Where are the Botanical Gardens?
The best and easiest way to find a list of botanical gardens in the United States and Canada is to use a site named ilovegardens.com. It calls itself “A Treasury of Glorious Public and Private Gardens for Garden Lovers to Visit!” And it is. It lists over 1600 botanical gardens, arboretums, public gardens and other places where green things grow. Best of all, each entry includes a two or three sentence description of the garden spot.
Botanique.com is another good site for finding gardens in the US and Canada. Start by clicking on a map, and botanique.com takes you to a list of all the gardens, arboreta and nature sites in a state or province. Because Botanique's database is so large and extensive, a search often turns up lots of lightly visited green spots worth a visit.
The American Public Gardens Association is a member association of over 500 public gardens, nearly all in the United States. The American Public Gardens Association (APGA) includes a Garden Search feature that searches for the names and websites of gardens that are members of APGA. The search can be done by garden name, state, or zip code.
To find botanical gardens worldwide, I use two sites: The Botanical Garden Information System at the University of Ulm in Germany and the Garden Search site of the Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Of the two, the BGCI database is more comprehensive and easier to use.
Still another good and colorful source is Wikipedia's list of U.S. botanical gardens and arboretums and its comprehensive list of botanical gardens in the world.
What are the "Best Botanical Gardens"?
With more than 1600 botanical gardens and arboreta in the world, which are the "best" ones? Garden keepers are understandably skittish about choosing. When I posed the question to the Botanic Gardens Conservation International, a membership organization that offers support to botanical gardens in over a hundred countries, I was told "we have never ranked the botanic gardens of the world."
Others are not so reluctant.
GardenWeb.com, a site that "comprises the largest community of gardeners on the Internet" sponsored a kind of peoples choice awards in 2000. They asked visitors to their site to rate a list of nominated botanical gardens and public gardens on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). They then published a list of much-liked gardens that had viewer ratings of 7.00 or higher. The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida topped their list with a rating of 9.26. The huge Longwood display gardens near Philadelphia came in second in the poll. Three gardens in the U.K -- Wisley Garden of the Royal Horticultural Society, Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew - made the top 10 as did Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C.
TripAdvisor, a site best known for encouraging travelers to comment on their hotel stays, has also started asking travelers to rate and review other things such as ballparks, ice cream parlors, and even botanical gardens. The top three gardens on the TripAdvisors list were Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine, Longwood Gardens, and the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, Missouri. Other favorites included Brookgreen Gardens near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina known for its Nights of a Thousand Candles displays in the winter and its display of tens of thousands of caladiums in the summer and Chanticleer Garden near Philadelphia.
In 2014 USA Today teamed up with 10Best to conduct a readers' poll of the ten best public gardens in the country. The poll of gardens they devised was the second most popular reader response category since they started their polls. Readers were asked to chose their favorites from a list of twenty top gardens selected by a noted landscape designer and preservationist. Longwood Gardens again topped the readers' list followed by Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virgina and Butchart Gardens in Vancouver, BC. Other botanical gardens in the top ten included the Chicago Botanic Garden, Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Coral Gables, Florida.
The BBC also weighed in on gardens in North American selecting eight gardens that they felt were good enough to warrant a trip from the U.K. to North America to see. Without ranking their selections, they chose the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Fioli south of San Francisco, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, Canticleer Garden, the Butchart Gardens, the Montreal Botanical Garden, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and the Botanical Garden at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas.
Pickers of the best don't stop with picking the best gardens in the the United States or the favorite gardens in North America. They also make lists of the best botanical gardens in the world.
A website called Ecorazzi has a list of the world's best eight gardens. Ecorazzi is an unusual site that says it was started in 2006 "as a way to use gossip to inspire real good throughout the world. . . .with a goal to highlight the work being done to make the world a better place." Here are gardens they have chosen as ones to gossip (in a good way) about: the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (USA) the Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden (South Africa) Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum (Germany), Missouri Botanical Garden (USA), Singapore Botanic Gardens (Singapore) Montreal Botanical Garden (Canada), Royal Botanic Garden, Kew (England) and the Longwood Gardens (USA).
Finally, there's a blog called 10MostToday that's devoted to listing the 10 best things in nature, engineering, architecture, travel, and history. Their list of world gardens is interesting because it includes some gardens in Asia and South America that often get overlooked. So in order of rank, here is 10MostToday's list of the ten best botanical gardens in the world: Jardim Botânico (Brazil), Brooklyn Botanic Garden (USA), Singapore Botanic Gardens (Singapore), Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum (Germany), Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (England), Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, (South Africa), Montreal Botanical Garden (Canada), Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden (Thailand), Denver Botanic Gardens (USA), and the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden (India).