With the warmer weather hitting the UK and any chance to escape our four walls a welcome distraction, our gardens are getting more of our time than ever before.
Even the smallest yard or balcony can be nurtured into an oasis of calm with some creative pot and planter placement. With garden centres in the UK now open for business once more, you could find your green fingers to turn your garden into a fusion of fauna representing all of your favourite holiday destinations.
Many plants used to a warmer climate can thrive in surprisingly cooler conditions as long as they are well cared for. Buying a larger, more established plant, optimum positioning to soak up the sun but remain sheltered from wind and rain when needed can all help to create your own slice of paradise.
Some countries place export restrictions on bulbs and seeds but you may still be able to purchase international flowers and plants in the UK.
Plenty of our favourite destinations have blooming wonders of their own for you to enjoy all year round, with fabulous floral gardens all over the world - including in regions with RCI-affiliated resorts to relax in at the end of a day immersed in horticultural havens.
Until you can visit in person to breathe in the scent for yourself, the good news is that some of the world's most beautiful gardens are now accessible for you to enjoy virtually, no matter where you are.
From Singapore's incredible Gardens by the Bay, complete with its Cloud Forest, Flowerdome and unique Super Trees, to Tenerife's stunning Santa Cruz Palmetum Gardens, you're just a click away from welcoming our planet's finest flora and fauna into your home thanks to technology - courtesy of our collection of favourite gardens and their online virtual tours.
1. Gardens by the Bay - Singapore
Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay regularly top the must-see sights of the world’s holiday bucket list articles and having witnessed this magical place many times in person, it’s easy to see why. Even having been countless times whilst living in 'The Lion City,' every visit was a pleasure - real ‘pinch me’ moments.
Gardens by the Bay take full advantage of Singapore’s tropical climate to create a lush haven for plants which could be straight out of a fantasy film set. The gardens are built on reclaimed land on the south of the island and are in the central hub of many tourist attractions, located an easy walk to the opulent ‘surfboard’-topped majestic Marina Bay Sands hotel, shopping and casino complex with its iconic C’est La Vie rooftop bar and viewing platform on the 57th floor, Bay Front with its nightly laser fountain shows, the quirky building of the Art Science Museum, Esplande Theatres on the Bay, the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel and The Shoppes for all of your designer brands and general wallet-emptying opportunities.
The gardens themselves are split into East and West with free general entry. There is a charge for the elevated viewing platform within the Super Trees - and you can dine in the tree-top restaurant too! The Flowerdome and Cloud Forest have ticketed entry but you can visit just one or both and they stay open well into the night.
The recognisable ‘bubbles’ of the Flowerdome and Cloud Forest recreate innovative ever-changing themed displays of tropical fauna and make for a truly magical experience to wander through. The artistry in these exhibits is like nothing you’re likely to have seen before. If a whimsical character from a fantasy film wandered out from behind a waterfall, you wouldn’t give them a second glance in this magical, other-worldly environment.
The Super Trees are an innovative fusion of science, nature and art. At 25-50 metres high, they collect solar power and rainwater to power themselves and are essentially, beautifully crafted vertical gardens, with vegetation and flowers growing skywards, using the structures for support.
The gardens and Super Tree Grove are definitely worth a daytime visit but when the sun goes down, make sure you’re ready for their unmissable Garden Rhapsody music and light show. Twice nightly every day the trees come to life with a show-stopping performance of light animation to a themed soundtrack which changes several times during the year.
Get there early to claim your optimum viewing spot. For an extra-special experience, take a towel from your hotel to lay on the ground, gaze skyward and lose yourself in the whole experience. And the best part: entry to the main gardens and the light show are free!
Whilst in Singapore, make sure you also make your way to the Singapore Botanic Gardens which are easy to access, thanks to having their own MRT public transport station right by the gate. The gardens are free to enter and occupy the site of a former rubber plantation, planted by the first colonists to call the island home. These days, you'll find the beautiful National Orchid Garden, the open-air stage fronting onto a huge lily pond, trails to wander into parts of the original rainforest. the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden and the Healing Garden - showcasing all kinds of medicinal plants from South East Asia. The Botanic Gardens are the only tropical garden in the world to be awarded the honour of UNESCO World Heritage Site status and also offer free guided tours throughout the week.
Explore Singapore's Gardens by the Bay virtually here.
Find out more about the Singapore Botanic Gardens here.
RCI has 1 resort in Singapore with multiple options of how long you could stay - making this the perfect stopover option as part of a longer trip.
2. Chatsworth House Garden, England
Located in the heart of the Peak District, the exquisite stately home of Chatsworth will be familiar to fans of costume dramas from its appearance in the movie version of 'Pride and Prejudice'.
The house itself contains an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, books and furniture - good to know if the weather fails to behave itself - but it’s the 105 acres of gardens that are the main draw here.
Some 300,000 visitors a year come to enjoy Chatsworth Garden, which is the product of almost 500 years worth of careful cultivation, and contains features from six different centuries.
That history is a major part of the appeal of these stunning gardens, which mix historic and modern elements, most notably the incredible water features (which play from 11am-5pm) and include the gravity-fed Emperor Fountain, 300-year-old Cascade, and Willow Tree Fountain. The latter is one of a number of especially child-friendly attractions, and there’s even a ‘little explorers garden trail’ for the youngsters to follow.
All the family will enjoy the ‘hidden gems trail’ - which takes in the Grotto and Trough Waterfall among others - and there are more than five miles of walks where you can enjoy an array of rare trees, shrubs, streams and ponds. There’s also a ‘Sensory Garden’ that’s fully accessible to the disabled and features a variety of fragrant plants.
The estate is the county seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who continue to add new features and attractions to ensure it changes and evolves as its plants do, keeping those visitors coming back.
Everybody loves a Maze, and Chatsworth’s is one of Britain’s biggest and best, comprising of more than 1,200 yews, all planted in 1962. You get a decent overview of it from the top of the Hundred Steps, which is part of the Arboretum Walk.
Make the most of your visit by joining one of the free guided walks, which last up to an hour. There’s also a 40-minute buggy tour that’s ideal for the less mobile and costs £4.
Watch videos of the gardens at Chatsworth House here.
RCI has nine resorts in Central England.
3. Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens), Madeira
The sunny Portuguese island of Madeira is a gardener’s paradise, with a wide variety of exotic flora and fauna courtesy of its sub-tropical climate and rich volcanic soil.
Plants from all over the world can and do thrive here, with gardens in bloom all year round, and nowhere more so than in the capital Funchal, where parks and gardens - as well as town streets and private houses - are a kaleidoscope of colour.
But Jardim Botânico, the city’s botanic gardens, takes gardening to a whole new level - literally in one respect, as it’s located on a hill three miles above the town centre, with wonderful views of mountains and sea, depending whether you look north or south.
The colourful, fragrant gardens are a wonderful place for a relaxing stroll, let alone the chance to see more than 2,000 exotic plants from all over the world, including orchids, magnolias, azaleas, ferns, palms, and cacti.
You’ll also hear a variety of birdsong here, and not just from native feathered friends, as the gardens are home to Louro Bird Park, which contains a range of rare and exotic breeds, including dwarf parrots, cockatoos, parakeets and more. The garden’s other attractions include a Natural History Museum, amphitheatre, terrace café and a belvedere to make the most of those views.
You can’t miss the garden’s iconic mosaic of plant patterns that overlook the city, but if you fancy some fossils and artefacts to go with your flora and fauna, the Natural History Museum makes a great diversion, particularly if it gets too hot outside.
Turn your trip into an adventure by taking the cable car up from the seafront in Funchal. You can buy combined tickets that cover the ride and entrance fee to the gardens.
Learn more about Madeira's Jardim Bôtanico here.
RCI has 20 resorts in Madeira.
4 Butchart Gardens, Canada
Located in a former limestone quarry near Victoria on Vancouver Island, and designated a National Historic Site of Canada, the Butchart Gardens have a fascinating past as well as exciting future.
The gardens are located at Brentwood Bay, about 14 miles north of Victoria, and were created by the Butchart family, who made their money from cement production. In 1909, when their quarry was exhausted, Jennie Butchart set about converting it into a sunken garden - something hugely popular at the time - finally completing it in 1921.
The gardens have expanded ever since, and now cover 55 acres, drawing an incredible one million visitors a year.
And there’s plenty for them to see and do, whether that’s strolling along flower-lined paths (the gardens contain more than 900 plant varieties), cruising on the lake or enjoying a meal in one of three on-site restaurants. There’s also a Children’s Pavilion that includes a carousel featuring beautifully hand-carved animals as well as a couple of ornate chariots for those with mobility issues.
Like the plants, the gardens change with the seasons, and while serious flower lovers might opt for some daffodil and tulip action in the spring or ‘fall colours’ from the Japanese maples in the autumn, the summer and winter offerings hold a greater all-round appeal.
There are boat tours, live entertainment, illuminated gardens and weekly firework displays on summer evenings, while winter brings the festive excitement of Christmas decorations, colourful lights and an outdoor ice skating rink.
Perhaps not in keeping with the genteel daytime feel, but the spectacular firework displays every Saturday night in July and August are not to be missed.
You'll find a lot to see here, so give yourself plenty of time - the park also offers guides of how to make the most of a two, three or four-hour visit. Also, the park gets especially busy on firework nights so avoid getting stuck in the long queues of people leaving by lingering around to enjoy the illuminated gardens and final strains of live music.
Enjoy a virtual visit to Butchart Gardens here.
RCI has 57 resorts in British Columbia, including 10 in Vancouver/Vancouver Island.
5 Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden, Finland
If you’re visiting Finland on an RCI exchange holiday then there’s every chance you’ll be passing through Helsinki - especially if you’re arriving by air - and the country’s capital is definitely worth taking some time out for.
RCI Travel can help with arrangements if you want to tag a city break onto your RCI Exchange Holiday, and Helsinki is definitely worth the effort. Not only does the increasingly cosmopolitan city contain some of Finland’s finest architecture (even the railway station is Art Nouveau), but its attractions also include a picturesque town square, a church (Temppeliaukio), carved into rock, the family-friendly Linnanmäki amusement park and the fabulous fortified islands of Suomenlinna just off the coast.
Flower and plant lovers meanwhile will make a beeline (like the bees themselves, ahem) for Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden, which is located close to the central station and is part of the University of Helsinki and thus a major teaching resource.
The garden contains an impressive mix of exotic flowers, shrubs, herbs and ornamental plants alongside native wildflowers and flora, and there are more than 800 different plant species in its greenhouse. Some date back to the 1700s when the garden was in Turku (it relocated to Helsinki in 1828), and a visit to this peaceful relaxing garden often feels like taking a trip into the past.
The garden’s main attraction is the Santa Cruz water lily (also known as Victoria cruziana), which alongside a single cypress, was the only survivor when the original greenhouse was destroyed during World War II. The lily pad can grow up to two metres in diameter, and take the weight of an adult!
It’s also worth taking a trip to the University Botanical Gardens’ newer site at Kumpula, three miles north of the city centre. Opened to the public in 2009, it contains plants from all over Europe, North America and the Far East.
Take a Google Maps tour of Kaisaniemi Botanic Gardens here.
RCI has 39 resorts in Finland.
6. Santa Cruz Palmetum Gardens, Tenerife
Tenerife’s sub-tropical climate makes it the perfect environment for exotic flora and fauna to thrive, and there are gardens all over the island, including Parque del Drago, Risco Bello Aquatic Gardens, Jardines Victoria and many more.
Consistently rated the best is Santa Cruz Palmetum Gardens, which is the ultimate ‘green’ attraction in more ways than one - as the gardens are the result of a fantastic 20-year transformation project to turn a former landfill site into an oasis of plants, and the artificial hill it sits on was once a rubbish dump!
The contrast between before and after couldn’t be more marked, with trash truly turned into treasure, in the form of beautiful gardens which showcase spectacular vegetation that’s maintained without the use of pesticides or fertilizers.
The gardens claim to give you the chance to walk around the world without leaving Tenerife, and in terms of the variety of flora it has a strong case, with 2,000 different plants species, including more than 450 palm trees, considered the world’s largest botanical collection of tropical island palms. There’s even a palm museum if you want to find out more.
Head for the Caribbean section if you want to see some particularly rare and valuable plant species, while the New Caledonia area contains a range of plants endemic to the Canary Islands. And when you’re not ticking the various examples off your checklist, be sure to save some time to enjoy all the waterfalls, streams and ponds.
The gardens contain a number of vantage points where you’ll get brilliant views of the sea, the city and the Anaga Mountain Range - truly wonderful vistas, especially if palm fatigue has set in.
The display shade house does exactly what it says on the tin, offering a display of palms in a shaded environment that offers a great break from the sun.
Take a 3D interactive tour of Santa Cruz Palmetum Gardens here.
RCI has 59 resorts in Tenerife.
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