Stories Photo essay
Great Gardens

By Tara Young

Staying home these holidays? Perhaps you need a moment of escapism or some meditative inspiration that gets you outside digging up the dirt.

Whether you're an admirer who considers wandering through manicured beds of flowers gardening or you get stuck in with your tools, plucking weeds and pruning the roses, getting out in the garden or in nature has long been linked to good health and quiet reflection.

Early records show that humans were reaping the benefits of gardens as far back as 600BC. During the Roman Empire, gardens were built as places of contemplative reflection and intellectual stimulation as well as sources of food and sustenance.

Explore these perfect patches from around the world, from Madrid to Japan to Banks Peninsula, Aotearoa.

Arabella Lennox-Boyd's Gresgarth Hall, Lancashire.

A garden of 12 acres. The setting is in a valley cut of the surrounding fields over millennia by a tributary of the river Lune called Artle Beck.

The sound of water is ever-present. The terraces descend from the house to the lake, and are planted with roses, clementis and more tender plants in season, and the predominating pinks, purples and silver-whites compliment the rugged grey stone of the Gothic house.

Dries Van Noten's Victorian Rose Garden, creeping helichrysum spills from stone vases, and climbing vines of Blossomtime and Aloha roses garland delicate arches.

Photographed by Francois Halard, Vogue 2014

Glin Castle garden, Ireland.

Groves of Gunnera, camellia and rhododendron flourish under the Killarney oaks and Monterey pine. A Persian Ironwood tree crowns the formal parterre of clipped yew and behind it, the meadowy hill lights up in spring with a thousand pale yellow daffodils. There are a succession of rare flowering trees and shrubs built up by many generations of the FitzGerald family – most notably the women of the family.

Fernando Caruncho’s Green Garden, Madrid.

White Cosmos rise up, chest high, swaying in breezes, spreading like great clouds, and offering months of beauty before vanishing from sight.

Casa Azul, The Frida Kahlo Museum, Mexico City.

The courtyard of Casa Azul was where Kahlo kept all her pets: the hairless dogs, monkeys, birds and fish. The living spaces are separated by lava-lined planting spaces that support tall, narrow trees.

Cooling pools, deep green canopy, lava-lined beds and her collection of pre-Columbian gods are a physical reminder of Aztec life in the Valley of Mexico.

Margarida Maia’s naturalistic garden perched on a Portuguese mountain ridge.

Derek Jarman’s Dungeness home, Prospect Cottage. Its garden is the subject of Jarman’s diary Modern Nature, begun after he learned he was HIV positive in 1986.

The artist, filmmaker and writer spent the final years of his life in the cottage; inside, his archive, comprising notebooks, sketchbooks, letters, drawings and photographs, as well as the various artworks on its walls, remains much as he left it.

Trudy in Annies Sunflower Maze, Amhurst, Massachusetts, 2000. Photographed by Sheron Rupp

The Gardens of Alhambra palace, Granada.

Designed to imitate the heavens, Islamic gardens are lush oases of scent, water and sacred geometry. Enclosed within high walls, roses and jasmine release heady scent, light streams through latticed screens and shimmers on water, and canopies of foliage provide relief from the sun.

Sunnylands garden, Coachella Valley.

A desert garden oasis. Surrounded by a nine-acre art garden planted with more than 70,000 arid-climate plants and trees. Landscape architect James Burnett said that the design was inspired by the Annenberg’s collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

Within the palace walls sits a Venetian-style palazzo, surrounding an elegant courtyard decorated in verdant plants, masterpieces hang next to architectural elements Gardner purchased from Europe.

Edward James Sculpture Garden, Las Pozas.

Nestled in the Huasteca Potosina, Edward James found the perfect setting to stage the work of his life. Between waterfalls and pools, natural or created, that prepare the mind for immersion in a dream world, a surreal labyrinth makes its way. Buildings that evoke nonsense, doors that give way to nothing, stairs that lead to heaven and concrete flowers that grow at the same time as the natural ones.

Adachi Museum of Art garden, Yasugi, Japan

“The Japanese gardens are integrated with the mountains in the background. There are Japanese gardens in Kyoto, shrines and other places, but they are small and compact. As soon as you enter this museum, you feel a sense of unity with the mountain behind you". - Takodori Adachi, the grandson of founder Zenko Adachi and the current director of the museum.

Fishermans Bay Garden, Banks Peninsula.

The structure and texture of New Zealand native plants combined with a diverse array of non-native plants are used to create ambience.

Winding paths and a varied landscape have inspired a garden with many parts, including a traditional flower border, herb garden, farm garden, fern garden, a shaded stream-side valley and exposed rock garden.

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