Architect Frank Lloyd Wright found inspiration in the natural world. Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson saw laughter in flowers, while the Japanese have embraced shinrin-yoku, a concept simply translated as “forest bathing”. Whatever you choose to call it, we’re betting you’re in need of a long embrace from Mother Nature right now. Why not combine a little greenery with a dose of wanderlust for a stroll through these off-the-radar botanical escapes?
1. ITALY: Giardini La Mortella
The volcanic outcrop of Ischia has never touted its attractions too loudly, one of which is the remarkable Giardini La Mortella. Laid out by acclaimed landscape architect Russell Page, this mesmerising garden is the life’s work of Lady Susanna Walton, wife of English composer William Walton, who spent 50 years transforming the steep 2ha site into a splash of green above the bright-blue bay of Forio. Walkways and dry walls divide the terraced garden into a lower section, The Valley, and an upper garden, The Hill. Wandering between them you’ll discover avenues of aloes, fountains and ferneries, hothouses, and Asian temples.
2. MOROCCO: Le Jardin Majorelle
French painter Jacques Majorelle may have first planted it, but we really have designer Yves Saint Laurent to thank for this oasis. Together with his partner Pierre Bergé, in 1980 Saint Laurent saved the garden from being razed for a hotel development. The pair spent years reviving the garden, celebrating its Art Deco and Moorish architecture and rich collection of plants from across the globe.
“Jardin Majorelle has provided me with an endless source of inspiration,” mused Saint Laurent. Amble down its walkways and you’ll no doubt feel the same.
3. BRAZIL: Jardim Botânico
The Christ the Redeemer statue may draw most travellers to Corcovado Mountain, but Rio de Janeiro’s spectacular Jardim Botânico is equally worth a visit.
Start at the impressive Avenue of Royal Palms, planted when the garden first opened in 1808. Then, you should make for the Amazonas section, notable for its snapshot of the rainforests, but also leave time for the lakes of Vitória Régia water lilies and the orquidário that houses 600 species of orchids. The themed trails — Arts, History and Noble Trees — are an excellent way to plan your visit.
4. JAPAN: Shinjuku Gyoen
Just 500m from the frenetic Shinjuku station in western Tokyo stand the gates of Shinjuku Gyoen. Once a private imperial garden, since 1949 this has been Tokyo’s most impressive urban public park. Within its 58ha are three distinct gardens, including formal French and English layouts, interspersed by wide lawns, woodlands, and greenhouses filled with tropical plants. But the heart of Shinjuku Gyoen — and its oldest part — is the traditional Japanese Garden where immaculately manicured shrubs surround lakes and waterways crossed by traditional wooden bridges. With hundreds of cherry trees erupting into blossom during March and April it’s a popular spot for hanami picnics, but is equally glorious in the auburn days of autumn.
5. ENGLAND: The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Few gardens can claim such a remarkable history as The Lost Gardens of Heligan, deep in the countryside of Cornwall. The estate had been the seat of the Tremayne family for 400 years, but when the estate’s workers went off to fight in the First World War the gardens and grounds slowly fell into disrepair. In 1990 they were rediscovered and rejuvenated in Europe’s largest garden restoration project. Today Heligan covers roughly 80ha, with space set aside for productive gardens — more than 300 varieties across a Kitchen Garden, walled Flower Garden and Melon Yard — as well as extensive pleasure gardens dating back to the mid-1800s. Wander the paths in the ancient Heligan woodlands, keeping a keen eye out for the iconic sculptures framed by glades of bluebells.
• From the June issue of Wanted 2020.