Places I Remember with Lea Lane

Favorite Gardens Of The World, From South Africa To New Zealand

September 27, 2022 Beverly Hurley is editor of and a contributor to the new book, Gardens of the World. Season 1 Episode 68
Places I Remember with Lea Lane
Favorite Gardens Of The World, From South Africa To New Zealand
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

One of the nicest ways to take a break from the rush of sightseeing as you travel is to enjoy a garden. And throughout the world  you will find spectacular ones, charming ones, traditional ones -- all designed to please your senses.

Beverly Hurley is passionate about gardens, and of  natural places filled with flora and fauna, wherever she travels. She defines a botanical garden versus a conservatory or arboretum, and then she and Lea share their favorite gardens around the world, including in South Africa, the Netherlands, Morocco, France, the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

We end the episode with one of Beverly's favorite garden-related memories.
Beverly Hurley, is editor of, and a contributor to the new book, Gardens of the World.
Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at, has traveled to over 100 countries, written nine books, including Places I Remember, and contributed to many guidebooks.

Contact Lea! 
@lealane on Twitter; PlacesIRememberLeaLane on Insta; on  Facebook, it's Places I Remember with Lea Lane. Website:

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Lea Lane  0:00  
Wherever I travel in the world, I try to find time to walk in a garden. It offers a break for more hectic sightseeing, and a chance to observe not only the flora and fauna, but the locals. You can catch your breath, wind down, and enjoy the peace and beauty of nature. Our guest is Beverly Hurley, editor of, and a contributor to the new book, Gardens of the World. Welcome, Beverly to Places I Remember.

Beverly Hurley  0:26  
Thank you for having me. 

Lea Lane  0:27  
It's a pleasure. Well, before we get into formal gardens, I know that you think it's important, especially when traveling, to take a walk around the block, wandering the woods or along the edges of waterways to enjoy nature. Can you give us examples of some of your favorite natural places around the world?

Beverly Hurley  0:44  
Oh, gosh, to try to pick my favorites is like picking my favorite child. But there are always the places that that really stand out to me in terms of natural places. One of them is not far from me, I live in North Carolina, and I would have to put the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a really unusual natural place

Lea Lane  1:05  
It is known for beaches is it also a wonderland of flora and fauna?

Beverly Hurley  1:10  
It is and that's the surprise -- flora and fauna is really everywhere you go, you just have to take the time to look for it. So as an example, when I go to the Outer Banks, I rarely go to the beach, but it has magnificent sand dune environments that have really unusual flora and fauna surviving in the sand. It has beautiful coastal waterways that have aquatic plants growing within them and along the shores. And so it's that's just one example of a place when I go to the mountains here, and the rhododendrons are blooming. When you drive quickly through Western North Carolina, you might just be looking up at the tops of the mountains, but I like to look closer, and to see all the beautiful plants, the rhododendrons, the ferns that are blooming, it's hard for me to pass a field of something growing on mass. So a field of sunflowers or a field of day lilies blooming somewhere on quick to stop and just take in the beauty of of those flowers.

Lea Lane  2:17  
Absolutely. I remember so many times, traveling throughout the world in the spring, and the roadside wildflowers and the butterflies and all of those lovely insects that come along with the flowers. It's something you don't forget. And I think some people just pass it by as a kind of background, but it is one of the more beautiful things of travel. There are places like Buffalo, New York that has over 400 gardens, there are towns that focus on that, but there's also the wonderful seasonal beauty of Savannah or Charleston in the springtime when the azaleas and dogwoods and rhododendron are in bloom, or cherry blossoms in Washington, DC or in Tokyo, or just even the early fall in upstate New York or New England, or late fall in the Blue Ridge area. I try to travel during these times, because it is gorgeous. And you don't have to go to a garden necessarily to enjoy beautiful flowers. So let's get a definition of gardens versus conservatory versus arboretum. Can you tell us about that?

Beverly Hurley  3:16  
Sure. A botanical garden would be the entirety of a garden. So you go to a botanical garden, Longwood as an example, which is outside Philadelphia. And so within the botanical garden, you would have smaller other gardens you might have a section with dahlias section, with native plants, you might have a section with roses;  a botanical garden would have a conservatory, that's what we would commonly call a glass house. And that's where they're able to put mostly tropical plants; some places will put their desert plants there, or an indoor water garden. That's a place that needs to be highly climate controlled and couldn't survive outdoors because it needs warm weather, dry weather, wet weather. But arboretum is really all about the trees. And so you might have an arboretum where that's the main focus, but you might have a bigger botanical garden that has a separate arboretum. So does that make sense?

Lea Lane  4:19  
Yes, it does. And I always , well I knew arbor was a tree but I always wondered why there were so many other plants. It's a part of a larger garden. Very interesting. Okay. Now both of us are big garden fans. So let's share some memories of our favorite gardens around the world. We'll go back and forth. You start Beverly.

Beverly Hurley  4:37  
I probably have to start with the garden where I grew up and went to when I was much younger and that would be the Missouri Botanical Garden, which is one of the oldest, if not the oldest in the United States started in I want to say the 1850s to 1860s. It has everything it has all the formal beds that are the EU and all the beautiful plantings that you see, but it has specialty gardens like the renowned Japanese garden. It also has a lovely glasshouse conservatory called the climate Tron where you think about winter in the Midwest, was definitely a respite for gardeners deprived of green and flowers. So now when I go to a garden, I might, you might say I have a more refined taste. But I still go back to the Missouri Botanical Garden, it really holds a special place in my heart.

Lea Lane  5:33  
Well, that's lovely. This is a podcast about memory. And I think that, as I said, gardens give you memories of beauty and respite. Well, let's get one of my favorites. I have talked about it before on Episode 56, about the Netherlands. It's Keukenhof in Lisse, near Amsterdam. Most people know about this gorgeous, gorgeous garden. It's a landmark, it contains 7 million flower bulbs planted across 79 acres of land. It's the largest flower garden in the world. And the grounds are also beautiful. There's Keukenhof Castle, which was built in 1649. Not that many people know about it, but you can visit that area as well. It's only opened in the spring. And it's got every kind of spring flower there could be and it's near the flowering tulips in the fields. So you can also include that in your experience. And I would say the best time to visit it is the last week in April through May. And I think it's one of those things you should try to get to in your life. Okay, what about another one, Beverly?

Beverly Hurley  6:30  
Well, let me just add something about Keukenhof in the Netherlands. If you go there, you must go to the Aalsmer flower market that's just outside of Amsterdam. This is where flowers from around the world, mostly in Europe and Asia and Africa, are brought through on a daily basis bid just like a commodity. And then that same day shipped to some florist in the world. And you can have a tour of it. And it's amazing to see all these beautiful flowers coming through the flower market just outside of Amsterdam. So fascinating. Yes, yes. While you're in that part of Europe, I recently discovered the Columa rose garden in Belgium. And many gardens have a rose garden. But there are very few gardens that are only roses. And this was one of the only ones I've ever been to where it's dozens of acres of beautifully planted roses from around the world, roses from Canada and a section from roses from Japan. But it was the way it was laid out. That was just stunning. And of course that would be a springtime early summer destination. For those who like to stop and smell the roses. That is definitely the place to go.

Lea Lane  7:47  
How far is it from Brussels?

Beverly Hurley  7:49  
It's within an hour of Brussels. Easy day trip. Terrific.

Lea Lane  7:52  
I think I would love to go there and smell the roses, as you said, and I love the names of them. So many of them have wonderful names like Peace Rose, and so forth. The aspects of roses are more than just the beauty of them -- the smell, and also the history of many of them. So thanks for that. My Garden was Bushart gardens in Vancouver Island. It was once the site of a cement quarry. And it was transformed into the sunken garden in 1904, which is the most famous of the gardens there: 55 acres 900 bedding plant varieties 26 Greenhouses, and it's been designated a National Historic Site of Canada. It's very close to Vancouver, you take a little boat over. It's a charming town, Victoria. So it's a lovely place to have tea as a great day. And I have a very fond memory of that -- it's one of the earliest gardens outside of the United States that I visited. So I I think of it fondly. How about you?

Beverly Hurley  8:46  
Well for me in the United States, probably the granddaddy of the gardens would be Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia. It's so beautiful in how it's laid out. It also has been around for a long time. One of the DuPont family heirs started that garden as they did many other gardens in the Wilmington Delaware area. But Longwood. You could spend an entire day their, touring the gardens, and it's laid out for a lovely stroll. It also has a massive conservatory; think about this, four acres of plants under a glass roof. But Longwood also has several restaurants, a lovely gift shop, which is a whole other thing to talk about, garden gift shops. Longwood would definitely be one of my favorite gardens in the US.

Lea Lane  9:38  
Absolutely. There's one fountain that reminds me of the fountain in Rome, it's a long, horizontal fountain in Rome, but is it designed to be a copy?

Beverly Hurley  9:47  
Yes, actually that fountain at Longwood, they do water and light shows with that. And do both a daytime one where it's all about the water where you see it and then do the the nighttime one where you see all the lights illuminating the water, two completely different looks.

Lea Lane  10:05  
Right. And you can also go to Winterthur; I have to mention, one of the great collections of American decorative antiques, which is nearby, and also the artist Andrew Wyeth's house nearby. It's a wonderful day if you include that in it as well or two days or more. So it's a great question. Yes.

Beverly Hurley  10:23  
And another DuPont garden in that area is Nemours by another DuPont heir, and Mount Cuba Gardens, which is all focused on native plants, another DuPont air that fortunately put their money into garden Yeah, that to benefit absolute 100 years later.

Lea Lane  10:41  
Absolutely. Well, one of my favorite Gardens is in France is Giverny, the house and gardens of Claude Monet, the painter, the impressionistic painter, who painted the water lily pond and his garden so many times and when you go there, this little, quaint village, just outside of Paris, and Monet settled there in 1883. And he has the most lovely natural garden. You go in spring, it's just covered, a whole area. It's not huge. It's just covered in blooms, very natural looking. With that gorgeous pond with the Japanese bridge over it. Many of us have seen it in paintings. And then you get to go into his house, which is full of color, and very airy. I remember the tile kitchen and lots of yellows and blues, Rose arbors and weeping willows and fruit trees. It's just a lovely day trip, again from from a great city, if you have time. I recommend it when you're in Paris to visit Giverny.

Beverly Hurley  11:39  
That one is on my list. I have not been, and I must go.

Lea Lane  11:44  
Oh, you will love it. 

Beverly Hurley  11:45  
I'm going to go down under. I'm going to go to the southern hemisphere. Many of us who live more in North America think about Europe or North American gardens. But there are several lovely gardens below the equator in the southern hemisphere, which is nice because if you like to garden travel, you can go up to those when it's winter in North America and be gardens in full bloom. So I'm always for surrounding yourself in gardens 12 months out of the year. But what really got me started into the garden travel writing was after my visit to the Wellington New Zealand botanical garden. I wasn't in New Zealand necessarily to see gardens at the time, but I thought I'm here. Let's see what kind of garden and I was amazed. I love a garden that utilizes the space it has and make something out of it because not every garden can just be in a big flat field and they start planting plants. Many of them have to deal with geological hills and swamps and valleys to make the garden, and the Wellington New Zealand garden. You take one of those incline prams to the top of the hill. And then the garden hugs the hillside all the way down that hill to the bay where Wellington downtown is located at a lovely walk all downhill. So do keep that in mind if you go and you see flora and fauna that you may not recognize. And many of those plants given their growing zone we don't have as much in North America. So I love discovering that garden.

Lea Lane  13:33  
I happen to have been there as well. I do remember it's near a suburb. And I thought, Where am I going? As you said it's on the slope of the hill. It's a seems like a tight area. But when you get in there it is another world because there are animals I remember some of the local animals were there as well. So it's a great garden in the sense that it's right in Wellington. And you feel like you're in the country. Great, great garden. Well, another one of my favorites is in France again. And I'm mentioning it because there are so many formal French gardens at chateaux throughout France. But the closest one to Paris is Versailles. And that one is the big one. It was designed by Louis the 14th. And he commissioned a very famous landscape designer to renovate the gardens to match the grand halls and rooms of the palace in 1661. So the gardener expanded the grounds and nearly 2000 acres that are just brimming with flower beds and fountains and sculptures and an orangery, which I suppose was for orange trees. I mean that's a word that that you hear a lot as well, especially in France, and I guess it's like an enclosed area that helps trees of that sort. There's also a grand canal which King Louis the 14th use for gondola rides. So if you're gonna go to a formal French garden, you don't have to go far out of Paris. Again. You've got two great gardens near that city. And both of them are among my favorites. 

Beverly Hurley  14:57  
Okay, my next one I'm going to stay in the southern hemisphere, and this is considered one of the top seven world gardens. And that would be Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa. Just as Longwood Gardens in the US is a garden to aspire to go to, taking in the magic of Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden definitely should be on your list. This is a garden that took a difficult environment. It's on the slopes of Table Mountain, the iconic mountain that rises above Cape Town. It also has the plants of the simbams,  the fine Bush kind of plants that Cape Town is known for. In fact, that region has its own kingdom in the plant kingdom. And the plants are very rare. So we're talking about the Proteas and the era cars and many other lovely thin this plants that are in Kirsten Bosch. And then they added formal gardens. They added a conservatory. They have an arboretum and I liked what they did in their arboretum of trees. They added an elevated tree walkway above the treetops. They call it the Boonslang, which is the name of the poisonous snake in South Africa. But you actually are up on this elevated walkway walking through the treetops, which is a very wonderful way to experience an arboretum; instead of being on the ground looking up, you're above the treetops, looking down. And then you have the iconic Table Mountain anywhere you look in Kirstenbosch. So I definitely would add that to any travel. I spent two days there when I went and I could go back and spend a dozen more.

Lea Lane  16:48  
And talking about natural beauty. Cape Town is one of the great cities of the world in terms of beauty, you can just drive along the water and see wildflowers along the coast. Now another garden: This is a small one, and it's pretty crowded. So I would say go in the morning if you can, but it's a bright oasis in Marrakech Morocco. It's the Majorelle garden, and it was a artist's garden created by the French artist Jacque Majorelle, over almost 40 years, started in 1923. The feature of it -- besides the gorgeous agave plants and cactus and desert flowering -- is the Berber house. It's a cubist villa. It was designed by a French architect in the 1930s. It's a very bright blue and the reason it's so popular right now is the Instagramers have found it, because it's vivid vivid blue and it has yellow accents and it is gorgeous. But you see a lot of it right now on Instagram. So that's why I say try to go early. Yves Saint Laurent bought it, the great fashion designer, and lived there for a while in the house nearby and had the garden and there's a new Yves Saint Laurent museum right there. So I would say this is a kind of oasis in a very bustling Moroccan city. And if you go there, you will not forget that very vivid Berber blue.

Beverly Hurley  18:06  
I've been following those Instagram accounts and once again that is a garden on my list. 

Lea Lane  18:12  
Is it? Yeah, go real early. Okay, what's another one Beverly?

Beverly Hurley  18:19  
Well, bringing it back home to North America is the Portland Oregon Japanese garden. So you don't have to go to Japan to experience a Japanese garden. And in fact, the garden there is the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. I like a story about a garden. So you were talking about Buchart gardens and that story of building it in a quarry? Well, the Portland Oregon Japanese Garden was built as part of you might say, an olive branch between two communities: the Japanese community of Oregon and the West Coast and the non Japanese who lived in Portland. And it was after World War Two and we all know you know some of the tense relations that developed as a as part of that war within in the west coast and how Japanese were treated. And so the people of Portland Oregon, decided they wanted to do something to bring more awareness to the culture of Japan to the people in Portland and so they brought in Japanese garden designers and then a Japanese garden -- you won't find a plant tag with the name of a plant. It's more about the trees and it's more about the experience. Every part of the garden might have a Zen Garden, might have the water garden, it's a place to be and experience and to take in less about the individual plants and more about the total garden experience, and how it affects you. And of course spring is beautiful with the azaleas blooming. But the trees are always the calming factor of a Japanese garden.

Lea Lane  20:00  
Well, since you're mentioning Japanese gardens, I'll just say that one of my favorites in Japan is a garden in Kanazawa, Japan. There are many beautiful ones, but that one is my favorite. It has the six sublimity keys which are artifice, seclusion, panorama, antiquity, waterways and spaciousness. They are very thoughtful gardens and very peaceful. But my last favorite, I'm going to mention is in Medellin, Colombia; it's a 35-acre oasis, right in the heart of the city. It started in 1972. And it has about 600 species of tropical vegetation. But what's special about mid 18th is the flower festival I visited the farms all the farmers tried to present themselves through this big Flower Festival parade where they create these unusual floral arrangements on silletas, which are big wooden boards. And it takes a full year to grow the flowers and to create the pattern and then to make the beautiful silettas. Each of those weighs about 140 pounds, and the farmer carries that or someone who who represents the farmer carries it through the parade. It's a great honor for the farmer to win this. Medellin has a great love of flowers. And I do think if you want to see a wonderful festival, if you like the Tournament of Roses, for example, this is of this kind, it's filled with flowers as a great celebration all through that middle of August with concerts and so forth. You could go anytime to the farms outside of the city and to the garden in the city. But if you can get to that parade, it's very, very special. That's my last. Well, what about you, Beverly? Last one.

Beverly Hurley  21:35  
Oh, my last is not any particular garden. I my last is really about all you might say unsung gardens that are out there. As I travel around and I go to a city, whether it be Madison, Wisconsin, or Rochester, New York, or even a little town of Aiken, South Carolina,  I love when I see that the community takes pride in adding some kind of garden environment. It might be a big formal botanical garden like the Olbrich botanical garden in Madison. It might be one of the beautiful estate gardens like in the small town of Aiken, South Carolina. It might be the garden by the local County Cooperative Extension, like the one in New Hanover County, which is part of Wilmington, North Carolina. I just like people to realize we don't have to only go to these big glamorous worldwide gardens out there. There are so many beautiful unsung gardens just waiting for people to explore. And I really encourage people to get out and find the gardens like that when they travel. So I like to tell people you can go to the museum and the town, the don't music, miss museum, but but look for the garden. They may not all have a museum. But every place you go to is always going to have some kind of flora. And finally, to discover and to rejoice in as just part of a beautiful gift that we have to see and observe. 

Lea Lane  23:07  
Well, good words. The name of the podcast is Places I Remember. So Beverly, will you please share one special memory of a garden you've visited.

Beverly Hurley  23:15  
I love them all. I haven't seen a garden I don't like but I think everybody who gardens or has a love of gardens that develops somewhere. And for me, it was my grandfather in a little suburb outside of St. Louis where I grew up. And he had two plots of land that that behind his house where he had the most magical vegetable garden. And I remember as as a young child into you know, teenage years going to his house and wandering that and it was unlike anything I'd ever seen that really jelled in the back of my head. I may not have gotten into gardens until later in my adult life into a working career. But it always goes back to those fond memories of spending time with my grandfather in his garden. So that's probably my favorite garden from my full time and that's really I think what was always there in the back of my mind, that gardens can be a wonderful, magical place to immerse yourself in, and to be you know, with people you love and a garden on a gorgeous day and what can be better

Lea Lane  24:26  
Beautiful memory. Thank you. Beverly Hurley has contributed to the new book, Gardens of the World. She started the website And she's on a mission to spread the word that visiting public gardens and garden destinations should be part of the travel experience. Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us.

Beverly Hurley  24:45  
And thank you so much, and I hope you have a wonderful day in a garden somewhere.

Favorite natural places
Definition of "garden"
Beverly and Lea share their favorite gardens in the world
Beverly's favorite garden memory