South African art.

Martinique, itself called "the garden of the Caribbean," is home to one of the world's most sensually lush tropical gardens, the Jardin de Balata. The rich volcanic soil of Martinique has nurtured distinctly fragrant and visually stunning flora, and it is on vivid display here. Also of interest is an area dedicated to plants grown for food and survival. An extra plus on offer at Jardin de Balata is a refreshing glass of Martinique rum punch on your way out.

Indigenous Hawaiian botany is the focus of the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden on the Kona side of the Island of Hawai'i. The garden is named for kama'aina botanist Amy Greenwell. This stunning tropical garden showcases 200 species of plants that grew in the traditional farms and native forests of Kona before Captain Cook arrived in the late 18th century. There are endemic, indigenous, and Polynesian introduced plants. These include the most important plants in Hawaiian culture, such as taro and kukui, and scores of rare and endangered native species such as the beautiful koki'o.

Britain can arguably be called the "birthplace of modern gardening" and is chockful of destinations for avid flora fans. Sissinghurst Castle Garden is one of the most famous. Designed by Vita Sackville-West, the artist and companion of novelist Virginia Woolf, it features colorful blossoms in cozy, romantic nooks and crannies. Nearby, tour pretty English villages in Kent and take afternoon tea or a pint of the local brew in Elizabethan-era pubs. 2007 has been designated the "Year of the Cotswold Garden." Get ready to celebrate by visiting typical Cotswold gardens like Hidcote Manor, an Arts and Crafts-era masterpiece, or Painswick, an English Rococo planting. After a stroll through the gardens, do as Johnny Depp did on his recent stay and sample sticky toffee pudding in one of the many local pubs and inns or tour the honey-colored stone villages.

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