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Best Public Gardens | 2014 Home & Garden Awards

Best Public Gardens | 2014 Home & Garden Awards
3 votes, 4.33 avg. rating (84% score)

From coastal to urban to historic, these 8 public gardens offer stunning views, vibrant color, and peaceful tranquility in a variety of settings. Here are the winners for best public gardens in Yankee Magazine’s 2014 Home & Garden Awards.

Boston Public Garden

Photo/Art by Susan Cole Kelly
Boston Public Garden | Best Urban Public Garden

URBAN

Boston Public Garden

69 Beacon St., Boston, MA. 617-635-4505; cityofboston.gov

Filled with iconic New England attractions, including the Swan Boats, the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture, and an imposing George Washington statue, this garden is also a serious botanical masterpiece, featuring stunning seasonal displays of tulips and roses, and more than 600 trees (including 100 species). Best of all, it’s a truly public retreat—right in the middle of the city, open to anyone, with no entrance fee required.

COASTAL GARDEN

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

132 Botanical Gardens Drive, Boothbay, ME. 207-633-4333; mainegardens.org

This 250-acre masterpiece is living proof that the coast can be a great place to garden, despite the wind and salt air. Staffers harness a truly rugged environment and demonstrate what can be done with ledge, hillside, woodland, and waterfront. Don’t miss the second-to-none chil­dren’s garden—universal fun for all ages.

NATIVE GARDEN

New England Wild Flower Society at Garden in the Woods

180 Hemenway Road, Framingham, MA. 508-877-7630; newenglandwild.org

Combine a gambol in the woods with a lesson on native plants, multiply it by a few hundred trilliums, and you have Garden in the Woods. Tucked smack-dab into the middle of suburbia, this 45-acre gem is a safe haven for native wildflowers, as well as a lovely location for a weekend hike. Along the way, you’ll learn just how diverse our woodlands can be, if protected.

Shelburne Museum

Photo/Art by Julie Bidwell
Shelburne Museum | Best Historic Public Garden

HISTORIC

Shelburne Museum

6000 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, VT. 802-985-3346; shelburnemuseum.org

Witness vibrant displays of how New Englanders lived and created over the centuries at this quirky and remarkable collection of historic buildings, folk and decorative art, carriages and horse-drawn vehicles, and, yes, gardens, near the shore of Lake Champlain. Among the collections of peonies and daylilies are a 1790s Vermont flax and kitchen garden, an 1820s heirloom kitchen garden, and a fragrant 19th-century cutting garden.

ROSE GARDEN

Elizabeth Park

1561 Asylum Ave., West Hartford, CT. 860-231-9443; elizabethparkct.org

Elizabeth Park is a heady 2.1-acre paradise of wall-to-wall roses, with arches muffled in climbers and Technicolor beds of unfurling buds in every shade of white, red, pink, yellow, and orange—more than 800 varieties in all. (For more on the park, see “In Search of Fool­proof Roses,” p. 94 in this issue.) It’s no wonder that brides line up on weekends to snap photos under the blooms.

SHOWS & SPECIAL PROGRAMS

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

11 French Drive, Boylston, MA. 508-869-6111; towerhillbg.org

By all means, go to Tower Hill for the stunning views framed by glorious gardens, and don’t miss the orangerie. But consider  synchronizing your visit with one of the many shows celebrating the daffodil, orchid, cacti and succulents, begonia, rose, and vegetables (to name just a few).

SPRING BLOOMS

Arnold Arboretum

125 Arborway, Boston, MA. 617-524-1718; arboretum.harvard.edu

Nothing can quite match the fragrance and beauty of the lilac display—nearly 400 plants (176 varieties) in all—blanketing Bussey Hill in this 280-acre expanse. Exploding in pinks, lavenders, blues, and whites each May, they’ve been a Boston mainstay for more than 100 years, and even have their own holiday: Lilac Sunday (May 11 this year).

FALL COLOR

Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve

92 Cooksey Drive, Seal Harbor, ME. 207-276-3727; gardenpreserve.org

The Land & Garden Preserve maintains the coastal Asticou Azalea Garden (a Japanese-inspired oasis) and Thuya Garden (a semiformal mix of English border gardens and native Maine woodlands) on Mount Desert Island, just south of Acadia National Park. Both are worthy year-round destinations, but in fall they simply explode with color. Leaves on the many tree species take on vibrant shades of yellow, orange, red, and even purple, reflected in ponds and pools.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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