Wild or manicured lawns, floral fragrances or the scent of freshly-cut grass, edged with flowers or dotted with shady gazebos. No matter where in the world, a garden is an invitation to a journey within a journey, an opportunity to breathe and become one with nature.
1- Casa Velha do Palheiro, Funchal, Madeira
A green haven watching over the sea
In 1804, the Comte de Carvalhal built his estate overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The botany enthusiast and experienced traveler planted thousands of flowers – hibiscus, bougainvillea, jacaranda and camellia – and trees, some now more than two hundred years old, including the impressive New Zealand Christmas bush. His collection came to be known as the legendary gardens of Palheiro. Many of the original plants are still tended by the Blandy family, and new, yet endemic, species are introduced regularly to the 150-hectare park. A living treasure.
2- Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Ireland
A park without borders
This fairytale castle merges with nature, standing on a 690-acre estate surrounded by countryside, lakes, rivers and forests. The lawns stretch languorously down to the banks of the Owenmore and the trees gaze shamelessly at their reflections in its waters that teem with fish. Preserved virgin spaces mingle gladly with landscaped gardens. Only the high-walled garden stands alone. It is reserved for guests, who are welcome to explore it in the company of the gardener who takes gentle paternal care of its colorful flowers and fruit.
3- Villa Gallici, Aix-en-Provence, France
Just over 500 yards from the historic town center, and beyond the villa’s iron gate, the 18th-century residence exuding Florentine charm reveals seven acres of lush vegetation, perfumed with lavender and roses in summer. The flowerbeds bloom with changing colors as the seasons pass, while the cypress trees stretch their branches towards the sky. On the terraces, century-old plane trees provide stone goddesses with welcome shade. The gardener is an expert in the art of topiary, and meticulously prunes the hardwoods that brighten up the beds opposite a kaleidoscope of contemporary sculptures that inspires visitors to take a romantic stroll.
4- Landgoed Hotel Het Roode Koper, Ermelo, Netherlands
At one with the land
Rosebushes are aligned as if they were on a parade route, hemming the squares of lawn, while not a single leaf protrudes from the boxwood hedges covering the 7,400-acre estate, designed in the English style. The magical mingling of eccentricity and nobility is evident in the garden’s whimsical layout, the charming expression of a true gentleman gardener. In this manicured setting, a traditional main house, a cottage, and a few charming outbuildings are scattered between the Veluwe forest, which is classified as a natural park, and the moors carpeted in heather. Guests at the estate, which used to be owned by a count from Dutch Indonesia, venture into the woods on the lookout for wild animals and are sometimes lucky.
5- Villa della Pergola, Alassio, Italy
Scents of the Mediterranean
Saved at the very last moment from real estate speculation following a spontaneous initiative by lovers of rare and historic places, La Villa della Pergola and its two hectares of botanical gardens captivate the guests in its fifteen suites. The word paradise does not sufficiently describe this profusion of plants: 5,000 species are on display, including utterly unique collections of agapanthus and wisteria. An array of colors and a bouquet of intoxicating scents excite the senses, one taking over from the other as the hours and months pass by.
6- The Inn, Little Washington, Virginia, USA
A two-tone masterpiece
In the pretty Hamptons-style inn with three Michelin stars, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 18 rooms are not named after flowers but famous chefs. Yet chef Patrick O’Connell, and visitors to his restaurant, loves strolling in its gardens dotted with blue, mauve and yellow blooms. He also loves looking at the greenhouse and walking under the plant-enshrouded gazebo. This rural setting is home to an outstanding epicurean experience and just an hour’s drive from Washington.
7- Hotel del Parque, Guayaquil, Ecuador
In the sometimes heavy, humid air of this large port on the Pacific, an elegant colonial house, threatened with destruction 40 years ago, provides a welcome break to visitors. Saved, transported and rebuilt plank by plank on the banks of the Rio Daule, it is home to an enormous hidden tropical garden where banana trees, cocoa trees, saprophytic plants, orchids and shrub ferns wind their way into the tiniest spaces. Each of the property’s 44 rooms overlooks this lush enclave, in which parrots and spider monkeys vie for its best spots. A taste of the Ecuadorian jungle.
8- Park Hotel Sonnenhof, Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Waves of green
Surrounded by the Alps and the castle of Vaduz and scattered with large, swaying clumps of grass, the pathways of the estate’s vast gardens are lined with vines and rosebushes to soften the minimalist lines of the hotel. As romantic in winter in its blanket of white snow as it is in spring when thousands of wildflowers bloom, or in autumn carpeted with russet leaves, the hotel delights its guests, inviting them to sit down with a glass of white wine and a plate of Appenzell, the local cheese and the name of the region. Paradise found.
9- Delaire Graff Lodges & Spa, Stellenbosch, South Africa
A jewel in its case
Nestled between vineyards and hills, the sixteen lodges benefit from a unique panorama that stretches as far as Table Mountain. Laurence Graff, a jeweler and owner of the place, has a deep fondness for the biodiversity and wild beauty of these African lands. He wanted 350 native plants that had been listed by a botanist to cohabit there, alongside non-invasive cultivated species and fine vineyards. As an enthusiastic collector of contemporary African art, he has extended his gallery beyond the walls of the building, combining sculptures with his treasured plants. An open-air exhibition.
10- Otahuna Lodge, Canterbury, New Zealand
A passion for horticulture
This 19th-century Victorian estate with its hodgepodge of styles is worth a visit as much for its gardens as for its interior, with original woodwork, stained glass windows and 17 flamboyant fireplaces. At the beginning of the 20th century, a gardener sowed daffodils with such generosity that their jagged yellow corollas completely took over the virgin ground. The city took advantage of the surplus bulbs to brighten up its public spaces. While the daffodils still frolic there today, Otahuna Lodge is even prouder of its historic grounds, where a squad of gardeners tends to the 120 varieties of fruits and vegetables that are served at its restaurant.