Beautiful and Amazing Parks and Gardens
We spend our days in steel boxes on concrete paths, or in buildings made of stone and glass. Small wonder then why so many of us find the green outdoors to be the best way to “get away from it all”. While camping may be great for some, the rest of us are more likely the “day-trip” type. This is not a problem. Even in the depths of the most sprawling urban jungle, a green park or botanical garden is likely not far away.
Gardens at Versailles
The Palace of Versailles from 1682 to 1789 was the center of French power and the heart of its regime. The peak of the palace’s magnitude came when King Louis XIV made it his permanent home and furbished it to be a symbol of his absolute reign. Today, the Gardens of Versailles cover 1977 acres, with 50 fountains and 200,000 trees. Some of the more famous elements of the park include the Grand Canal, Bassin d’Apollon, and the Grotte de Thétys. The gardens also include small villages and other curiosities. Today, the palace and its gardens are open to the public and one of the greatest tourist attractions in all of France.
|Click to Enlarge Photos of Versailles Gardens|
Claude Monet’s house and it’s gardens have served as the backdrop for many of the revered painter’s most famous paintings, including his “Bridge over a Pool of Water Lilies”. Monet first noticed the village of Giverny while riding on a train. Deciding he wanted to live there, in 1883 Monet finally rented a house with a barn and two acres of land. The barn doubled as his painting studio. Over the next seven years, Monet’s success would grow and in 1890 he finally had enough money to buy the house, several surrounding buildings and the land beneath his beautiful gardens that he and his family had cultivated. By 1899, Monet had built a greenhouse and a second studio. This new studio was lit by skylights. Living at Giverny, it became one of Monet’s motif’s to paint the same subject under different light and weather conditions. He was known to work on these paintings at the same time, switching between them as the sun and clouds moved across the sky. Upon Claude Monet’s death in 1926, his home and garden were bequeathed by his heirs to the French Academy of Fine Arts. Since 1980 they have been open to the public.
|Click to Enlarge Photos of Giverny Gardens|
Central Park New York
Located on the island of Manhattan in New York City, Central Park makes up 843 acres of the center of the island. To give an idea of scope, this means the park is roughly twice the size of the nation of Monaco. The idea for the park began in the mid 19th century when various individuals voiced that New York City was in dire need of a great public park. Central Park was founded in 1857. 1600 people were removed and neighborhoods like Seneca Village had to be torn down to make room. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux designed the park, which became a historical landmark in 1963. Today the park provides ice-skating rinks, walking trails, Central Park Zoo, and the Central Park Conservatory Garden, a wild life sanctuary, a large area of natural woods, amphitheaters, and several reservoirs. In 2002 a new genus and species of centipede was discovered in the park. Central Park also features one of the largest remaining stands of American Elms (1700 trees). The isolation of the park has protected them for Dutch Elm Disease. Pale Male, a red tail hawk, is one of the parks most famous animals. Central Park is open year round to the public.
|Click to Enlarge Photos of Central Park New York|
Hyde Park London
Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in London it is even larger when Kensington Gardens is included, which is right next to the park. Both of them are part of the eight “Royal Parks of London”, meaning they are lands owned by the British Monarchy. The public do not have any legal right to the parks, instead the privilege is granted to the people by the Crown. The land was initially acquired by Henry VIII in 1536 from the canons of Westminster Abbey, who had held it since before the Norman Invasion. The land was enclosed and used as a deer park for the King’s recreational hunting. In 1637, Charles I opened the park to the general public. Today the park is open from 5am to Midnight, with Kensington Gardens closing at dusk.
|Click to Enlarge Photos of Hyde Park|
Huntington Botanical Gardens
Henry E. Huntington made his fortune in the railroad industry and founded the Pacific Electric Railway in Los Angeles. When he died, his estate in San Marino became the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens. The gardens, which possess the most impressive collection of cycads in North America, covers 120 acres. The gardens are divided into over a dozen themes, all featuring rare plants from around the world. Themes include an Australian Garden, Herb Garden, Rose Garden, Shakespearean Garden and many more. The garden has a program established to propagate and protect endangered plant species. Of all the park’s themes, the desert garden is one of the world’s finest, containing over five thousand species of desert plants.
|Click to Enlarge Photos of Master of the Huntington Botanical Gardens|
Master of the Nets Garden
Initially constructed over 800 years ago, the Master of the Nets Garden is one of the finest gardens in China. The garden is particularly renowned for its mastery of contrast, sequence, foil, depth, and relative dimension. The gardens are also respected for their innate ability to inspire its visitors both intellectually and spiritually. The gardens were first constructed in 1140AD and named the “Fisherman’s Retreat” as its theme was to embody the solitary lifestyle of the Chinese fisherman. When the garden was restored 600 years later it was given the similar name “Master of the Nets”.
|Click to Enlarge Photos of Master of the Nets Garden|
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Being one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, one has to acknowledge the Hanging Gardens of Babylon built by Nebuchadnezzar II around 600BC. It has been claimed in several sources that Nebuchadnezzar II built the gardens to please his wife Amytis who was homesick for her homeland of Media. Although the gardens are referred to as “hanging” they were in fact not hanging at all. Planters deep enough to hold full grown trees were built atop pillars at various elevations. While this might alone warrant the gardens as a Wonder of the Ancient World, the feat is doubly impressive when one considers the level of engineering required to supply water to the gardens. Ancient tablets suggest the possible use of an Archimedes screw. The gardens stood for over 400 years until they were finally destroyed sometime after the second century BC due to a series of strong earthquakes.
|Click to Enlarge Illustrations of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon|
While these may be some of the most famous gardens and parks in the world, the same peace of mind they bring can easily be found even in the park down the street from your home. Whether it be a World Wonder, or a plot of grass, the goal of any park or garden is to provide peace of mind and a short break from the hustle and bustle of our urban live