Thursday, March 17, 2011

Put a little "Spring" in your step, and your travels!

Got a little case of Spring fever? Nothing lifts the spirits like visiting a beautiful garden of amazing blooms, and here are some of the top botanical gardens to visit this Spring. All are gorgeous, all are affordable, and some are even free! Let's hear it for FLOWER POWER!

Missouri Botanical Garden's Orchid Show
Through March 27
Where: St. Louis, MO
Cost: $4 to $8
For an unforgettable display of orchids, the Missouri Botanical Garden offers 7,500 individual orchid plants. This year's Mayan theme pays homage to the Long Count calendar, which some say predicts the world's end in 2012.
Moss-covered mannequins wearing imposing headpieces made of dried botanicals, a serpent fountain and replicas of Mayan stone sculptures are mixed into the tropical display.
"You're going to see a pretty diverse landscape when you go to Missouri," Daniel J. Stark, executive director of the American Public Gardens Association, said of the Botanical Garden. "They have wonderful and different kinds of gardens."

Chicago Botanic Garden
Where: Chicago, IL
Cost: Free
Lauded as having the most notable display gardens in the Midwest, the Chicago Botanic Garden features four natural areas and 24 display gardens, all on nine islands surrounded by lakes.
"They have unbelievable blooms in the spring," Stark said.
The Graham Bulb Garden, for example, has narcissus, tulips, ornamental onions, fritillaries and lilies. A double-planting technique utilized in the garden makes it look like the bulbs are blooming longer.
"People travel from all over to see spring flowers at the Chicago Botanic Garden because of the quantity, quality and diversity of flowers," said Kris Jarantoski, the garden's executive vice president and director.

Dallas Blooms
March 5 to April 10
Where: Dallas, TX
Cost: $8 to $12
For the "greatest flower display" in the Southwest, the Dallas Arboretum is home to more than 500,000 spring-blooming bulbs, said Justin Hancock, senior garden editor for Better Homes and Gardens. The arboretum's Dallas Blooms festival is now in its 27th year.
Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths populate the 66-acre garden, and "bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush offer a fun red and blue combo," Hancock said.
Beginning at the same time, the Fairy Tale Castles exhibit will feature castles from "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid," to name a few -- all interspersed between the flowers.
"[Dallas Blooms] is a world-class tulip show," said Terry Lendecker, public relations manager for the Dallas Arboretum. "In fact, it is the spot this side of Holland to see the most tulips in the world."

The New York Botanical Garden
March 5 to April 25
Where: Bronx, NY
Cost: $6 to $20
The New York Botanical Garden's "The Orchid Show: On Broadway" utilizes a Tony award-winning set designer to bring the charm of the theater outdoors. The show stars 5,000 orchids.
"They're spectacular in the spring," Stark said. "They're going to be focused on making sure everything is popping at the right time."
There will be more than 300 types of orchids on display, showcased with high drama in curtains, arcades and chandeliers.

Canada Blooms
When: March 15 to March 20
Where: Toronto, Ontario
Cost: $14 to $75
For those willing to make the trek north of the border, Canada Blooms is the biggest flower show in Canada and includes six acres of display gardens, Hancock said. There will be more than 250,000 plants, trees and flowers on exhibit.
Started in 1996 by the Garden Club of Toronto and Landscape Ontario, Canada Blooms is now a spring destination for visitors across Canada and the United States.
Canada Blooms will include five JUNO Rocks gardens, paying homage to Canada's music awards, now in their 40th year.

Atlanta Blooms
March 22 to May 1
Where: Atlanta, GA
Cost: $13 to $19
The Atlanta Botanical Garden promises 100,000 new bulbs, spread out to span early, mid- and late blooms. The spring-blooming bulbs will include tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and crocus, among others.
"By March, people are starved for springtime," said Danny Flanders, a spokesman for the Atlanta Botanical Garden. "After this particularly cold winter in the Southeast, we think visitors are going to be mesmerized by all the color."
The bulbs will join existing perennials, pansies, phlox, daphne, spring wildflowers, native azaleas and deciduous magnolias.

Tulip Fest
March 25 to May 1
Where: Woodburn, OR
Cost: $5 to $20
The 26th annual Tulip Fest will highlight tulip and daffodil fields and display gardens at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, 45 minutes from Portland in Woodburn, Oregon.
"It features 40 acres of spring-blooming bulbs," Hancock said. "That's more tulips than most people can even imagine in one place."
Guests can buy cut flowers or order bulbs for fall planting. There is food, a gift shop and lots of fun for kids!
"There is nothing like wandering out in the middle of a tulip field in full bloom," said Barb Iverson, representative for Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. "On those warm days in the spring when we are in full bloom, the field literally glows."

National Cherry Blossom Festival
March 26 to April 10
Where: Washington, D.C.
Cost: Free for most events
Commemorating the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to Washington, D.C., the National Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of the "lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries," according to the website.
More than 1 million people visit each year to take in the blossoming cherry trees and attend events such as the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and the Lantern Walks
The website estimates April 4 as the peak bloom date, though an accurate prediction won't be available until 10 days before peak bloom. The blooming period can be as long as 14 days.
"The particular arrangement of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin and monuments is truly spectacular," said Danielle Piacente, communications manager for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. "When the cherry blossoms are in bloom, you know it's springtime."

Longwood Gardens
April 2 to May 27
Where: Kennett Square, PA
Cost: $8 to $18
Longwood Gardens is one of the best-known gardens in the United States for a good reason: There are 1,050 acres of gardens and meadows, covered in 11,000 types of plants and more fountains than any other garden in the country.
"They draw audiences from long distances to see their spring blooms," Stark said. Those blooms include azaleas, dogwoods, hyacinth, irises and tulips.
The 20 outdoor gardens are teeming with lively flowers and beautiful fountains, and cover about one mile in distance.
"There is a renewed energy and vibrancy at Longwood in early spring," said Patricia Evans, a spokeswoman for Longwood Gardens. "Our visitors delight in seeing spring blossom throughout the outdoor gardens and to see the Longwood's famed fountains once again jet to life."

Bluebonnet Festival
April 9 and 10
Where: Chappell Hill, TX
Cost: Free
Though Texas is chock full of wildflowers and bluebonnet festivals, Chappell Hill's is the only "Official Bluebonnet Festival of Texas," as declared by the Texas Legislature.
"Bluebonnets and other wildflowers are very, very plentiful in Washington County," said Ladonna Vest, administrative director of the Chappell Hill Historical Society "Visitors can 'come to the country' and have a wide variety of choices of sites to see."
With more than 250 exhibitors, country-style food and live entertainment, as well as fields filled with the iconic bluebonnets, it's easy to see why the festival was voted one of the most popular in Texas.

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