Mar 24th, 2017

Gardens Around the World to Add to Your Bucket List

Recently, I had the chance to travel to gardens around the world. I attended the North American Garden Tourism Conference in Toronto, Canada. While it snowed outside, we “visited” gardens in Sweden, the Canary Islands, Dubai, and, of course, Canada via PowerPoint.

Canadian Flag in the snow at gardens conference

View outside the window at the Garden Tourism Conference March 14, 2017

The title of the conference was Garden Experiences +  Partnerships = Tourism Success, and the international group assembled by Conference Chair Michel Gauthier and others with the Canadian Garden Council shared many examples of success. I presented on the accomplishments of the Richmond Garden Trail, an initiative of nine great gardens and tourism partners in Richmond, Virginia, to promote garden tourism. (Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is one of the lead partners.)

Casey Sclar, Beth Monroe and Michel Gauthier at Gardens Tourism Conference 2017

Left to right: APGA Executive Director Casey Sclar; Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden PR Director Beth Monroe; Conference Chair Michel Gauthier

Garden tourism is a big deal. In his book Garden Tourism, Dr. Richard Benfield asserts more people visit gardens than Disney World, Disneyland and Las Vegas combined. Casey Sclar, executive director of the American Public Garden Association (APGA), shared that public gardens have an estimated 121 million visitors annually. For comparison, major professional sporting events, including the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Football League, have about 133 million attendees annually. Brian Vogt, CEO, Denver Botanic Gardens, echoed the popularity of gardens. “Gardens have become trendy,” he said, adding they are especially appealing to millennials looking to re-balance their lives.

I’ve grouped three key take-aways from the conference.

  1. My Bucket List Just Got Longer
    Pascal Garbe, vice-president of the International Garden Tourism Network, shared the current hotspot for garden tourism: Sweden! Others gardens highlighted include the Dubai Miracle Garden and the Cactus Garden of Lanzorate, Canary Islands, Spain.  The island of Lanzorate is a model of sustainable tourism and its nine sites, including the Cactus Garden, partner to attract visitors. The Cactus Garden’s aesthetics is greatly influenced by the artist Cesar Manrique (1919-1992) and features 6,200 plants (677 different species) nestled in the landscape created by volcanic ash. Need more travel ideas? Check out the “Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Traveling For” awards presented at the conference.
  2. Canada is THE Place to go for 2017
    I knew Canada had been chosen as the top place in the world to visit in 2017, but somehow it escaped me. Canadians are celebrating their 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Planned for this year are stunning displays of more than a million tulips, including a special red and white variety, at The Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa, May 12 – 22. The festival started 65 years ago as a thank-you from the Dutch in appreciation of the role of Canadian troops in the liberation of Europe during World War II.

    Canadian Tulip Festival - Public Gardens

    Image of the Canadian Tulip Festival from their website

    Another must-see is MosaiCanada. It’s based on the wildly popular Mosaiculture exhibits that have appeared at the Montreal and Atlanta Botanical Gardens and is hard to describe in words, so I’d invite you to look at photos. More than 40 arrangements will be in Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau (near Ottawa) from July 1 – Oct. 15. A gift to the Canadian people, it’s open to the public and free to visit. Presentations by other Canadian gardens tempted me; especially Kingsbrae Garden  (New Brunswick) and Reford Gardens (Quebec).

  1. Gardens Bring People Together
    Did you know there’s an International Peace Garden? It’s in the center of the North America near Rugby, North Dakota, and is on the border of the United States and Canada. Another great example of gardens as common ground is The High Line in New York City. This public park was built on a historic freight rail line above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side and became one of New York City’s most-visited landmarks with many passionate Friends of the High Line volunteers.

    Image of New York City's High Line from their website - Public Gardens

    Image of New York City’s High Line from their website

I left the conference excited about the future of garden tourism and inspired by these and other success stories. Ironically, as soon as I returned to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, I met visitors from – guess where? — Newfoundland, Canada!






About Beth Monroe

Beth Monroe is public relations and marketing director at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She feels honored to be part of a team connecting people and plants to improve our community.

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