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10 of the World’s Most Beautiful Public Gardens

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Your backyard can be a wonderful retreat, but whenever you have the chance, you should visit a large, professionally curated public garden. Here are a few you might not be familiar with, but are worth a trip.

1. FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDENS // CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA

florador via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens is an education and conservation facility showcasing tropical plants. The gardens are home to over a dozen areas highlighting different ecosystems and species, as well as a research facility and a farm; the facility also offers horticultural classes, hosts festivals, and conducts research projects in 20 countries. For the casual visitor, there are guided tours and tram tours, or you can wander freely as you like. Make sure to stop by the Silbey Victoria pool, which features Victoria cruziana and the Victoria Longwood Hybrid water lilies (above). Native to South America and capable of reaching nearly 2 feet in diameter, these plants are the largest water lilies in the world.

2. CHÂTEAU DE VILLANDRY // CENTRE-VAL-DE-LOIRE, FRANCE

kurt_eh via Flickr //CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

France's Château de Villandry is a manor house with a nearly 500-year history. It was built in the early 16th century by Jean Le Breton, who was Minister of Finance under King François I (he knocked down most of an old fortress on the site, which dated back to the 1100s, in order to build the manor). He began cultivating the gardens, and 200 years later, the Marquis de Castellane expanded them. Château de Villandry was confiscated during the French Revolution and awarded to Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, after which it fell into ruin. In 1906, Dr. Joachim Carvallo purchased the chateau and worked to restore the gardens to their former glory. In addition to the imposing chateau, visitors can see the kitchen garden, the cross garden, the water garden, the sun garden, the maze, and the cloud room. The gardens are open every day of the year, but if you can't make it all the way to France, you can still take a virtual tour at the website.

3. BUTCHART GARDENS // VANCOUVER ISLAND, BRITISH COLUMBIA

WisDoc via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 1904, Robert and Jenny Butchart opened a limestone quarry and cement plant on Vancouver Island. He ran the business; she was the company chemist. Over the next few decades, as areas of the quarry played out, Jenny reclaimed it as a garden. She had tons of topsoil hauled in, and dedicated different areas to garden designs from all over the world, including a Japanese and an Italian garden. Today, all that's left of the original factory is a single chimney; it's been replaced almost entirely by budding flowers and singing birds. Butchart Gardens is now owned by Robin-Lee Clarke, the Butcharts’ great-granddaughter. While opening hours vary, the world-famous gardens are open to the public year-round.

4. POWERSCOURT GARDENS // WICKLOW, IRELAND

Peter Stevens via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Located about an hour from Dublin, the gardens of the Powerscourt Estate are home to the highest waterfall in Ireland (it's nearly 400 feet tall!). The home on the estate was originally a medieval castle, which was remodeled as a house in the 1730s and reroofed after a fire in 1974. The 47-acre estate contains an Italian garden, a Japanese garden, a sculpture garden, two golf courses, the largest pet cemetery in Ireland, and an extensive forest where you’ll find the Pepperpot Tower, which was modeled after the pepperpot used by Lord Powerscourt at mealtime.

5. DUMBARTON OAKS // WASHINGTON, D.C.


Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss established their home and garden on 53 acres in Washington, D.C., in 1920. Twenty years later, they gifted part of their property to Harvard University, which established Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection; 27 acres went to the government to establish a public park. The facility includes the Bliss’s extensive garden—which includes a rose garden and pebble garden—for their Garden and Landscape Studies programs. The museum is closed for renovations for the rest of this year, but the public gardens are open Tuesday through Sunday from March until the end of October.

6. THE MASTER OF THE NETS GARDEN // SUZHOU, CHINA

Caitriana Nicholson via Flickr //CC BY-SA 2.0 

The Garden of Master of the Nets is only 1.5 acres, but the home, pond, and garden are crammed with delicate beauty. Originally named Fisherman’s Retreat, it was once the home of Song Zongyuan, an official of the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century. However, the verdant sanctuary was actually established several hundred years earlier. It's tranquil during the day, but at night, performers stage concerts in the garden and in various rooms of the pavilion from March to November.

7. CALLAWAY GARDENS // PINE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA

Cason and Virginia Callaway started the Georgia-based Callaway Gardens in 1952, and the family added lakes, manmade beaches, two golf courses, a large forest area, and hotels over the years. The garden features the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, a 40-acre garden with more than 3000 azalea bushes that come alive every spring. You’ll also find the Overlook Azalea Garden, the Meadowlark Garden, and the Thornhill Hydrangea Garden.

8. KEUKENHOF // LISSE, THE NETHERLANDS

Keukenhof Gardens is a showcase of Dutch floriculture in the spring. The word keukenhof means “kitchen garden,” because the site is where Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria gathered fruits and vegetables for Teylingen Castle in the 15th century. In 1641, Keukenhof Castle was built on the site. In 1949, a consortium of bulb importers proposed to use Keukenhof to showcase flowers, and the already-legendary garden was redesigned. Over the course of eight weeks every spring, Keukenhof displays the blooms of some 7 million bulbs, including 800 varieties of tulips. The gardens will be open in 2017 from March 23 to May 21.

9. STOURHEAD // WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND

Michael Rollinger via Flickr //CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Stourhead is a 2650-acre estate that became a part of Britain’s National Trust in 1946. The estate was established by the Stourton family, who owned the estate for 500 years, before it began changing owners, eventually falling into the hands of Henry Hoare in 1717. While the gardens were planted and expanded by several owners, the Arcadian design was Henry Hoare II's idea. He built Greek temples, an artificial lake, a Pantheon, and other classical Greek structures. The gardens are open to the public every day except Christmas.

10. CHANTICLEER GARDEN // WAYNE, PENNSYLVANIA

JR P via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Adolph and Christine Rosengarten built a country home in Wayne, Pennsylvania, in 1913, which Christine named Chanticleer. They then bought adjoining properties for their two children when they became adults. Adolph Rosengarten, Jr. inherited both his parents’ and his sisters’ properties upon their deaths, and when he died in 1990, he left the entire estate to the enjoyment of the public, managed by the Chanticleer Foundation. The 35 acres of gardens include a 10-mile trail through various themed areas like the Pond Garden and Ruin Garden. Chanticleer is open to visitors Wednesday through Sunday from April 1 to November 1, but admission is only open until the 120-space parking lot is full, so visitors are urged to carpool.

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5 Trouble-Shooting Tips to Keep Your House Plant Alive
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Maybe you’ve heard that houseplants can help improve indoor air quality. Perhaps you’ve read that looking at plants can help you focus. Or maybe you just really like how that ficus looks in your living room. But buying a plant and keeping it alive are two different things, and the answer to your botanical woes isn’t always “don't forget to water it.”

Here are five green-thumb tips to make sure your plant stays as leafy green as it was the day you bought it.

1. DON’T OVER-WATER.

You don’t want to neglect your plant, but it’s easy to go overboard with the watering can, and that can be just as harmful as forgetting to water your plant for weeks. A watering schedule can help you keep track of whether or not your plants need attention, but you shouldn’t water just because it’s Sunday and that’s when you usually do it. Before you go to water your plant baby, make sure it actually needs it.

Your plant’s water needs will vary based on the type of plant, its location, how old it is, and plenty of other factors, but there are a few rules of thumb that can put you on the right track. Lift the pot. If it’s heavy, that means that the soil is full of water. If it’s light, it’s dry. Dig a finger into the soil around its roots, making sure to feel beneath the surface. Still damp? Hold off. Dry? Grab the H2O.

If you really struggle to strike the right balance between too much and too little water, consider a smart plant system. And regardless of how often you water, make sure to use a pot with good drainage to prevent root rot.

2. WATCH THE TEMPERATURE.

Be aware of where your plant is situated in the room, and whether there might be any temperature extremes there. Is your fern sitting right above the radiator? Is your peony subject to a cold draft? Is your rosemary plant stuck leaning against a window during a snowstorm?

As a rule, most houseplants can handle temperatures between 58°F and 86°F, according to a bulletin from the University of Georgia. The ideal range is between 70°F and 80°F during the day, and between 65°F and 70°F at night. Below 50°F, sensitive plants can suffer damage to their leaves. However, as with most plant advice, it depends on the species—tropical plants usually do well in higher temperatures, and some other plants are happier in colder rooms.

If your sad-looking plant is sitting in the middle of a cold draft or right next to the heater, consider moving it to a different spot, or at least a few inches away. If it’s near the window, you can also draft-proof the window.

3. MAINTAIN HUMIDITY.

Be mindful of the kind of ecosystem that your plant comes from, and know that keeping it happy means more than just finding the right amount of sun. A tropical plant like an orchid won’t thrive in dry desert air. According to the Biology Department at Kenyon College in Ohio, a dried-out plant will look faded and wilting. You can immerse it in water to help it bounce back quickly. (Warning, though: A plant that’s getting too much moisture can look that way, too.)

If your home gets dry—say, when you have the heater on full blast in the winter or the AC on constantly during the summer—you’ll need to find a way to keep your plant refreshed. Your can buy a humidifier, or create a humidity tray by placing the pot on a tray of pebbles soaked in water. The plant will soak up the humidity as the water under the pebbles evaporates. You can also get a spray bottle and mist your tropical plants periodically with water. (But don't mist your fuzzy-leafed plants.)

Not sure how humid your house is? You can get a humidity gauge (known as a hydrometer) for less than $10 on Amazon.

4. LOOK OUT FOR BUGS.

Even if you do all of the above correctly, you can still struggle to keep a plant healthy due to infestations. Keep an eye out for common pests like spider mites, which will leave brown or yellow spots on leaves or make the plant’s color dull. If you discover these tiny mites (you may need to use a magnifying glass), wash your plant immediately with water to knock off as many mites as possible. Wash the plant with an insecticidal soap, too, but make sure the label says it’s effective for mites.

5. DON’T DISCOUNT THE POT.

Healthy plants often outgrow their homes. if you notice that there are roots coming out the drainage holes at the bottom of your pot, or that water sits on the surface of the soil for a long time before draining down, or that your plant’s roots are coming up out of the soil, it’s time to upgrade to a bigger pot. Signs of a “root bound” plant whose root system is too big for its container can also include wilting, yellowed leaves, and stunted plant growth.

No matter what the size of your plant, it’s good to repot it once in a while, since the nutrients in the soil deplete over time. Repotting creates a fresh nutritional start and can help perk up unhappy plants.

If your plant looks unhealthy and you're still stumped, try consulting the website of a university horticulture department for other signs of plant distress and potential solutions.

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5 Smart Gardening Devices to Turn Your Thumb Green
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Just because you are a little absentminded about your houseplants doesn’t mean you can’t be a gardener. In the 21st century, there are plenty of smart tech solutions to care for your plants. Here are five technological tools to keep your plants alive, no matter how terrible a plant parent you are:

1. HELLOPLANT; $26

A blue sensor is placed in a pot of purple flowers next to a phone with the HelloPlant app open.
HelloPlant

Helloplant, a new Kickstarter project, is a sensor that you insert into the soil of your pot to keep tabs on your houseplant. The associated smartphone app will ping you if the Wi-Fi-connected sensor detects that your plant is drying out, and it can tell you where the plant is getting light. The recommendations are customized based on what kind of plant you label it as in the app. Best of all, it’s cheaper than other smart gardening solutions, coming in at just under $26 per sensor.

Find it: Kickstarter

2. PARROT POT; $90

Parrot’s smart pots use embedded sensors to monitor and tend to your plants whether you’re home or not. They are self-watering, preventing you from under-watering or over-watering your delicate houseplants. You can go on vacation for up to a month and the Parrot Pot will take care of your precious basil plant for you. The four sensors measure light, temperature, moisture, and fertilizer levels and send the information to your phone so that you can analyze how your plant is doing. It’s the perfect assistant for someone who wants to develop a green thumb but isn’t quite sure how to start.

Find it: Amazon

3. GROWTH

Three plants in white GROWTH planters are placed on the floor.
Studio Ayaskan

With GROWTH, you never have to worry about your plants outgrowing their pots. The origami-like containers can expand so your growing plant has more room as it gets bigger. Created by the London-based design shop Studio Ayaskan, the white pots will give your apartment a minimal, modern vibe. The pots are not widely available yet, sadly. The studio recommends you subscribe to its newsletter to get an alert when they go on sale.

4. PLANTLINK SENSOR; $70

A white sensor is hidden within the leaves of a potted plant.
PlantLink

PlantLink is another smart sensor that you can insert into your potting soil to detect the moisture level of your plant’s environment. Based on the type of plant, the device will text, email, or send a push alert to your smartphone to tell you when it needs to be watered. PlantLink also makes a smart valve that you hook up to your sprinklers to automatically water your plants. It has its own solar panel and can be programmed to water your plants based on changes in the weather.

Find it: Amazon

5. THE NANOFARM; $350

Three Nanofarm boxes filled with herbs sit next to each other on a wooden table.
Replantable

If you’re serious about your indoor gardening operation, consider Replantable's Nanofarm, a Kickstarter-backed tabletop produce system that requires zero oversight. You set it up once and wait for your food to grow. It works using Replantable’s Plant Pads, all-in-one seed and nutrient sheets that come in a number of different herb and salad-green varieties. For the Nanofarm, you just fill the tray inside with water, put in a Plant Pad, and close the door until your basil or butter lettuce is ready to harvest.

Find it: Replantable

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