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Offbeat

8 Gardens Worth Traveling For

Spring is in the air, and where better to welcome the season than in America’s backyard?

See recent posts by Siobhan Reid

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Photo courtesy of Memphis Botanic Garden

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Memphis Botanic Garden

Want to brush up on your landscape photography skills? The 96-acre Memphis Botanic Garden has a specialty garden designed with outdoor photographers in mind. Dubbed the Nature Photography Garden, there are trickling fountains, cobblestone pathways and over 250 different kinds of plants, offering many unique focal points and views. Another must-see? The Japanese Garden of Tranquility, where you’ll find the iconic red drum bridge, plus cool wildlife like turtles, Koi fish and white swans.

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Photo courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

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Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Miami’s Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has some of the world's greatest palm and cycad collections, but that’s the only reason you should plan a visit to the 83-acre garden. There’s also a sunken garden, intricate canopies of climbing vines, a dizzying array of nectar plants and orchids and sculptures by artists like Dale Chihuly and Roy Lichtenstein.

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Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden

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Missouri Botanical Garden

Founded in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark. Highlights include a 14-acre Japanese garden, founder Henry Shaw’s original 1850 estate home and one of the world’s largest collections of rare and endangered orchids. June through August, the garden hosts the Whitaker Music Festival, which stages a series of open-air concerts performed by local bands and jazz groups.

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Callaway Gardens, Georgia

Not only can you stroll leisurely through Georgia’s Callaway Gardens. You can also cycle, fish, hike, swim, golf or play a game of tennis. More of gardener than an athlete? Plan your visit for the spring, when over 5,000 varieties of azaleas bloom in the one of Callaway's specialty gardens.

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Portland Japanese Garden

Japan or Oregon? The Portland Japanese Garden is so authentically realized you'll swear you're abroad. The 5.5-acre garden features trickling streams, cobblestone pathways, a Japanese tea house and unparalleled views of Mount Hood. In keeping with the Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies that inspired the garden's design, there are also plenty of spaces ideal for quiet contemplation.

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Photo courtesy of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

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Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

On the shorefront of mid-coast Maine, The Coastal Maine Botanical Garden is one of the only waterfront botanical gardens in the United States. What you'll see? A rainbow-colored array of coastal flora, including water lilies, Russian sage and Veronica, in addition to the garden’s impressive display of permanent sculptures like artist Nancy Schon’s Blueberries for Sal-inspired bronze work. Don’t leave with tasting (yes, tasting) the variety of edible plants in the interactive Lerner Garden of the Five Senses.

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Photo courtesy of Keith Brofsky

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Bloedel Reserve, WA

With its sauna-like humidity and ever-present drizzle, Washington is a horticulturalist’s paradise. And the best spot to see the beautifying effects of this climate? The Bloedel Reserve — 150 acres of natural woodlands and landscaped gardens an hour outside Seattle. There, you’ll find ornamental grass, moss-covered cedar trees, a large bird marsh and Japanese maples, all framed against the stunning backdrop of the Puget Sound and the Cascade peaks. Don’t forget to bring your umbrella!

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Chicago Botanic Garden

You could spend a whole day exploring the 385-acre Chicago Botanic Garden, which is divided into 26 gardens and four natural areas, all spread across nine different islands. But in the interest of time, we’ll recommend two of our favorite spots: the 185-speciman bonsai garden, and the European-inspired English Walled Garden — a collection of distinctive garden “rooms” surrounded by stone troughs and verdant hedges.

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