By Bob Kuchta – Landscape Designer and Garden Tour Director at www.bestgardenvisits.com
If gardening or visiting gardens figures as an important activity in your retirement, you should think about selecting a retirement town that has some interesting gardens nearby. For some people it might be just the opportunity to be able to visit these gardens, but for other retirees the lure might be the possibility of working or volunteering in an interesting garden. Most of the gardens discussed in this article are large enough to have active volunteer and/or docent programs.
Topretirements was fortunate to have Bob Kuchta, Inland Wetlands Officer for the Town of Madison, CT, prepare this article for us. Bob leads popular garden tours all over New England and has visited great gardens in almost every state. Bob started by looking at some of the top retirement towns at Topretirements.com. Here are his picks of the best retirement towns for gardens
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is probably America’s favorite retirement town. And of one of the reasons for that is The Biltmore Estate and its gardens. The Biltmore sprawls out over some 125,000 acres of land, which includes a 4 acre mansion, (the largest residence in the U.S.), an Inn, a deerpark, a winery and an array of gardens. The surrounding forests were the first managed by Gifford Pinchot, the founder of the U. S. Forest Service. The gardens were originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park in New York City.
The present gardens include and Italian garden, shrub garden, walled garden, spring garden, azalea garden, flower carpets reminiscent of the Victorian era, a Conservatory as well as exotic and native trees.
Visitors can follow walking trails and paths through the grounds and tour the mansion.
The Atlanta Botanic Gardens This extremely sophisticated garden includes an array of garden areas: Herb, Japanese, Hydrangeas, Dwarf and Rare conifers, Hardy palms, cobra lilies, summer bulbs, winter garden, conservatory garden, rose, water plants, annuals, and the Fuqua Conservatory. Visit sculpture in the garden and other art exhibits. Go online to see what is in bloom and what special events are coming. Handicap accessible, café onsite, closed Mondays
University of Georgia Botanic Gardens The garden is about three miles from the University campus. The garden was founded in 1968 and covers 300 acres or more. It has specialty gardens, such a theme gardens and a conservatory for native and exotic plants. There are 5 miles trails throughout the garden. Environmental education is a major theme of the garden so there are many opportunities for learning about gardening and more.
Also worth visiting nearby:
Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain is a 40 acre garden which includes the Overlook Garden with 700 varieties of azaleas. The 7.5 acre vegetable garden has been featured in PBS television show Victory Garden. Other gardens include the Azalea Bowl which holds 3400 azaleas, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center for 1000 butterflies. There are also 10 miles of biking trails and 7 miles of walking paths. Calloway Gardens is also a popular full scale resort.
Mount Auburn Cemetery is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is one of the oldest garden cemeteries in the nation. It attracts gardeners and birders from all over the east coast and is a special place to visit year round. A complete checklist of birds, noted persons buried there and specimen trees and shrubs make this oasis of green a sanctuary for those who visit. With 174 acres, with numerous paths and 10 miles of paved roads, this garden is well kept and well labeled for horticultural enthusiasts and beginners as well. Early morning birdwalks are a daily occurrence.
Nova Scotia, Halifax
Halifax Public Gardens: The Halifax Public Gardens were opened in 1867 and are a rare example of a formal Victorian public garden where floral carpets were all the rage, rather than naturalistic English country estate gardens. It is very walkable and is located within the city limits.
Victoria, British Columbia
Butchart Gardens, located 14 miles from Victoria, British Columbia is a spectacular 55 acre garden converted from an exhausted limestone quarry into a flowering jewel. There are uninterrupted flowering blooms from March until October. 1,000,000 bedding plants color the grounds, along with spring daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, annuals and perennials.
The summer includes glorious firework displays, the Japanese garden blazes in October and Christmas glows with lights and decorations. A visit to the orchids and butterflies, as well as the gift store and sumptuous meals at the restaurants, round out a memorable visit.
Denver Botanic Gardens: In the high altitude of the mile high city flourishes a wonderful oasis which the city grew around. Gardens include those representative of those around the world, water fountains, rock gardens, alpine tundra displays, a conservatory, native plants, wildflowers and an education center. These are some of the top and most visited gardens in the U.S.
Elizabeth Park is located near Prospect and Asylum Avenues in nearby Hartford. It is one of the most famous and oldest municipal rose gardens in the United States. As with many gardens it began as part of estate for a wealthy industrialist (Charles M. Pond) who accumulated wealth prior to the establishment of Federal income taxes. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park covers some 102 acres and is located west of Connecticut's state capitol city. It's greatest claim to fame are the hundreds of varieties of roses. They reach their peak bloom in June, but one may find a blossom lasting even through the fall and into December.
There are greenhouses, well maintained open lawns, a picnic grove, pathways through a magnificent collection of native and exotic trees and a pond. There are several different types of display gardens grown throughout the park including an annuals garden, herb garden, perennial garden and rock garden. The collection of trees include those native to the United States, Europe, Japan, China, Norway and several that are hybridized.
The grounds are easy to walk with nearby parking and restrooms. Throughout the year educational programs, tours and events take place. Bring a picnic lunch and spend at least two leisurely hours visiting. The park has an active group of gardeners and supporters with varied horticultural interests.
New York, New York
New York Botanic Garden: When one thinks of New York, gardens probably aren’t one of the first things in mind. But it is home to some of the most famous gardens in the world, none more prestigious than the New York Botanical Garden. Located on 250 acres in the Bronx (just north of Manhattan), 50 acres cultivated, largest conservatory on east coast, great perennial gardens, roses, rock garden, conifer collections, year round interest, changes with the seasons. This massive garden is easy to walk, restaurant on site, easy access to public transportation, great books in gift shop, plants for sale. Not to be missed
Also within the 5 boroughs of New York City:
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Queens Botanic Garden
Staten Island Botanic Garden
Wave Hill Botanic Garden
Top Ten Gardens for Retirees to Visit
Adkins Arboretum, Ridgely, Maryland
Atlanta Botanic Garden, Atlanta, Georgia
Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
Denver Botanic Garden, Denver, Colorado
Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, New Jersey
Missouri Botanic Gardens, St. Louis, Missouri
Morton Arboretum, Chicago, Illinois
Mt Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts
New York Botanic Gardens, Bronx, New York
See also: 55 Stunning Botanical Gardens You Reallly Need To See Before You Die